Read our recent interview with Christina Ramirez, the current Managing Director of the Actors Training Center.
She is multi-tasking by planning and dreaming up classes and curriculum while executing, and staffing them. She is also training teachers, monitoring success, helping prospective students find the right classes and making sure that everything is running and operating. Christina came to ATC having received her BFA in Musical Theatre from the Webster Conservatory. She is currently working on her MA in Theatre Directing from Roosevelt University right here in Chicago – all this while working full time at ATC!
ATC: Do you miss acting Christina?
Christina: No, definitely teaching and directing fills that void. It is from the same place in my heart that they exist, but I am not worried about it and I do feel like teaching and directing completes that outlet.
On my second day at ATC, we had this big brainstorming session and we asked ourselves how can we teach kids to use their art for more than what comes after the performance. How can you use your art? How can you have an impact on your community or have a conversation with the community in which you are performing or with your cast-mates.
ATC: You talked about Arts in Action and the importance of the community. Do you see that as an important thing at ATC, to the students and to you?
Christina: Yes, it is so important! You might have a kid drop in and then they get an agent and they are gone because they are working – which is part of the great success of ATC. But I think it’s also important to build community, to build ensembles and for us to be a place for kids who may not have that community in their high school theater program.
ATC: You are getting your masters right now, is there an end goal? And why this program?
Christina: My program is specifically designed for educators. It’s so inspiring to be in a cohort with other teachers because they are all in a growth mindset and always looking to share ideas and solutions. I have learned so much from my classmates about how to be a good educator, how to approach things in more than one way for different types of learners. It’s fascinating to revisit so many techniques I learned as a performer and approach them with the mindset of being able to teach someone else to do it. And of course, building community in Chicago after moving from New York was incredibly important and this program has connected me to so many brilliant artists in Chicago and all around the country.
ATC: So building community and having a network; how does that translate here at ATC for students?
Christina: I have friends that teach at near-by high schools and they will come to me and say that they are really struggling to help their students with college applications because it’s such a highly specific thing so they can send their kids to participate in College Audition Clinic (CAC) which is a program we offer. ATC has always had a great relationship with our surrounding schools and universities and we had connections to various schools and universities and so we are able to do that even more so that is very exciting!
ATC: I know you have classes to teach and at ATC, the philosophy is “Train to Work”. What does that mean to you?
Christina: We train students to approach everything they do, their artistry, their craft with the utmost professionalism and specificity so that whether they are in their high school show or their filming for a network show, they know that they are working at their very highest possible level and why and what’s special about that and they are doing so from a place of complete self-acceptance.
ATC: What does process over product mean?
Christina: If you are in the moment as an actor you should be in the process of it. The audience is seeing a product, but you are in process. Every single time. You have to be in the moment. So the idea of process over product really helps to get students to realize that even in performance or even if we film something and it’s done, it’s back to that idea of why you should always be in class. We should always be striving to get closer and closer to the truth or to the action of that moment. There is so much out of your control as an actor so all you can do is focus on the things you actually have control of and give yourself tangible goals that are within your control to achieve.
ATC: So why did you choose Little Women for the play you are directing? What do you think the meaning is today, and what are your ultimate goals for that production?
Christina: So, Little Women has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. I grew up with two older brothers and I always dreamed of having sisters. I had so many imaginary big sisters and little sisters. So as a kid, I saw myself in Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy – every one of them rather than identifying with just one sister. They were the sisters that I didn’t have. And so when the musical came out, I was in high school and I was obsessed with it. I loved it. I loved Sutton Foster. I loved Megan McGinnis. And I got to do it in high school. It was one of my favorite educational theater experiences to date. This has not been out of print for 150 years. Women and empowerment is so important for theater educators to tell these types of stories. We want the ATC message of “You are enough” to resonate with all of our students, particularly women and we push that messaging so hard.