I am sort of interviewing Teaching Artists in my spare time, to find out what they think about our craft and our professional identity as TAs. Here is the start of an interview I conducted over lunch with Anthem Salgado, a leading Bay Area Teaching Artist. It has been lightly edited, because sometimes we stopped interviewing to talk about food and whatnot.
INTERVIEW W/ TEACHING ARTIST ANTHEM SALGADO
Q: How long have you been a TA?
A: On and off for about…oh my gosh, well if you count like the very first workshop I ever gave, I dunno, eleven years?
Q: How long have you considered yourself a professional teaching artist then? Is that different?
A: Well, it’s still on and off. I started getting paid gigs...even back then it's inconsistent. Probably the most consistent, when I started getting consistent work, was maybe five or six years ago? Even then that wasn't all the time consistent. It was just more regular than it ever had been up to that point.
Q: Is there a kind of a line between being a kind of sometime teaching artist and a professional, like “now, I’m a professional?”
A: (Nods) Like, yeah. “Now, I'm doing this pretty frequently…designing classes, you know, I’m having a style that I'm working towards, I have a methodology, a philosophy?” Yeah, then maybe that would be about five years ago I would have started conjuring those ideas more deeply.
Q: What makes a professional teaching artist?
A: I think…(laughs) well, uh, it's such a huge question. There are so many ways to answer it. I think number one is there's gotta be training.... I think training is a big part of it, because I feel like, even when I started giving workshops it took me a while to figure out how to do them properly…to develop your sort of like teacher persona. And that's something that you get with experience and training. I think you gotta have, like any organization or any person doing anything, you gotta have a commitment to certain values, which drives the whole project forward. And those are the kinds of…when you really check in with your values that's how you find out how you're going to teach certain skills, why you're teaching certain skills, what benefit you see your students getting. And those all come from what you value.
Like, I value the narrative…empowering people. So for me, I'm really interested in teaching people basic storytelling skills. And a lot of people ask me technical questions about theater or acting, but I think ultimately, and I say this all the time, you can get technical skills all kinds of different places. But my personal emphasis as a teaching artist, for performance, is I want people to really get to a place where they can connect as humans with themselves, with the audience, with their fellow scene partners. And when we have that human connection, then they can do all the more technical study after that. But for me, because I know that's what I value as a person, that's what I emphasize in my teaching, you know…for example. (laughs)
Thus ended the lunch. Thanks to Anthem for being so generous as to share. I will post more interviews, or something else, soon, or at some point.