Backed by a career of acting, directing, and teaching on stages and in classrooms across the country, Kent Burnham, Trinity Pawling’s new Director of Theater Arts, brings an inspired and student-centered approach to the School’s developing theater program.
While show-stopping numbers and brilliant monologues are important on the stage, Burnham’s focus dives much deeper. “For me, teaching theater is all about building and discovering a student’s sense of empathy,” he said. “My goal is for them to understand another person, another culture, or the way a person behaves. That’s all acting is, really. It’s a sense of understanding, and the ability to recognize ourselves in someone else and create something with it.”
As a long-time director and educator, Burnham recognizes that every student has a creative side—and his sights are set on bringing that creativity to life at Trinity-Pawling. “It’s important to me that, as a school, we are providing opportunities for every young man to discover that creativity and explore a side of himself that he may not have found otherwise. Theater does exactly that.”
Through his theater courses and extra-curriculars, Burnham hopes to ignite a passion for all aspects of the performing arts, be it acting, improvisation, directing, playwriting, production, or set design. The opportunities, he believes, are endless. “There’s a place for everyone in the theater,” Burnham explained. “My goal is to create a 360 degree view of it for my students. It’s a great space for them to try anything safely.”
Safety, in fact, is one of the key parts of Burnham’s teaching philosophy. “I’m interested in challenging and engaging my students to step outside of themselves without hesitation. I can’t do that without making sure they feel comfortable enough to dive in,” he explained. That’s why he makes the classroom and the stage a safe place. “I say to my students all the time: “fail forward and fail up!” It means make a choice, explore it, and even if it doesn’t work, there’s no judgment or discouragement. Find out what works, and what doesn’t. Just keep moving forward.”
With a solid foundation, an inspiring philosophy, and big plans in the making, Burnham is thrilled to be leading Trinity-Pawling’s theater program into its next chapter. “New course offerings, workshops with professionals, play readings, guest artists, new and edgy productions…I want these boys to have it all,” Burnham shared. “Because you never know what will inspire. I’m inspired just by watching my students learn. It’s collaboration 100% of the time. That’s what I love about theater.” And that collaboration, he hopes, will continue to challenge his students to be braver, smarter, and more empathetic in the theater program and beyond.
Learn more about the Theater Program here at www.trinitypawling.org/arts