EDUCATOR 

 

Teaching Philosophy

Theatre is best created at the intersection of recognition and inspiration. It is at that intersection that I constantly aim to exist as a teacher and what I wish for my students. With this intention I guide each student to be embrace who they already are, to stretch their expectations of who they can be, and I hope that after our time together they are able to see the world more openly and more inquisitively through the eyes of an actor.   

I gear my students towards thinking freely and abstractly. For art there is no right or wrong answer; it is not as simple as black and white. With students having grown in a society that pushes multiple-choice tests as a measure of achievement, I have observed that using open-ended questions such as “What did you think about it? How did it make you feel?” reveal new pathways of thinking for them and bring to light the societal importance of having and cultivating a personal point of view. One cultivates a point of view through both experience and critical thinking. More important now than ever, a university must act as an incubator and safe space to extend beyond our circles, our upbringings, and dive into course subjects and conversations we know well and into those that frighten us. This academic exploration enables us to learn what it means to live in a more globalized world. A liberal arts education gives students the tools to analyze the world and current events around them, think critically, cultivate a point of view, and then effectively communicate this point of view.

 

Theatre arts within this liberal arts education provides a necessary outlet for decompression and dialogue. Life on a college campus presents a multitude of positive, cherished experiences, but there may be also the occurrence of some unfortunate event that darkens the atmosphere of the community. There is a need to soldier on, to be a constant presence for students and provide a solid structure in shaky circumstances. Certain classes and subjects can provide that structure. But students, especially in our current social and political climate, also need to identify and recognize what they are experiencing and effectively communicate that experience. A fully rounded liberal arts and sciences curriculum provides both of these methods of support. Regardless of whether they intend to pursue a career in acting, I offer each student the tools and the space to help take personal experiences, analyze them, and turn them into inspirations for art and action.

 

When first familiarizing my students to acting, my class exercises are geared towards expanding their self-expression and their ability to play, imagine, communicate, and collaborate within an ensemble. By engaging them early in methods such as Lecoq’s 7 Levels of Tension, they develop a clearer comprehension of their physical and emotional energies at a given moment. This kind of self-recognition enables students to identify their habitual tendencies and also informs them of the great expanse they harbor for sound, energy, and emotional life.

In order to create and effectively communicate within any discipline or career, we must find power in what we have to offer as individuals. It is important to me that my students recognize that who they are and what they think are not only valid, but that their specific uniqueness is essential to their acting craft and their personal voice. In the classroom, both theatre majors and non-majors collaborate as a group to establish and maintain a supportive, open environment where each person feels comfortable asking difficult questions and taking risks, both of which are fundamental steps towards self-recognition and discovery.

 

While I do believe that there are foundational skills that every actor must understand and develop in the areas of voice, movement, and textual analysis, an actor’s tool belt is inevitably their own and must be personalized to their individual needs and processes. I offer them my experiences, but together we work to find which pathways and methodologies might best assist them on their own journey towards finding truth. My acting process is rooted in Stanislavski, but other practitioners and techniques I introduce in my courses and coachings include, but are not limited to, LeCoq, Anne Bogart, Uta Hagen, and Lessac voice work.

 

The human voice is my gateway into acting and self-discovery. The voice provides us with differing notes of expression: to sing, to cry, to shout, to love; however, it is a singular, well-coordinated instrument that should be able to respond healthily to dramatic experience and situation. I believe that the singing voice and the grounded spoken word are often separated to such an extent that actors are occasionally lost as to how to combine the two in performance. Identifying and exploring the musicality of Shakespeare and the dramatic immediacy of Sondheim are two examples of how I approach a unified voice through textual analysis and vocal expression. I plan to continue researching and cultivating optimal teaching methods that unify these two vocal disciplines of speech and song, so my students do not feel the confusion I felt for so long and they are better prepared for a career in the theatre no matter the genre.

 

Learning and teaching are integral parts of my artistic and intellectual life. I am able to grow because I am constantly challenged by the journeys of my students and the ever-evolving creativity of my colleagues. This coalescence of inspiration is what has driven me to pursue what I consider the greatest life imaginable: theatre practitioner and educator, actor and communicator. It is through my students that I find my intersection; it is through my students that I find my art.

-Lauren Elens

"Lauren was really approachable and so human that I felt comfortable really diving into my roles and putting myself out there because I knew that she was there to help."

Private student

 

 CURRICULUM VITAE 

 EDUCATION 

University of Virginia, M.F.A. Acting

Tulane University, B.F.A. Musical Theatre, B.A. Classics

Newcomb Scholar; Cynthia B. Tafarro Memorial Award Recipient 2009

 

British American Drama Academy, Midsummer in Oxford

Classical Acting Program in association with The University of Oxford, Yale School of Drama, and UCLA

 

New York University, Tisch School of the Arts CAP21 Program

CAP 21 Musical Theatre Professional Acting Training Summer Program

 TEACHING and DIRECTING
EXPERIENCE 

University of Virginia / Charlottesville, VA 2014 - 2016, 2019

DRAM2020: Acting I, Instructor

  • Beginning acting course for majors and non-majors that explores basic theories and techniques of acting through exercises, improvisations and scenes from contemporary dramatic literature. Methodologies included Stanislavsky, LeCoq, Viewpoints, and Lessac voice work.

 

DRAM1020: Speaking in Public, Instructor

  • Course aimed to provide students with voice and speech techniques required to better build oral communication skills, confidence and enjoyment in public speaking, presentation, or performance.

 

DRAM1010: Introduction to Theatre, Teaching Assistant

  • Survey lecture and discussion course providing an introduction to theatre and practices including acting, directing, and technical design. Culminated in a student - devised performance, directed by teaching assistants.

Richmond Performing Arts Alliance / Richmond, VA 2017 -2019

NextUp, A.C.T., Teaching Artist

  • Middle School afterschool theatre program targeting at-risk students, the majority being ESL learners. Students explore how actors and other performers have used their artistic voice to address social issues such as bullying. Students learn to develop their voice to speak to important issues.

Ella, Teaching Artist

  • Program using theatrical skills to teach Pre-K students early literacy skills that integrate into the literacy curriculum of the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) and VPI+

Wolf Trap, Teaching Artist

  • National program where certified teaching artists lead classroom teachers through professional development focusing on the implementation of arts-based strategies to teach core subjects, commonly referred to as  Arts Integration.

Quill Theatre / Richmond, VA 2016-2017

Shakespeare Touring Initiative-Hamlet, Teaching Artist / Stage Manager / Assistant Director

  • Production Manager of Quill Theatre’s 2016 Shakespeare Touring Initiative, which presents a production of Hamlet to middle and high schools throughout the Richmond public school system

  • Created and taught a Shakespeare immersion study workshop to middle school and high school students in connection with the Hamlet production

 

The American Civil War Museum and Quill Theatre / Richmond, VA 2018

Under the Veil, Playwright and Director

  • Co-authored a play centered around Civil War spies Elizabeth Van Lew and Mary Bowser that was produced for the Emancipation Day celebration. A preview of the piece was performed as part of a discussion entitled From Individuals to Symbols of Memory, where we examined the fable and legacy of Mary Bowser. This event was co-sponsored by the Black History Museum and the Cultural Center of Virginia

 

LiveArts / Charlottesville, VA 2016-2020

The Children by Lucy Kirkwood, Assistant Director to Betsy Rutelich Tucker (dir.)

  • Mainstage Season 

Follies, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Assistant Director to Bob Chapel (dir.)

  • Mainstage Season

Midsummer Night’s Dream, Director

  • Adapted and directed a 45-minute production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with youth ages 8-11, all with original verse

The World of Peter Pan, Teacher/Director

  • Acting camp for students ages 5-8. By using theatre games, children were invited to explore new ways to use their bodies, voices, and imaginations. The camp fostered creativity, teamwork, and nurtures a new respect for performing arts. Culminated in a Peter Pan-inspired public performance.

From Page to Stage: A Theatre Workshop, Teacher/Director

  • Acting Workshop Intensive for students ages 10-12 with a focus on building stage presence, creating a character, understanding motivation, and making bold choices. Culminated in a fully-produced original mini-play that I devised for that camp: “The Tortoise and the Hare: a race of Olympic proportion”

ARTS ADMINISTRATION and

RELATED EXPERIENCE

University of Virginia / Charlottesville VA 

Administrative Assistant to Department Chair, March-August 2016

  • Assisted with the creation and implementation of new marketing campaign for UVA Department ofDrama

  • Restructured how acting is introduced and taught in the department, created a syllabus template for incoming instructors

  • Assisted with recruitment of new MFA Acting class, facilitating travel and communications with candidates

Central Square Theatre and Massachusetts Institute of Technology / Cambridge MA 

Intern, August–December 2012

  • Interned as part of the Catalyst Collaborative@MIT, the nations only on-going partnership between a professional theatre company and a world-class science research institution

  • Dramaturgical display for production of The How and the Why by Sarah Treem, focusing on gender biases in science, taken and adapted for temporary exhibit by the Chemistry Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Guru New York / New York  NY

Sales and Marketing Director, November 2010-January 2014

  • Oversaw the expansion of what was a pop-up booth into a high-designer label carried in over 70 retailers worldwide

  • Trend Forecasted to aid designer in what styles/colors should be implemented into new collections

  • Individually designed a collegiate line of tunics for Spring/Summer 2013 collections

  • Managed, designed, and merchandised trade show exhibits and fashion events across the country

  • Managed wholesale accounts, order completions, and all company E-Commerce websites.

 

Michalopoulos / New Orleans 

Executive Assistant to Visual Artist James Michalopoulos, January 2010-June 2010

  • •Personal/executive assistant to famed oil painter James Michalopoulos and his assorted companies: Artist Design Group, Inc; Old New Orleans Rum; Michalopoulos Gallery; and Art Klub 

  • Assisted in art studio with canvas preparation, paints, sculpture design, etc.

  • Coordinated production and public relations for non-profits Elysian Fleas and Artist, Inc.

  • Planned events with more than 500+ invited guest-knowledge in permitting and liquor licenses, including famous Voodoo Ballerina Ball or "Doo", the official Mardi Gras Ball of Krewe du Vieux

New Orleans Dance Festival / New Orleans

Administrative Assistant, May-August 2008

  • Wrote grant proposals for the National Endowment for the Arts and others

  • Organized travel plans and expenses for visiting artists from around the world

 

 

 

AWARDS and RECOGNITIONS

Assistantship, University of Virginia Department of Drama

Award of full tuition plus $18,000 annually from 2014–2016 to complete the Masters of Fine Arts program in Acting at the University of Virginia and to serve as a Graduate Instructor

 

The Cynthia B. Taffaro Memorial Award, Newcomb College Institute

Annual award of excellence given to a singular artist for contributions onstage and off throughout the New Orleans arts community

Newcomb Scholar

Tulane University's highest award given to undergraduate women for research and academic achievement

 

Tulane Concerto Aria Competition Winner, 2009

Won university classical competition for voice and instrument with performance of “What a curse for a woman is a timid man” from Menotti’s Old Man and the Thief and “E pur cosi in un giorno” from Handel’s Giulio Cesare