Having just completed my first tour with Prairie Fire Children's Theatre, let me just say... TEACHING IS HARD!
A little about PFCT and touring: PFCT is a professional touring theatre company based in Barrett, Minnesota, and has been bringing a theatrical experience to communities across the upper Midwest since 1987. Prairie Fire tours a variety of original musical adaptations of classic tales. I was touring with their original adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, with my tour partner (and real-life partner!) Derek Brookens. Together, we served as Co-Directors of the show as well as actors in the show. We traveled week-to-week to new cities, small and large, across Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. While in that community for our one-week residency, we met with our cast of children (ages 7-18) to hold auditions and rehearsals Monday through Friday. By Friday/Saturday, we performed in two performances for the community at-large - sometimes in gymnasiums, sometimes in auditoriums, sometimes on stages, sometimes not! Every week was different in all ways possible, but it brought wonderful challenges and opportunities to learn and grow and experience theater magic. By Sunday, we were onto the next booking and next group of kiddos.
This job taught me so much about myself and about the art of teaching. And trust me, it's an ART, y'all. I've learned an ungodly amount of patience, peace, and strength. I also think my ability to command a room is much stronger! When you're facing a squirrelly group of 75 small humans, your skills are put to the test!
I also found pockets of joy in their success. As always, working with youth is an interesting part of my job as an actor and director. Each week with PFCT is a sprint to the finish. The show is happening no matter what! It's our job to prepare them as best we can... and to have FUN along the way. It's incredible what kids can soak up in just five days.
One of my favorite comments from teachers is when they remark about certain students they "didn't think would be able to pull it off" because of their shy nature in class or their reserved qualities. But, by the end of the week, they are completely out of their shell and doing incredible things in front of 300 people. You truly never know what they're capable of until they're given the opportunity to shine.
Danae DeShazer is an actress, singer, and dancer living in Sarasota, FL.