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Collen Martin has been an actress, director, choreographer, theatre manager, and theatre educator. She is currently working as a theatre teacher at North Forsyth High School, where she is going on her third year of work.


by Sophie Jerry

Colleen Martin

foundations interview with

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About Me!


Critical Thinking

Interdisciplinary Learning

Information Fluency

Creativity and Innovation



Effective Communication

Appreciating Diversity

CURRENT POSITION: Theatre Educator North Forsyth High School, 2 years

PREVIOUSLY: Theatre Manager/Artistic Director


Critical Thinking

defined as "an awareness of a set of interrelated critical questions, plus the ability and willingness to ask and answer them at appropriate times" (reading 3; Critical Thinking)

How do you employ critical thinking in your profession?

Colleen Martin: "I do it all the time. I feel like any time we put on a production, we have to think critically."

Colleen says that she uses critical thinking by using her past experiences and previous knowledge, as well as doing research to understand how to approach a character that you are unfamiliar with.

Especially for younger actors, it is difficult to play an older or more mature character when you don't have the life experience to back up the character's motivations. Instead, it is possible to engage as the character by watching and learning from other artists and researching to better understand the character.

What is the importance of critical thinking regarding the entertainment industry?

Colleen Martin: "Because you wouldn't be able to create anything original without it."

In other words, to tell a story from any position-- whether it be by directing, by working on the design/technical aspects of the production, or by performing it-- one must be flexible and open to criticism, as well as able to respect and understand the story they are telling.The capacity to evaluate one's own beliefs without feeling the need to defend them is important in a creative setting, because we are dealing with people with a lot of strong ideas and opinions. It is important that each member of a creative team can discuss their thoughts in a respectful environment."Weak thinking," then, is dangerous to the nature of creativity, because it blocks the flow of ideas and prevents intellectual conversations from happening.For example:Instead of brushing off the ideas of others in a creative team because you've come up with an idea that you really want to execute, write down your idea and let it go. If you let the idea fester in your mind, you will become less and less open to the thoughts and opinions of others. You should continue to be present in the conversation as an active listener, and if the idea presents itself again at some point, then roll with it!

Interdisciplinary Learning

How do you use interdisciplinary learning every day?

Colleen Martin: "You have to know where you came from to know where you're going"

There's a lot of methods for directors to work with, and understanding the history of those methods and how they got developed is important for people to know.

Dramaturgical work (the process of researching and understanding theatrical work) is inherently interdisciplinary. In dramaturgy, you have to study not only the play itself, but the history, the time period, the culture, and previous interpretations of the work.As a director and theatre educator, Collen does a lot of dramaturgy. She cited her most recent production, 12 Angry Jurors (a gender-inclusive version of 12 Angry Men), as an example of interdisciplinary work in her everyday life. She did extensive research on the culture of New York City in the 1950s, as well as the political environment at the time.

Why is it important for creatives to learn from a variety of different viewpoints, as opposed to just one?

Colleen Martin: "We can't just have one perspective on everything."

As a teacher, Colleen says that there isn't one right way to do anything. "Teachers must educate the whole child."All students are different, and a teacher must be able to assess and approach everyone in a different way. A student with severe anxiety isn't going to be pushed as far, whereas a student who has a tendency to be lazy in class is going to be heavily encouraged to participate in class.This also translates to the industry outside of education and directing-- when working with other people with different life experiences, you have to be capable of comprehending and translating different points of view into a piece that is digestible for the audience.

the ability to learn from a variety of different mediums

Information Fluency

How do you critically analyze topics?

Colleen Martin: "It's important to respect the fact that different people have different approaches"

Colleen took her high school students to see a production of Fiddler on the Roof. Of course, this was a heavy production given the current circumstances. This is why information fluency is so important-- you can't just skim an article on Google to understand the conflicts happening in the world. And, especially when it comes to entertainment, you need to understand everything thoroughly enough to present it tastefully and respectfully. You have to do a siginificant amount of research to not only understand the historical significance of a production, but also the meaning it can hold in the present day.Colleen used the skill of information fluency in her most recent production of 12 Angry Jurors. As I discussed in the previous page, she did a lot of dramaturgical work to understand the historical context behind the play. However, she also considered the current climate in the legal system, in order to relate the play to a modern audience. She cites that not a lot has changed in regard to the behavior exhibited in the play. People are still just as unwilling to compromise their own ideas and beliefs, no matter how strong the evidence is against their case.

How do you take many types of information and compile them into a tangible performance piece?

Colleen explains that this can vary depending on which part of the industry you are entering. As a high school teacher, she typically compiles dramaturgical research into a presentation for herself, and then verbally explains some of it to her students.However, in higher education and professional environments, dramaturgy is an important part of the production, and several weeks are spent at the beginning of the rehearsal process to truly break down and research the script. This research includes scholarly and peer-reviewed sources, and a dramaturg will pour over hundreds of articles.

Creativity and Innovation

Explain how you employ creativity and innovation in your professional life.

In terms of design... Colleen always gives her students the opportunity to be creative. She wants to make sure everyone can come up with their own ideas and produce them, which builds their confidence and teaches them about acting on their creative impulses.Onstage, creativity manifests itself in a million ways. Our profession is inherently creative. There are so many aspects that require the skills of creativity and innovation. For creativity, we come up with ideas for what we want to see onstage (for example: set design, costuming, choreography, sound, blocking, lighting, etc.). Innovation is required to actually execute the ideas. For example, if a scene involves a character experiencing feelings of euphoria, we may translate that by making the character "fly." This idea is creative, but we would need to be innovative to actually make it happen. We could hook the actor to a rig, but that can make blocking difficult-- not to mention that rigs are incredibly expensive. Coming up with more ideas, like using other actors to lift the character, or using creative lighting and elevation on the set to make it appear that the character is floating, is a huge part of the creative process.

How do you use your own creativity, even when there are strict guidelines as to what you can and cannot do?

As a high school director, Colleen is involved in a lot of competitions. For competition shows, she has to consider the rubric and well as estimate the opinions of the judges in order to score well.She says that sometimes, guidelines can make it difficult to truly bring creativity to the performance. She always wants to make sure her students can express themselves, but sometimes self expression comes with judgement.She tries to teach her students that creativity comes with taking risks. We have to push boundaries to create new things.

Colleen Martin: Most successful creatives are shot down a million times.


Why is it important to lead in your profession?

Colleen Martin: "Even in a creative field, people need structure."

Theatre people have a lot of strong opinions and ideas. When you're having a discussion about devising a piece, for example, the group needs someone who can lead so that things can move forward. Colleen cites her own experience in the creative field with limited leadership:"I did a production of Medea in college. The director thought it would be fun to put twenty-one women in a room for six weeks... without a director. All everyone did was fight for six weeks about whose ideas were better."Leadership is necessary in the entertainment industry, because there needs to be guidelines and limitations about what can and cannot be done. Creativity is super helpful, but sometimes creative people can get carried away. A leader is necessary to keep people on track and impose limitations if the creatives get too ambitious.

What are the qualities that make up a good leader?



Ability to Multi-Task


Effective Communication

What is the importance of effective communication in the entertainment industry?

Colleen Martin: "When managing people, make sure that directions are specific."

Especially when it comes to explaining ideas, in a creative field you have to be exact with descriptions. In set design, for example, if you want levels on the set, you need to be specific with heights. Instead of just saying "I want there to be multiple platforms with different levels," say "I want one platform that's seven feet tall, one that's four feet tall, and another that is two feet tall."As a director, when you are communicating with your cast, you also have to use effective communication. Asking "is everyone available on Saturday for rehearsal?" is different from saying "we will be rehearsing this Saturday from 10-2 in the afternoon." By being specific with dates and times, a director can make sure that they are being clear with their directions.

How do you always make sure that you are properly communicating your wants and needs?

Although the rehearsal process can become hectic and busy, Colleen explains that she always takes the time to actually sit down and talk to people. Especially while working with her production team, she says it is important to sit down together with the entire team.When in a position to be managing people, it's important to make sure that each person is aware of the project's guidelines. Always avoid indirect communication and miscommunication by having conversations as a group. Quick words in passing or conversations with only a few members of a large group can become problematic, becausr you can't guarantee that every member of the team has recieved your message.Collen explains, "Everyone should be in the know."

Appreciating Diversity

What do you do to make sure that you are appreciating diversity?

In Forsyth County, where Colleen works, it can be difficult to appreciate diversity because there isn't much in the first place. However, she cherishes the diversity there is by providing materials that different students can relate to. Colleen explains that she always celebrates each student by getting to know them personally. When it's appropriate, she will have one-on-one conversations with students about their cultural background.When she directed a production of The Addams Family earlier this year, one of her Latina students played a "Dia de los Muertos" ancestor. She and the student had several conversations about the culture behind Dia de los Muertos, as well as the student's own traditions. Colleen explained that this was not only incredibly enlightening to herself, but also allowed her student to embrace her culture.

What is the importance of diversity and cultural respect in the entertainment industry?

Colleen says that "having work that celebrates different cultures is important."However, in the entertainment industry, the norms regarding cultural expression are always changing. Of course, it is innapropriate for white people to portray people of color, and Colleen always needs to ensure that the plays she picks are appropriate for her student base.Since the majority of her students are white, Colleen can't always pick the shows she'd like to do.Hairspray, Colleen explains, is a show she'd love to direct for her students. However, "... it isn't appropriate given the current body in my theatre program."Although North Forsyth High School doesn't have much diversity in its student body, Colleen continues to allow her students to explore the artistic implications of their own cultural background.


How do you use professionalism every day?

Colleen uses professionalism everyday by using good habits and structure. She says it is especially important for her to be professional, because she is trying to teach her students to be professional.In the entertainment industry, people need habits that will make them successful and keep them reliable. She teaches her students about skills with management, as well as more personalized lessons depending on her students' area of interest. For the acting students, Colleen teaches to have a daily warmup routine for movement, voice, and characterization. For technicians, she teaches them habits for them to stay focused and be productive from the moment they enter the design shop.

Why is it important to be professional in the industry, especially regarding social media?

Colleen Martin: "It's a small world-- in theatre, everybody knows somebody."

On social media, everybody can look into your life. You need to make sure that people-- future casting directors, employers, etc.-- think that they can trust you.Colleen says that she doesn't have anything to hide from people, but she still avoids making posts on social media that can be considered even mildly provocative."I don't even post about going to a winery with my sister. It's not like I'm doing something bad, it's just that, as a teacher, I don't need parents seeing my posts and being like 'She drinks!' I want to make sure my social media is as professional as possible."Colleen adds about the dangers of disagreeing with people on social media, too. She explains that, as soon as you start "blasting someone," it is visible to everybody, and can seriously damage your reputation, and thus, your career.It's an important lesson: always be respectful and professional on social media.



After my discussion with Colleen, I still think that the entertainment field is right for me. Her descriptions regarding the use of the Eight Honors Foundations in her everyday life matched what I had originally assumed. I think the most important thing Colleen said that really made me feel more confident in my decision to pursue the arts instead of a more traditional path was that she never dreads going to work. She's plenty busy, and often needs to put in extra hours to get things done, but she says she loves it all the same.The beauty of doing what you're passionate about is that work doesn't ever feel like work. One thing I've always known about myself is that I refuse to allow my future to be unmemorable and unenjoyable. Some people enjoy working in an office for a 9-5, but I know that I'd much rather spend my life doing what I love, even if I'd sometimes need to put in 12+ hours in a day.

The Foundations

1) Colleen uses critical thinking by using her past experiences and knowledge about the world around her to understand how to approach a character that she is unfamiliar with.2) Colleen uses interdisciplinary learning in her dramaturgical work-- she reads countless articles from a variety of different disciplines to understand the context behind the play she is working.3) Colleen uses information fluency in her dramaturgical work, because in order to truly understand the topics she researches, she must read and absorb the entire article, as opposed to just skimming.4) Colleen uses creativity and innovation by looking at scripts through a different lens, even when she is working under tight guidelines or a strict competition rubric.5) Colleen uses leadership every day by providing her students with structure and guidelines in order to keep them on-track.6) Colleen uses professionalism every day by employing habits and structure, and teaching these habits to her students so that they have the tools they need for success.7) Colleen uses effective communication every day by making sure to set aside time to meet with her creative teams. That way, she can make sure that everyone is on the same page, and that her directions are specific enough to understand.8) Colleen appreciates diversity every day by giving her students diverse works to look at and work on, as well as giving students the opportunity to embrace their culture.

My Major(s):

About Me!

*Theatre Performance Studies(concentration in musical theatre)*Media and Entertainment Studies

My Intended Career Field:

I'm not totally sure yet!I love to create and I know I want to work in the entertainment industry, but I often feel overwhelmed by all of my options. This is why I think Colleen is a great person to interview-- she has had a lot of experience in many different areas of the stage performance field.