“Education is the building of a person. To educe means to draw out or evoke that which is latent; education then means drawing out the person’s latent capacities for understanding and living....” - Stephen Nachmanovitch, Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art
Why do I teach? To borrow from Nachmanovitch, I believe that educating, or educing, is one of the greatest gifts we can give to a culture. As educators, we can help our students fully realize their capacities as thinkers, as creators, as human beings. I teach theatre because I believe it fosters imagination, passion, compassion, play, communication and self-awareness, all vital skills to thriving in the human experience.
There are three guiding objectives that I bring to the classroom, each grounded in my conception of educating as an invitation to relationship. First, I invite my students into relationship with the subject matter. As a teacher of theatre, I conceive of that task as creating an environment of trust and curiosity in which we can explore, with beginners’ minds, how to connect and communicate more freely and expressively. Students are encouraged to wrestle with, and reflect upon, the material in a personal and holistic manner. How does this relate to my other coursework? How does this relate to my life? To facilitate this kind of engagement with the work, and to accommodate each student’s learning needs, I use a variety of teaching methodologies including: lectures, research projects, small group activities, multi-media presentations, guided group exploration and solo performance. I strive to be thorough, innovative and responsive to the unique demands of each group.
Second, I invite my students into relationship with each other and with me. Central to this tenet is the daily ritual of the sharing circle; we begin and end class in this configuration to share discoveries and questions, to connect with compassion and egalitarian spirit, and to celebrate each other’s work and play. This élan of direct engagement extends beyond the classroom to my willingness to meet with and coach students during office hours, consult on papers and projects over email or phone, and to attend their performances. There is an explicit agreement that we will all bring courage and honesty to the relationship; as a young professor I show respect to my students by sometimes saying, “I don’t know the answer to that yet, let’s find out together!” just as they are expected to sensitively and constructively respond to each other’s brave work. In this way, we teach each other to be responsible and integral artists, giving to and benefiting from our community.
Finally, I invite my students into relationship with the world outside the classroom. Our goal is not simply to amass skills and knowledge within an insular classroom, but to, as Nachmanovitch writes, build the person- a person who, empowered by skills and knowledge, will contribute to the betterment of society. Therefore, my students engage in experiential and service learning. Whether it is through performing showtunes at a retirement community for a musical theatre performance class, recording audio books at the RFBD center for an acting class, or speaking with ESL students as conversation partners for a dialects class, I hope that my students learn to apply their talents onstage and off.
I extend these invitations to my students. Whether they will respond with a “yes” is their choice to make. However, my work and my joy are to make these invitations and these relationships as compelling, enriching and inspiring as possible. I teach with the hope that my students will develop their imagination, passion, compassion, play, communication and self-awareness in my classroom. And from my students I learn the incredible scope of creative potential, of human potential.
“Professor Cabaj has inspired me in five months what I have been trying to find within myself for years. Her knowledge for what she teaches is so apparent and her ability to convey that material to her students is unlike any teacher I have ever had. Her abilities and the ability that she sees within her students inspires me learn more, push myself to the limits of my potential, and do my absolute best in whatever path I end up choosing. Her never ending encouragement and unimaginable knowledge and passion for what she teaches is certainly a benefit [to] me.” - Lindsey E.
“Repeatedly, I have watched nervous singers and actors approach her with concerns about their voice or movement, only to watch Stacey reach into her enormous catalog of performance methods—ranging from Alexander Technique to Stanislavski—and deliver specific, yet not overly technical, advice to help performers overcome their difficulties. It has been enlightening watching her work with people of different skills to observe the careful attention she gives to an individual’s unique strengths, weaknesses and personality type.” - Nick S.
“The wealth of knowledge Stacey has to share, the dedication and passion she brings are invaluable—I do not say this casually. To say Stacey has exceeded expectation would simply not suffice; she meets those needs of which I am not even aware. I had no idea what a treasure, in the truest since of the word, she would be.” - Katherine S.
“[Stacey’s] ability to engage a classroom of students with a variety of majors, interests, and cultural backgrounds was remarkable. Her lessons transcended theatrical work and found their way into our lives. Our class became a safe…and supportive [place.] There were tears the last day of class as we all knew we had grown so much as actors, but more importantly, as people. This is the Stacey Cabaj effect.” - Casey L.
“With the capacity to inspire and instill a passion in performance and honing one’s skills, any space Stacey enters is filled with an air that is inviting and comfortable while also commanding respect. I strive to do my best when working with her- not out of duty, but out of a genuine desire to excel stemming from the passion and excitement that she herself brings to projects.” - Ellen C.