Theater - My Greatest Teacher
It’s a little known fact, but March is Theater in Our Schools Month, something very near and dear to my heart. I’ve experienced theater in our schools as both a teacher and a student. I know both sides. I’ve done my homework in the house, taken naps in the aisle and seats, and not seen daylight for hours because I’ve been consumed with rehearsal. There is a sense of calm when walks into a theater. For me, it’s like coming home. Nothing exists outside of the world that you create on the stage, and that is both liberating and intoxicating. In the world of educational theater you can try, discover, and explore. Will there be times of failure? Yes. But when one fails, it’s within the culture and the community of the school theater, and that community will pick you up, dust you off, and teach you how to learn from your mistakes.
I am a teacher, and I am a director. I went to one of the most prestigious universities in the country for educational theater, and yet, my greatest teacher has been my father. My father has been a theater educator for thirty-two years, and I am in awe of him everyday. Both of my parents are teachers, and both of my parents are amazing at what they do. If all educators were like them, well, the world would be a better place.
I grew up in the theater. I grew up going to shows, and some of my fondest memories as a child were going to my fathers’ plays. The devotion from his students has been constant over my lifetime, and yet, I don’t think I ever comprehended what he has meant, and will mean, to all of his students until this year, his year of retirement.
There are teachers who are ready to retire, and then there are those special few who will never be fully ready to leave the classroom. My father has grown and changed with his students, he is the ultimate teacher, for I don’t believe that he has ever stopped learning, and they have never stopped learning from him. He is the type of teacher whose advice and guidance is sought, long after the students leave his classroom. He is the teacher who is asked to speak at weddings, attend sweet sixteens’, christenings, communions, and, well, the list can go on. One of his more recent graduates said to me, everyone has a Min story, he has touched everyone’s life in a special way, we are all better people because we had him as a teacher.
When people see his shows, they will often marvel at the professionalism. A common comment will often be “I cannot believe this was a high school show”, and it is true. When watching the shows of Joseph Minutillo you will often forget that they are in fact, high school students. I attribute this to his expectations, and they are nothing short of perfection. In rehearsals students will often ask, what I forget to do this, or what if this doesn’t go right, or what if this goes wrong…etcetera, etcetera. His response? You won’t forget. It will go right. It cannot go wrong. Min, as his students call him, holds his students to the highest of expectations. He will accept nothing less, and, they deliver nothing less. He inspires them to be the best at whatever they do, whether it is in theater, medicine, law, or any other profession. He inspires his students to be their best selves. He makes them realize their greatest potential; he shows them they key to unlock their greatest potential. One of the greatest things that theater teaches is discipline, and his students take that with them in every aspect of their lives.
My greatest teacher has been my dad. He inspires his students, everyday. He commands respect in his classroom and in his theater, and yet he welcomes discussion, communication, and growth. He will reflect and use the experiences of his past to teach and to drive his point home, yet he is humble enough to accept that he does not know it all, and will keep his mind open to new possibilities and situations. He gives one hundred and fifty percent to his students and his shows, and I have yet to see a work ethic that can even compare. He inspires me, everyday. He always told me, do what you love, and the money will come, and that has been a principle that I’ve lived my life by.
I believe that our parents are our first teachers. I’ve been told time and time again, that my father and I share the same brain, and it’s a compliment that I hold so very dear to my heart. My mother, whom I also adore, has always said that the both of us see and hear things differently, that we are attuned to the quieter, more powerful aspects of life, the aspects that are often overlooked. We share the love of theater, the craft of acting, and it’s been something I’ve cherished and will cherish my entire life. He has taught me the value of strength, passion, and heart.