100 Dallas Creatives: No. 79 Behind-the-Scenes Teacher Rachel Hull
Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order. Know an artistic mind who deserves a little bit of blog love? Email email@example.com with the whos and whys.
The kids are our future. Eventually the students of today will be the teachers of tomorrow. At least, that's how it worked for Rachel Hull, the director of education and community enrichment at Dallas Theater Center, who was once just a middle school student interested in acting. Now, she runs one of the country's strongest theater outreach programs, Project Discovery. No, really. Last year, Hull was invited on behalf of DTC to accept the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, from the White House.
In addition to Project Discovery - which gives Dallas-area kids tickets to shows and buses them to the theater - since joining the staff of DTC in 2005, Hull has headed up the Stay Late program and built curriculum for specific shows. It's one of those behind-the-scenes jobs that gives the theater an even greater impact on the community. And in spite of the long hours, you'd be hard-pressed to find Hull without a sunny disposition and a warm smile.
If you had to put your title, director of education and community enrichment, into layman's terms what do you do on a daily basis at the theater?
I work with a talented team of artists to create and provide programming that connects audiences and our community more deeply with the work on stage. That might mean working with an individual artist to clarify their curriculum for a class at the Latino Cultural Center, strategizing with our Community Engagement and Impact Board Committee to find resources to engage new members of our community, planning what elements of our upcoming season to highlight for our Project Discovery students with our Manager of Education Programs, or teaching a class within our Summer program focused on training the next generation of artists.
Project Discovery predates your tenure at DTC (I believe), but I know that's an integral part of your job. What was it like to have Michele Obama honor you (and then hug you) in regard to your job?
Yes, Project Discovery is about to embark on its 28th season with Dallas Theater Center. It predates most of the staff - in fact, one of our staff members is a product of the earlier years of the program. It is an integral part of life of DTC and, to be honest, is the reason I came to work here originally. I was fascinated by the care and maturity with which these high school students respond to the bold work on DTC's stage.
Being in the hallowed halls of the White House was unreal and getting to experience it with PD participant Emily Sanchez, a student from W.H. Adamson High School, was delightful. We decided early on to be curious and excited about the entire experience up to meeting the First Lady. She, in turn, was just as excited and curious about each of the young artists she met. She spoke passionately about the role of educators in the arts and seemed invested in each student's educational experience.
Also, I'm sure if you could have it your way that program would be even larger, how would you summarize the value of Project Discovery?
Project Discovery is a catalyst for young people to explore their place in the world. Built around performances at Dallas Theater Center, this yearlong afterschool program brings together diverse teens from at-risk high schools across North Texas and cultivates them as patrons, artists and thinkers. Through on-your-feet activities, students improve their creativity, engage in teamwork, and build their confidence. Through curriculum-related content, students explore literary themes and historic aspects of wide-ranging dramatic works. As they experience plays among an adult audience, participating students learn to be engaged arts patrons, with the self-assurance to discuss ideas with peers and adults alike.
In addition to Project Discovery, what are some of the education initiatives you're most proud of at DTC and why?
The organization has been working steadily over the past five or six years to establish a program that allows patrons to respond to the work they've seen on stage and to that end I am sincerely proud of our Stay Late program supported by Dr. Pepper Snapple Group. When Stay Late began, it was mostly a small group of theater enthusiasts who would stay to discuss the production. Now, many of our patrons include it as part of their trip to the theater. I think I'm most proud of the diversity among the participants - DTC donors and board members, high school students involved in Project Discovery, people visiting DTC for the first time - all sitting next to one another and sharing opinions about a shared experience. It is such a wonderful thing to be a part of.
I also have to give a special shout out to our training programs, partly because of our amazing group of teaching artists. They're at the heart of programs like SummerStage, our workshops at the Latino Cultural Center and our Advanced Acting LAB at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, presented by Ted and Shannon Skokos.
Someone hands you a million dollars to spend on an education program, what do you do with it?
I would invest it in the young artists in Dallas Middle Schools. There are some amazing programs that exist throughout the district for elementary and high school students thanks to great district emphasis and skilled classroom teachers. And though middle schools have strong arts educators working with students during school hours, they often lack out of school time arts programs. With a million dollars, I'd start a middle school training program to support the work being done in the classroom and take it to the next level. My goal would be to would increase the potential of Dallas students advancing to our rockstar magnet schools like Booker T. and start pathways towards arts careers at a time when students hone in on their secondary school focus.
When you were a young theater student, whom did you admire? (either a mentor or a icon, or both)
For me it was a mix of great educators and great artists. My mentor growing up, and still today, is Deborah Jung. Deborah is an artist in Fort Worth who works with young people to create bright spots of creativity and leadership. Her strength as an artist and as an educator is evidenced in the young people she's encouraged to join the theater field - some on Broadway, some as technicians backstage, some great teachers, some business leaders - but no matter where we've landed, that curiosity and creative leadership she helped us developed hasn't gone away.
I've also been inspired by, and admired from afar, those artists who can take a play or a dance and really create an experience. The two that stand out for me from my younger days are choreographer Pina Bausch and theater collective Theater de la Jeune Lune.
Do you have other creative outlets?
Some! I'm privileged to get to facilitate a lot of creative endeavors at DTC and get to work with some amazing counterparts at the Perot Museum of Science and Nature, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher, the South Dallas Cultural Center, Latino Cultural Center and Big Thought, There are some amazingly creative and passionate artist/scientists/educators in Dallas.
I'm also a secret dancer and when I need an influx of creative energy I turn to Samba Dallas where I've been working on the art of Brazilian samba with a feisty and diverse group of artists.
What art forms/groups do you frequent in your spare time?
A lot of arts organizations and their event programming - like the DMA, Nasher, Kitchen Dog Theater, Amphibian Productions in Fort Worth, The Park, DaVerse Lounge, Titas and Dallas Black Dance Theatre. I'm also loving some of the new work being done by Dallas Children's Theater like last season's Mariachi Girl, and when I need a good laugh - Locked out Comedy Improv.
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89. Literary Lion Thea Temple
88. Movie Maestro Eric Steele
87. Storytelling Dynamo Nicole Stewart
86. Collaborative Artist Ryder Richards
85. Party Planning Print maker Raymond Butler
84. Avant-gardist Publisher Javier Valadez
83. Movie Nerd James Wallace
82. Artistic Tastemakers Elissa & Erin Stafford
81. Pioneering Arts Advocates Mark Lowry & Michael Warner
80. Imaginative Director Jeremy Bartel