Michael Sullin is studying drama and theater education at The Catholic University of America.
How did you discover your passion for directing and teaching?
My mother was a teacher and I grew up acting in children’s theater – both lead me to my career path. I am currently a drama major (B.A.) with a focus on directing and M.A. in theater Education Accelerated Degree.
While the directing and teaching programs are separate, to me they are one in the same. I think you have to be a teacher in order to direct and vice versa. The art of presenting concepts of empathy either previously forgotten or not before thought of drives me as a creator and educator. I never had an ‘epiphany’ after seeing a production in NYC or performing on stage, rather I have always known I wanted to make a difference in this capacity.
What’s your favorite part about directing and teaching?
Although I would be happy spending weeks just analyzing texts, I love the little discoveries in the rehearsal room. Talking with actors about characters, I always challenge them with the hard questions or always push them to go a bit further. As a director and a teacher, the most gratifying part is when the magic light bulb flicks on and the scene just comes to life.
You see the same thing in the classroom, too! Pushing your students to think bigger and ask harder questions with a guiding hand will always lead to the magic ‘Ah-Ha’ moment. Watching the smiles on actors’ faces when they get it and know that they had that breakthrough makes the entire day a win for me.
What’s the hardest part for you about creating?
Directing can feel like solving puzzle after puzzle, which is challenging but also why I love it so much. In my recent work, I’ve been challenging myself to really find those moments that aren’t necessarily scripted but help us to tell stories truthfully to the audience.
The game behind directing is while you have script that tells a story, you can’t just rely on the script to create the world of the play for you; as a director you are the one who creates that world. Anything from a subtle nod of the head to the placement of accompaniment can transform a common day occurrence into a meaningful moment. My focus recently has been find on those treasured moments.
Why did you pick The Catholic University of America?
I went into the college selection process knowing I wanted to do theater education, which meant I was looking for a program with a broad curriculum that stretched across all facets of the theater.
When it came down to only three universities, the department of drama at The Catholic University of America was the best fit for me. The comprehensive curriculum trains students to have a broad understanding of the various ways in which theaters function, thus providing students with various opportunities to experience the many career paths available within the theater community.
Class sizes are small enough that students get the attention they deserve from experienced and hardworking faculty. Best of all is the fantastic location of Catholic University in Washington, D.C. With so many drama department alumni working in the vibrant D.C. community, I have already been provided with opportunities to work in my area of the field.
What has been your favorite part of this college?
Unlike so many other universities, Catholic U provides me with the opportunity to work on my Masters degree while still an undergraduate student. The 4 +1 BA to Masters of Theater Education (MATE) program allows me to graduate with an English and theater secondary education certification, a B.A. in Drama, and an M.A. in Theater Education. This program really is such a wonderful opportunity for students seeking alternative teaching certifications while still working within the theater.
How do you think this program will help in what you want to do next?
Knowing that I will be well qualified for a full-time teaching job and still have the experience to direct in the theater takes such a weight off my shoulders as I work towards graduating. My plan following graduation is to start teaching full time during the day while working on productions within the D.C. area in the evening. The abundance of alumni working not only in the metro area but also across the nation proves the Department of Drama’s ability to produce skilled artists which I, as an alum, will be part of wherever I may choose to go.
Where do you imagine yourself in 10 years?
I know that in order to enable myself to have a truly successful career, I must be open to go wherever in the world the work takes me. That being said, I would love to be teaching and directing in D.C. This not only would enable me to live in one of my favorite cities but it would also allow me to provide students from the Department of Drama the same kind of opportunities that so many have offered me already in my time at the Catholic University of America. Even if I cannot guarantee this, then at the very least I will know that as I am working in the theater community and teaching, I am using my various learned skills and abilities to nurture a better world for the next generation.