Overcoming the Employment Stage-Fright
Carter sits down with his drama teacher, Miss Jana Harrison, to discuss a career path in the entertainment industry in this episode. They talk about the fulfillment in pursuing a job you love, even if it is not traditional employment. Moreover, they explore the importance of connecting with a mentor, overcoming obstacles despite the odds, and balancing family life with a career. Carter learns from his own mentor that it is acceptable, and even admirable, to create new professional aspirations no matter what age.
Disclaimer: the information shared here reflects the opinions of the speaker and do not reflect the views of the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs.
Carter: All right. This is Carter Sparks with Youth Engaged 4 Change. And, today is my first podcast. We have a special guest. It is my drama teacher, my favorite teacher, Miss. Jana Harrison. We will be asking her a few questions. All right. First question. What inspired you to be a drama teacher?
Jana: When I was in high school I was involved in the Fine Arts program and I got a lot of friends and friendships out of being in drama. I realized I wanted to teach it, and spend the rest of my life doing it.
Carter: I've noticed ... Well, I've been drama that I've made a lot of friends and contacts. How many years of schooling did it take to become a drama teacher?
Jana: It took me five years, but it would normally take four. I took some time off because I was also traveling, doing some productions. But, it was a four-year Bachelor's degree, and I graduated from UCL. The thing I thought I was going to be for most of the time was I thought I was going to grow up and be a lawyer. And like I said, when I got into high school the Arts seemed like a better fit for me than actually doing law.
Carter: Yeah, I was like drama and law are kind of far away from each other.
Jana: They are very different, very different.
Carter: Have you always been into drama? Whenever like middle school, high school, all through your childhood?
Jana: I have not, actually. My family did not have any involvement in drama, and I was pretty scared to do it when I got involved in it in high school. One of my counselors had recommended that I take it, and it seemed very different, but my personality seemed to mix really well in a drama classroom. I was very outgoing and excitable, so it made sense. So, it was about, it would have been seventh grade of middle school then when I first started getting into drama and the arts.
Carter: What were you doing to work towards your goal of being a drama teacher when you were my age?
Jana: When I was your age I was mostly concerned at that point of trying to figure out how to teach. So, most of what I did was I early on ended up being kind of like a class leader in my room, so I was both in a drama class and in my debate classroom my teacher used to let me lead exercises or activities in the class to kind of get access to some opportunity to do that. By my senior year I was made a captain of my competitive debate and drama team, so I helped create events and schedule those and work in the auditorium, as well as back stage with the productions that were done for the school.
Carter: So, that's kind of like what you let me do, and stuff, how I'm kind of the assistant drama person?
Jana: You could say ... I would say that you, as well as some of the other students, have been ... Basically, you and a few others are the ones that run our auditorium. On the student end I very much liked the system that I came from when I was a kid, or when I was in high school, excuse me, where the teacher let us as students kind of be the leaders that set the standards for our peers. I believe in that system, and I very much, when I came here to this school, was received with the same way that I was told that you and two other students were very trustworthy, responsible, and that you all had been trained to, basically, do the same things that an adult could do in a theater environment. And that was awesome, and I found out that that matched not only with my ideas but what was going on.
Carter: Good. I was really excited when we got a new drama teacher, because it's been a while since we've had like a good drama teacher. Where do you see yourself in five years? Still teaching here? Teaching somewhere else? Break?
Jana: I have a goal, and my goal is, is that I would like to be a counselor and practice full-time counseling. That's kind of the next phase of my life, but I do have a goal I will not leave Classen until there are two productions done with open auditions and a solid program. So, I hope that could be accomplished in five years, but it might actually be more than that. So, I'm kind of a person that has goals, and I like to meet those goals and then move on. So, for me it's not a actual time period but a goal. When I meet that goal then I'll be ready to start my life as a counselor in a new profession.
Carter: Yeah, I remember you telling us about your counseling and how you're going to classes for it. Is it hard to like manage going to classes for something and then having to come teach at like your day-to-day 9-5 job?
Jana: Yeah. It's pretty difficult. I was not prepared for how much harder the work is when you have not just the full-time job but then you have your full-time family obligations and commitments. I honestly thought that it would still be the same as before where I could just go home and do an hour or an hour or two of homework every night. Instead it has been much more than that. So, I will happy to graduate soon.
Carter: So, do you know anyone famous in your field?
Jana: I know lots of people famous in my field, actually. One of my former acting coaches from Putnam City North she coached the actor James Marsden, who is known right now for his roles in Westworld. She also works now in retirement in New York City for a company and so she met Jeff Daniels over the weekend, and often meets many different stars. She's also very, very good friends with Kristin Chenoweth, which always makes me jealous, because every year on her birthday Kristin Chenoweth posts on her Facebook, "Happy Birthday, Friend." Someday maybe I'll get to meet her, as well.
Carter: What difficulties did you face in becoming a drama teacher and how did you overcome them?
Jana: My biggest difficulty was engaging in stage performances. I had a really hard time for the first time having to direct my own show. It was really easy for me, as a student, to show up and be an actor, do what I'm told, follow directions. It is much harder when my senior year of college I had to actually direct my first show, cast it. So that was my biggest challenge, mostly because it was a fear that I had to overcome. So, I was really glad when I did though. The show went just fine, and I've loved doing it since then. But getting that first direction out of the way was very scary for me.
Carter: Well, you've been doing a great job directing our class.
Jana: Thank you very much.
Carter: I think before you came to our school we were very laid back and not motivated, and then you came here and now we're like, "I want to get this play done, and I want to make an impact and stuff."
Carter: You've been very good at that.
Jana: Awesome. That's good to hear. Thank you.
Carter: What advice do you have for someone wanting to go into your field?
Jana: The biggest advice that I have as far as wanting to be in the field in general is just to be patient. As far as drama education jobs, those open up at very spontaneous times, and even in just the professional acting field there are so many times where you audition and don't make it. A lot of times where you're trying to get involved in a production and can't, and it's just a matter of being patient. That fit is there but being really persistent and continuing to go and continuing to trust yourself is probably the most important.
Carter: Anything else you want to add, because that's all the questions I have for you today.
Jana: I don't have anything else to add, but it's exciting to know that you're looking at going into this field, and I will be bugging you from here on out about taking some steps to get there.
Carter: All right. Thank you so much for talking with me today.
Jana: Thank you so much. Good to be here.
Carter: Thank you for joining us for Youth Engaged 4 Change radio.
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