Our first spotlights feature three teaching artists who are directing in the Watertown Children’s Theatre Short Play Festival to be performed on November 13 and 14.
Rachel Maddox is a playwright, critical educator, and teaching artist. They graduated from Connecticut College with a BA in Theater and an Elementary Education Teaching Certificate, and since then has taught theater for both non- and Boston-based programs. They have been working with MCA for about a year. “It’s crucial to me that theater become far more accessible than it currently is and education is a major tool in making that happen,” they say. As a playwright, Rachel uses language to display underrepresented narratives. “I believe that storytelling is a powerful thing, which fuels my work in production for the Rhode Island Black Storytellers. I try to inspire that power in every student I have.”
What’s your earliest memory of the arts?
I was in dance class starting at around three years old, and I so clearly remember being thrilled by the recitals. The dance school would rent out the auditorium of a nearby college, and we would get to use the dressing rooms and wear makeup and costumes. The buzz of anticipation behind the curtain and the thrill of dancing on a real stage swept me off my feet from my very first recital, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Do you have a favorite memory or story about MCA?
I had the honor of doing props for MCA’s production of She Kills Monsters last winter. I learned so much about the world of the play while making the props, and I had the opportunity to create a kind of deconstructed version of a dragon for the show. It ended up looking pretty awesome and I was proud of the work I did. It was my first show with MCA, and the production team, cast, and crew were so warm and supportive. Being able to work with such skillful and talented people in creating a piece of art together—well that’s the reason I made a life in the arts to begin with.
How have you stayed connected to the arts these past seven months?
I have had the opportunity and privilege to be able to explore virtual theater education as a teaching artist. I co-directed a virtual musical production, I have been teaching theater classes, and I’m currently directing one of the plays in the upcoming Short Play Festival for WCT. It has all been very helpful in feeding my combined passion for theater and education. I’m also working on producing a virtual version of the annual storytelling festival, Funda Festival: A Celebration of Black Storytelling put on by the Rhode Island Black Storytellers (RIBS).
Who’s your favorite artist (of any form—visual arts, theater, music, dance)?
I have been reading a lot of Zora Neale Hurston—she was a black playwright, poet, and novelist whose work examined the realities of being black in the early 1900s in the American South. She was also an anthropologist who extensively researched and studied the traditions of African-American and Caribbean folklore. Her ability to present a narrative and tell a story is innately dramatic and theatrical in a way that was ahead of its time. Hurston’s combination of her education and her artistry was revolutionary, and I try to carry that energy with me in my own work.
Do you have a favorite musical or play?
This is an extremely difficult question, so it bears mentioning that the following is one of many. The Color Purple, both the musical and the book, which arguably can be read as a play on its own. Everything about it is stunning, while simultaneously providing an intimate look into what it means to be a black woman operating in a society that effectively deems you worthless. Celie’s fierce inner strength and unshakeable faith is palpable in the rousing musicality of the stage production, as well as in the book, and you can’t help but feel it through to your bones. For me, that is the power of theater.
Do you have a favorite quote about the arts or one you’d like to share?
My mother, who does not work in the arts, but has extreme reverence for artists, always says, “Theater is what keeps us human.”