She led the students in a warm-up, flapping their arms in big circles to the front then big circles to the back. Stretching up and over to the left, then to the right. Instructing the students to take a deep breath in, hold it, and release. Again. Over and over she had them doing exercises to get their blood pumping and their bodies loosened up as they prepared for practice…theater practice. As one of Bay’s newest staffulty members, Humanities Teacher and Director of School Plays Anne Norland requires her team of actors and techies to warm up for the fall play rehearsals as if they were athletes warming up for a big game.
Anne’s journey to Bay started just after high school when she began the incredibly competitive application process to 23 different college performing arts programs. Anne landed at NYU’s Tisch School of Arts for Musical Theater. For two years Anne enjoyed her conservatory training at The New Studio on Broadway (Tisch’s Musical Theater and Acting studio) but began to feel as though she was not able to fully express herself the way she desired. The summer after her second year, she worked in children’s theater, and she not only loved the performance element of it, but what it did to the kids and how excited they were while participating. She realized then that this experience was a lot like teaching, so she transferred to American University in her hometown of Washington, DC and received her degree in Musical Theater and K-12 Performing Arts Education.
Anne made her way out west to Bay earlier this summer because she was seeking a teaching position that allowed her to dive deep in her teachings of drama and humanities. “Bay has really motivated students, students who are choosing to take drama or participate in theater because they have a drive to, not just because it is part of a class and they have to. I also like the work Bay does around mindfulness – it is very connected to my own work with theater, you have to be really aware of your own body and your own emotions. This kind of work can be challenging for K-12 students, so introducing it to them early does wonders for theater-related projects.” And it’s not just the theater program that has Anne excited, she also loves the humanities curriculum that she is teaching. “It is very progressive in that it is a combination of history and language arts, language in general, the arts and culture. The first trimester is very socio-emotional and that is really exciting for me. My “why” [why I do what I do] is to try to get young people to find out why they do what they do. The key to finding that is learning how you tick and what makes you excited, and being able to access those emotions is really important for this type of work.”
For her first Bay theater production, Anne chose the 2011 play She Kills Monsters by Qui Nguyen. A story about a young woman whose sister and parents died in a car accident, She Kills Monsters takes the audience on an emotional and comedic journey of a sister who gets to know her deceased sister through the world of her Dungeons and Dragons notebook. When asked why she chose this specific play, Anne said, “I think a lot of the themes in this play are very “high school” – what it feels like to be different and not really fit in or even know who you truly are. It deals with grief in a really interesting way that is tangible, but it is also a comedy that is really funny and the characters can be really bold and wild, it’s almost cartoonish.” She continues, “I want to give the students an opportunity to be out of the box and larger than life, and play around and have fun with that. I appreciate that Bay can handle a show like this that has so many different deeper- than-the-surface themes. Not every school setting would be open to that, but our students are ready and want to talk about it and understand it… that is really cool.”
For the future of Bay productions, Anne hopes to continue to introduce newer works to the Bay community that will allow students to do more interesting and experimental theater. Anne says, “One of the reasons I was drawn to Bay was because we value the arts. Bay not only incorporates it into the curriculum but values it as a co-curricular program. I want to give students the opportunity to be creative and experiment with the craft of performance. And, we have a mighty group of “techies” and I want to give them a lot of fun opportunities to explore; imaginative shows like She Kills Monsters are a great way to do that!”
You can see Anne, as well as the cast and crew of She Kills Monsters at the performances taking place November 4 & 5 at 7:30 p.m. and November 6 at 1:00 p.m. at The Fort Mason Center, Southside Theater. Tickets are available on online for purchase here.