What exactly is wrong with Mr. Kerr’s Theater class?

Carolynn Green, Staff Reporter

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Carolynn Green
English teacher Ryan Kerr. His favorite class to teach is Theater.

A school wide rumor that’s been spread around West is that Theater class is a joke, an easy “A”, or only for actors.  In reality, the class is a fun and challenging look at all that goes into a theatrical production.

To start, what is Theater class? English teacher Ryan Kerr answered, “It’s an English elective. I use it as an opportunity to try to introduce students to all different facets of theater. Any unit that we cover in class you can take a whole semester long class over.” Those different facets include costume design, stage design, lighting and tech, and screenplay writing.

When asked why he believed Theater gets a bad reputation, Kerr answered that he believed that it happened with a lot of the arts classes. “I think this is sort of the nature of the way people think about education, that it needs to be targeted. That we’re going to teach literacy and we’re only going to teach reading and writing” in a very scripted and narrow way which makes it stay as unretained as possible. Studies show that “environments where they get to think more creatively and apply some of those same concepts of learning in a more roundabout way makes it solidified more deeply.” 

He went on to say that, “We live in a very ‘teaching to the test’ world. Think of the rise of STEM. STEM has pushed fine arts out of the way. But a liberal education that encourages students to be thoughtful in math, science, and art and fine arts is going to make them more well rounded and those tenets stick. Students still learn to read and write in those (liberal) environments as well.”

Theater student Asher Promenschenkel (12) stated that he liked theater and that he was glad that he took it “instead of the other English electives.” He went on to say that he did learn things like in a regular class but that “things we don’t observe in standard English class” they did in Theater. “We’re not just sitting in class working on assignments. We will watch and analyze play performances and have acting Friday every week,” said Promenschenkel.

Hannah Hyatt (12) said she believed that it was the actors who give it a bad reputation because they are seen as “overly dramatic” or people don’t believe that it’s “useful in everyday life.”

Promenschenkel said he would spread the word to others to take the class because “you don’t have to be good at acting. You don’t really have to know anything about Theater at all” and students explore a variety of concepts that would interest people looking for a fun and explorative English class.

Hyatt stated that she would tell other peers that “Theater is a fun class” where you make “wonderful connections and learn about yourself and your abilities and how to engage and participate with many different kinds of people.”

“Mr. Kerr is a great teacher. He is funny, he’s chill, and he is fair in assigning work. But if he feels at any point you are taking advantage of his generosity or are undermining him, he will refuse you any respect more than what he has to,” she added.

Hyatt stated that she thought Kerr was a great teacher because he treats his class like it was their class. “We get to make a lot of decisions and he acts like a team player and part of the group. It is easy to learn from him and he turns learning about Theater into fun activities and not just taking notes and reading. We get to learn from real experience.”

In February, Kerr plans to take his Theater 2 class to Steppenwolf Theater to see “I’m Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter,” a play adapted from a young adult novel. Kerr said, “Steppenwolf Theater is word class theater. We owe it to ourselves to take advantage of opportunities like that that we can. To see a caliber of that theater has previously challenged students mentally” to see the full force of what they learn in class put together in front of them. “It’s a play about a clash of cultures, immigrants raising their children in new communities and the pressure they receive. I really hope that there’s an appreciation for theater that comes out at the end of it. I want my students who go to see a play to look at it differently.”

Given all the energy and love Kerr has for his Theater class the question posed seems to be answered: there is nothing wrong with it.

Carolynn Green
A diorama done in Theater 2 with movable pieces.

Carolynn Green
A diorama from the play Oedipus Rex.