Caryn Ott Hillman, Opera for All Guest Artist and COT for Teens Stage Director
I love my jobs at Chicago Opera Theater because my role changes based on what classroom I walk into.
As a stage director with teenagers through COT’s After School Matters classes, I realize the necessity to build a trusting relationship with each my teens:
Memorize their names on the first day.
Find an interesting trait each student holds.
Ask them their opinions.
All teens want to be heard and feel that their thoughts are valid. I try so hard to listen and adapt my direction or choreography to connect with their world. If my “made up reality” of a show does not make sense to them, then I cannot expect them to execute my vision. There would be disconnect. I hold each of them accountable to speak their minds and to have an opinion because they each should care enough to give input. This is why I LOVE working with After School Matters-COT for Teens.
Now, teaching for Opera for All is a totally different playing field for me. I am the choreographer, only. This term, I worked at Healy, McAuliffe and Dinsey II (alongside the amazing Mr. Matt McNabb!!!) I must totally shift my mindset due to the younger ages of 4-6th graders and my lack of hours spent with them. I do not have the luxury to bond with all of these students because I am only allotted only 2 hours for each classroom. My job in a nutshell is: Be Fun But Efficient ASAP!
I, sadly, do not get to know each of their names, therefore I comically call everyone FRIEND or BUDDY or CHA-CHA (all terms of endearment).
I do not have time to fully describe anatomically how to execute a dance step, therefore I make a lot of sound effects to emulate the look of it (it’s actually a lot of fun).
I do, however, find the time to look at each face and make them feel SEEN.
Again, both jobs that I hold with COT have their obstacles, but they each give me different perspective on how to connect with the minds of the next generation. I am so lucky!