Hi Rhonda, can you explain what your art form is?
My discipline is theater. I work with improv, skits, and play creation, in addition to storytelling, mask making, and clown work.
Do you remember how you first became interested in the arts?
I know that I got completely hooked on theater performing in a second grade school show about the Shoemaker and the Elves. I never really turned back since then.
Will you share a piece of advice for aspiring performers or artists in general?
I really recommend travel and life experience to enrich your vision and what you are trying to do. Taking the time to see and process other places, other cultures, and other peoples’ work is so important to nurturing yourself and your own vision. Go places, see things whenever you can. It widens the doors of your world in a really great way.
How does teaching your craft affect your own art?
Teaching is fabulous for clarifying your art and what you value in it. The act of teaching theater helps me define and refine my art every day. You get a great chance to see what is really important to your art, and get to share and impart that to others. I always learn at least as much as my students, most times I think more. I never get bored teaching in the arts. It is a constant challenge, and a really interesting one. How do I get across to students these things that I love so much? There is also nothing better than to see someone really succeed and take off in the arts.
By the end of a week with you, what are a few things you hope most participants have learned?
Art and theater are liberating. They give you ways to express yourself, and to see yourself and the people around you in new ways. I hope that participants are having a good time, and discovering that they can do new things that they have never tried before. So much of theater is imagination and “pretend,” and many times as we get older and become adults, we lose our access to those parts of ourselves. It is a big goal of mine to get people reconnected with those parts of their being.
What does being a COMPAS artist mean to you?
COMPAS allows me to teach and perform in a variety of settings and situations. It allows me to share my abilities and my art with communities throughout Minnesota, and I really value that. I learn as much from the communities that I travel to as they do from me. COMPAS helps me share my art and my abilities in libraries, schools, festivals, and their communities. I meet and interact with people I never would on my own.
Why do you think arts education is needed in our community?
Arts are a chance for us to explore what it means to be human, what it means to imagine, what it means to dream. I see students who are transformed by their arts experiences every year. The arts are vital to the health of our youth and our schools. They bring life.
How do you practice creativity in your everyday life?
Life is a continuous creative process, and showing up for your daily life and solving your own problems requires huge creativity. Seeking new ways to see things, new ways to process situations, new outlooks on situations and problems is truly a creative workout. I find that the more I can actively use imagination, creativity and humor in my life (certainly in my work with students) the richer a life I have. If things aren’t going well or are less interesting to me, I look to my levels of imagination and creativity because they always save me. They are my lifeline.
I also have to be really careful to feed myself creatively. I make sure I take the time to feed myself the images, to consider new ideas, the work of other artists, the books and performances that I need to thrive. If you are giving out creatively, you must also feed yourself to keep in balance.
How has your inter-generational residency been going with the senior center residents and middle school students?
I am thrilled with this residency, in part because the two groups are so genuinely thrilled with each other. They are supportive of each other in ways that are truly touching. I also love that the work they produce is really good, and also funny. It is just a joy to watch them in action.
Have you found any surprises or interesting observations with your experience there?
Any anxiety I had about the two groups not getting along or liking each other is totally gone. The kids love the seniors, the seniors love the kids, and they do really good work together. It is kind of a dream come true for me.
What are the differences and similarities you’ve noticed between the older adults and the middle school students?
Both groups are in transition with what their place in the world is and how they are going to react to that. Both groups have a great need to be heard and to share details of their lives. This works out really well as they are also quite interested in hearing what the other group says and how they process the world. There are huge differences but they are fabulously respectful of each other. I am loving this work.