Master Teaching Artist Daniel Robert Sullivan has been on Roundabout’s Teaching Artist Roster for the past sixteen years. Daniel just returned from a long run as Tommy DeVito in the Las Vegas production of Jersey Boys, but spent much of his time out West coordinating the rolling world premiere of Prospect High: Brooklyn, a play he conceived and co-wrote with a team of New York City teenagers in Roundabout’s Education Studio.
Through Roundabout, Daniel has served New York City students and educators in multiple ways. He has served as the director for Roundabout’s annual Student Theatre Arts Festival and trained educators through Roundabout’s Theatrical Teaching Institute. He’s also facilitated multiple classroom residencies in Roundabout Partner School classrooms.
Educator Program Manager Abby Case spoke with Daniel about his career and work at Roundabout.
Abby Case: Tell me a bit about yourself and your artistry.
Daniel Robert Sullivan: I'm an actor, writer, and teaching artist trying to keep my feet firmly planted in all three disciplines.
AC: How did you come to be a teaching artist? Could you share your first arts education experience?
DRS: While student-teaching in Rhode Island during college, I was tasked with introducing Julius Caesar to an English class. The traditional lesson plans used during this unit had much to do with analyzing the text and working through the meaning of words, and very little to do with the raw emotional power of performance. I thought, “Well, shoot, I can get these kids to like Shakespeare way more by showing it to them...live."
I asked a fellow actor to bust into the classroom at a particular time and begin a speech from the play, which I then countered with another. It was wild and completely effective. The 'bust-in' is teaching artist technique...I just didn't know there was such a thing as a 'teaching artist' until the following year when I moved to New York. A friend introduced me to Roundabout's Education program, I was mentored and inspired by its early leaders - Margie Salvante and Renee Fleming - and I've been attached ever since.
AC: What is your favorite part about working as a teaching artist?
DRS: My favorite bits are usually those that follow some kind of sharing event, much like my favorite part of performing is often the moment immediately after the curtain call. After the work has been presented, it is then time to reflect on how it has changed you. And it always, always changes you. Having students articulate this change is my favorite part.
AC: What is the most challenging part about working as a teaching artist?
DRS: Working in the room is fulfilling, but scheduling the work in the room is the hardest part. We all must balance our own creative work with the creative classroom work, and the classrooms we work in are all over the city! So piecing it all together remains a challenge.
AC: Could you share a memorable lesson or moment from your time as a teaching artist at Roundabout?
DRS: The very first Student Theatre Arts Festival stands out as a moment to remember. Students from all over NYC gathered together to perform short scenes on Broadway. Not only did they meet and connect with each other, but the legitimacy of their stage gave them confidence and the respect of their peers and family who had come to watch.
Education @ Roundabout, Student Production Workshop, Teaching Artist Tuesday