FULL CIRCLE: FORMER MTYP STUDENT TEACHES ONLINE CLASSES
How many people can say their favourite place as a child is now where they get to work? Think about it for a second: when you were a kid, what was your favourite place in the world? The park? The library? Maybe the local pool or community centre? For Spenser Payne, it was MTYP.
Spenser attended MTYP as a child from ages nine to fifteen, “I was in the Jr. Company for a couple of years and did a couple of extra curricular shows.” Payne remembers fondly that after her classes, she and her dad created a tradition of going to Robin’s Donuts to pick up a peach juice and a Kinder Surprise. “It’s funny how our memories work and what we remember,” Payne remarked.
“For me, MTYP is like a big warm fuzzy blanket. It’s a place I know well, all my friends are in the building, and I have strong positive memories attached! It has been a joy to come back to the building the last few years, and be the teacher in the classroom, rather than the student creating (and inadvertently pulling up the floor carpets).
Now, every Saturday, Spenser Payne and the six students registered in her Showtime class log on at 4:50 pm to start their class and venture into the world of theatre! Showtime is a course for MTYP students who have built a strong foundation in acting skills and are ready to proceed to the next level of their training. The students work on improvisation, as well as rehearse a scripted performance. Online classes feel somewhat informal, which gives the kids room to be more themselves, sneak off for snacks, or stay in their jammies if they want to.
Spenser is an actor, a clown, and a theatre educator. She remembers seeing the play Snowflake at MTYP when she was younger and remarked that seeing that play “has a lot to do with me studying clown as an adult.” She remarked that when she teaches students at MTYP she likes to tell them, “I was you once!” It’s a full circle moment going from student to teacher. Before teaching at MTYP, Spenser studied theatre at the University of Winnipeg and the University of Alberta.
Spencer has an air of lightheartedness about her. She is one of those people who can laugh and be silly one moment, and then move into a seamless transition of seriousness and professionalism without missing a beat.
Spenser has had great success transitioning to teaching online. It’s important to be flexible and try new things when evolving to online classes, “Theatre school in your pajamas? I mean, does it get any better?!” Payne continues, “Online classes were terrifying at first, but if the pandemic can prove anything, it’s that the theatre is resourceful and creative.”
After moving classes online, Spenser had to delve into an area of teaching outside her comfort zone and focus on voice work. When you’re not in the same room as each other, it can make understanding and hearing others difficult. Spenser spent more time on annunciation and diction with her students online than she had for in-person classes.
Voice work in theatre classes can range from tongue twisters (Peter Piper, unique New York, red leather yellow leather…) to breathing with the diaphragm to project your voice in a large theatre. Nowadays, it’s to project your voice over the ether of the internet.
Spenser’s Showtime class wrote an original script called “The Invention Convention.” The only rule within the script was that their inventions could not use magic to work, but we all know that theatre has a way of making things magical regardless, and some space aliens also make an appearance.
The kids are having a good time playing games and rehearsing. “They are constantly inspiring me,” says Payne, “I love their boldness and courage to play and create in class! As an adult, we forget to do this all the time, so thank you students for reminding us to play.” Although the students are not physically in the same room, they still manage to connect with each other. The pandemic may have stopped in-person activities, but it cannot stop kids from making friends.
When asked what Spenser is looking forward to when we can all be in the same room again, she remarked upon the small things that we don’t normally think about, “Talking with the students in the lobby after class…and just being able to be in our bodies again!” And what she loves most about theatre? Spenser says “The creativity, and imagination of artists coming to life! The honesty and courage of actors on the stage, and most importantly sharing that space with an audience – especially when there is laughter.”
Spenser will be teaching Acting for Ages 6 & 7 this spring with MTYP. You can sign up now! Classes will be in person this spring as permitted by government health orders. MTYP will confirm prior to start of classes.