Theatre Day for Teachers

Department of Theatre and Dance

Theatre Day for Teachers offers professional development opportunities for middle and high school theatre teachers.
Our Mission

Montclair State University has become the major resource within the higher education community offering professional development opportunities for secondary school theatre educators. We hope to become a national model for universities seeking to reach out to schools in their communities and states. 

With Theatre Day for Teachers we provide an annual day of workshops, networking, camaraderie and support to secondary school theatre teachers in New Jersey and neighboring states. The workshops vary each year and are conducted by professional artists and educators in the areas of theatre performance (acting, voice and speech, and movement) design, technology, directing, stage management, dramaturgy, and classroom practice.

Theatre Day for Teachers Registration begins October 15, 2014. Please submit your registration form. Space is limited. All registration forms must be received by December 15, 2014 to ensure your spot in the workshop. Just click the link below to access the registration form.

TDFT 2015 Registration Form

Credit Card Form

Theatre Day for Teachers will be held Friday, January 16,2015 in Life Hall on Montclair State University’s campus.

2015 Workshop/Breakout Sessions:

Group Workshop: Be Here Now! with John Plumpis

What do we mean when we say someone has presence?  Can we get some?  Does everybody have it?  I don't know the answers to these questions, but since successful Theatre depends upon being present, I spend plenty of time exploring them.  This morning workshop will combine a warm up, and some well-known and less conventional methods of bringing ourselves to the NOW in our lives and on the stage; things that will be useful to your students. I promise an inspiring session.  Wear comfortable clothes.  Bring a notebook.

Breakout Sessions (Please choose one):

  • Shakespeare, Tarzan and Jane with John Plumpis
    • How do we separate out the Bard's wheat and chaff?  How do we communicate to audiences and to our students what is important in a speech or passage?  Where are those pesky operatives?  We'll explore that question by stripping some language to its bare bones, and saying it like Tarzan and Jane might.  Lots of laughs.  Bring a notebook.
  • Makeup Challenges! with Debra Bergsma Otte  
    • Imagine the show where wigs and facial hair stay securely in place and young actors effectively apply effective age makeup. It is possible and this workshop will show you how.  First session will be demonstration and second session will be hands-on applications.
  • Devise and Conquer!with Robin Irwin
    • Devised theatre needn't be a mystery. Explore a variety of ensemble-based techniques that will catalyze authentic play and discussion within your class, school and community. Get your students up and collaboratively creating pieces from the micro to the macro through interview, improve, and imagination.  A taste of the theoretical with a  grand helping of the practical. Dress comfortably and be ready to play!


2015 Professional Artists/Educators’ Bios

  • John Plumpis is an adjunct teacher of speech, text, and voice at MSU.  He has been a guest teacher at over fifty colleges and universities, as well as the KCACTF.  He has appeared in the national companies of THE LION KING, and BARRYMORE starring Christopher Plummer.  A regular at regional theatres, he has played in a large variety of musicals, dramas, comedies, and Shakespeare across the country and internationally.  Every so often he can be heard on a voice over, or seen on a TV show or film.  Some of his thoughts on Theatre have even been published.
  • Debra Bergsma Otte is a professional costume designer and theatrical makeup artist.  She is the Program Coordinator for the BFA in Theatre, Production and Design Concentration Program at Montclair State University and teaches design coursework for both that program and the Fashion Studies Program.
  • Robin Irwin has appeared on Broadway, national tours, regional theater, television and film. She has been a voice over artist for everything from chainsaws to baby products. She has taught, directed and run master classes at universities and private institutions across the country. Adjunct faculty--MSU, NYU and NYFA.


Theatre Day for Teachers Workshop Schedule Outline

*Please note that this is the schedule format used in 2014 and will be subject to change.

8:15-9:00am – Registration/Breakfast/Networking

9:00-9:15am – Opening Remarks

9:15-10:45am – Group Workshop

10:45-11:00am - Coffee Break

11:00-12:15pm – Breakout Session Part I

12:15-1:00pm - LUNCH BREAK

1:00-2:15pm – Breakout Session Part II: ALL PARTICIPANTS BACK TO SAME ROOMS

2:15-3:00pm - Wrap Discussion/Evaluations/Presenting of Certificates

Workshop Fee/Payment Methods

This one-day professional development workshop is $135. Breakfast and lunch are provided. The certificate of completion will be given at the end of the day. This workshop counts as six hours of professional development credits. We accept personal checks, school checks, and credit cards (Visa, Discover, and MasterCard). If your school is paying for your participation in the workshop, we ask that you provide us with a purchase order no later than December 15, 2014 to ensure your spot. If you are paying with a personal check or credit card, the workshop fee must be paid in full at registration on January 16, 2015.


On the day of the workshop, please park in the Red Hawk parking deck on MSU’s campus. The parking fee is now included in the workshop fee. A parking voucher will be given to you at the end of the day along with the certificate of completion.

Our History

In 2007 we responded to the New Jersey Arts Education Census Project’s report (9/18/07) in WITHIN OUR POWER: THE PROGRESS, PLIGHT AND PROMISE OF ARTS EDUCATION FOR EVERY CHILD, In the Recommendations the report states, “We recommend that the New Jersey State Department of Education and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts work with the professional arts education associations in the state and the state’s institutions of higher education to develop and expand professional development opportunities for visual and performing arts educators.”

Theatre Day for Teachers was initiated in 2008 by Theatre and Dance Department professor Susan Kerner and Mahwah High School teacher JoAnne Fox to provide an opportunity and a place for theatre educators to gather to share ideas and learn new Best Practices from professionals in the field and from each other.

The event is a positive educationally based community building experience.  Students are able to share their work with other students and to be recognized outside their own high schools.  This outside recognition has direct benefits for students and teachers in districts throughout the state.  In a time when theatre arts programs are in peril this outside recognition helps maintain and even build quality high school theatre programs.  

Theatre Day for Teachers 2014

Following a morning workshop in Viewpoints technique conducted by Heather Benton for the entire group, Approximately 45 participants were divided into three groups for the remainder of the day. Each participant selected one of the following areas of focus: Dramaturgy led by MSU professor Andi Stover, Effective Audition Technique led by MSU professor Mark Hardy, and Sound Design led by MSU professor Ken Goodwin. Participants had a lunch break in the middle of the day that provided an excellent informal opportunity for networking among peers. Foe the final session the participants came together to process their experience and make suggestions for Theatre Day for Teachers 2015.


In the past seven years the College of the Arts at Montclair State University has created several successful ongoing programs for a new generation of teachers who seek professional development opportunities, support, and the stimulation provided by colleagues sharing similar challenges. The programs have positioned Montclair State University as the place to go for professional development opportunities in the Arts for secondary school teachers in the region.

The collaborative approach of these programs has created a network of shared ideas, best practices and resources for the New Jersey theatre education community. A core of dedicated teachers takes advantage of all of MSU’s programs during the past seven years and regularly participates in Theatre Day for Teachers, Theatre Night Awards, and Theatre on the Move.

In the words of Bergen County Academies teacher Rebecca Strum:

Those of us teaching theatre arts in secondary school s were hungry for the types of professional development available to our colleagues in the visual arts and music…. Then five years ago Susan (Kerner) began her Theatre Day for Teachers initiative and a community was born.  We began to feel a connection, not only with each other, but with theatre educators at the university level. We could adjust and refine our curricula in order to better prepare our students who chose to continue their theatre arts education at the university level. 

Inspired by the overwhelming response to her Viewpoints workshop, Head of Acting Heather Benton traveled to the schools of several participating teachers to lead Viewpoints workshops for their students at no charge. Numerous high school students applied to Montclair State University’s undergraduate BA and BFA degree programs as a result of these workshops and the discussions that followed. We intend to expand these school visits in the future as a service to NJ schools and as a recruitment effort for the Department of Theatre and Dance.

For two years MSU offered a one-week summer intensive for theatre teachers in directing Shakespeare and in directing new work and hopes to reinstitute that highly successful program again.

Thank you to all who participated with Theatre Day for Teachers 2014. Our new webpage is currently under construction. Registration for Theatre Day for Teachers 2015 will begin in October 2014. Please check back to our new webpage for details.  

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