Posts Tagged ‘Dana Legawiec’


MALI Teaching Artist Leader Story: Dana Legawiec

April 3, 2018

Teaching Artist – actor, theatre maker

This is one of several blog posts in 2018 that include stories of the Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Phase 7 Teacher Leaders and Teaching Artist Leaders. This series includes a set of questions so you can learn a little bit about each leader. CLICK HERE  for more information on MALI. CLICK HERE  for more information on the 93 Teacher Leaders and 8 Teaching Artist Leaders.  CLICK HERE  for Arts education resources. CLICK HERE  for the MALI Resource Bank. Search in the “search archives” box on the bottom right side of this post for past teacher leader stories.  Thank you Dana for sharing your story! You can find Dana’s teaching artist profile on the Maine Arts Commission roster

Dana Wieluns Legawiec (‘Wheel-ins’ ‘Luh-GAHV-yetz’) is an actor, theatre maker and arts educator who specializes in Physical Theatre. Dana teaches Stage Movement with the Department of Theatre at the University of Southern Maine, and works as a teaching artist in local schools. She’s been teaching just about as long as she’s been making theatre, leading physical training for her professional theatre ensemble – so for about 25 years – but she’s been working more consistently in elementary and secondary schools for the last eight years. Every age group brings its specific challenges, discoveries and delights. Dana is currently inspired by the creativity, energy and fearlessness of elementary school kids.

What do you like best about being a teaching artist?

I love dropping into a new community, becoming a sponge to the energy and dynamics in the room, and assessing and meeting the needs of the group and individuals—drawing out the stories they need to tell, the way they want to reimagine themselves and their worlds, the bodies they want to animate.  The promise of transformation has drawn me and kept me working in the theatre, and I strive to create that potential for students.

What do you believe are three keys to ANY successful visual and performing arts education?

Dana in the back coaching high school acting interns for the Camden Shakespeare Festival’s 2015 production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM.

Hmmm. I’ve returned to school myself (pursuing an M.Ed. in Arts in Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education) to ponder this very question…I’ll have to get back to you when I’ve landed on a definitive answer!  Eric Booth says “80% of what we teach is who we are;” giving kids access to artists who are actively engaged in the arts-making process, who are living an artist’s life first and foremost, has value.  I believe the process IS the product; that the process centers on posing challenging questions rather than finding right answers.  I also believe in the power of collaboration and ensemble, and that arts education should provide opportunities for kids to work together and lead in every possible permutation.  I am a fan of David Perkin’s theory of learning as “playing the whole game:” programs that allow kids to tackle big, ambitious projects with lots of moving parts have enormous potential for realizing ‘the impossible’ and making learning whole. Theatre affords the opportunity to play ‘the whole game’ of human experience.  OK, I guess that’s four things 😊.

Have you found assessment to be helpful in your classes, workshops and residencies, and if so, how?

In my experience and context, I have not yet been exposed to much in the way of formal assessment. But I have experienced the necessity for clear communication between stakeholders to align the values and purposes between those in the room (kids, teachers, teaching artists) and outside the room (administrators, funders, parents, school board, community).

What have been the benefits in becoming involved in the Maine Arts Leadership initiative?

Definitely the people! This can be lonely work. It’s very buoying to meet others who are in the same space. It’s also inspiring to meet teachers who are artists themselves, who’ve found ways to integrate their art and teaching practices within the school setting. MALI provides a ton of resources and a robust network of support.

What are you most proud of as an artist and/or a teaching artist?

Honestly, to still be working in the space as a theatre artist. When we moved to rural Maine eight years ago from Los Angeles, I had the fantasy of rehearsing in a big empty barn, putting on shows in the local town hall, weaving together day-to-day life with creative work based in community.  Well, it isn’t always pretty or easy, but I like to think I’m ‘living the dream’ every day.

Dana at the MALI Summer Institute

I’m proud of my work toward establishing an extracurricular theatre program at my kids’ elementary school, Bowdoinham Community School, but this has truly been a group labor of love. The school’s principal, Chris Lajoie, created the initiative, bringing together a core group of dedicated parent-volunteers to spearhead the project. This is our third consecutive year putting on a school play. This year it’s a lean-and-mean adaptation (with a cast of 43) of Shakespeare’s rollicking comedy that we’re calling A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DANCE PARTY. Public performances are Saturday, April 7th at 3pm and 6pm.  Come one, come all!

I dream of the day when theatre will be fully integrated into the elementary school curriculum.

What gets in the way of doing a better job as a teaching artist?

Midsummer Night with participants

The same constraints that apply to any artistic endeavor (and possibly educational endeavors as well): time, space and energy. I do think confronting these challenges offers its own rewards: We don’t need a big fancy theater, expensive costumes or a ton of time to make great art. By the same token, I impress upon kids that their creative expression, exploration and play has value, is worth my time and energy. I hope that by modeling this behavior, I’m investing in the creative capital of the community. Ultimately, we need a cultural shift where the arts and arts education no longer have to scrape for dollars, minutes and respect. 

What have you accomplished through hard work and determination that might otherwise appear at first glance to be due to “luck” or circumstances?

I’m fond of the expression “you make your own luck.”  I believe in intentionality; I believe that art only happens because one or more passionate, committed, brave and vulnerable people work tirelessly to make it happen. I hew to this message, because I want to challenge and empower young artists to mobilize.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a teaching artist or is just starting out?

Do your practice. Be flexible. Breathe. Teaching, learning, and art-making are two-way streets – prepare to learn at least as much from your students as you will share. And do share! Be generous with your knowledge, be transparent with your experiences, offer insights not usually gleaned from a classroom.

If you were given a $500,000.00 to do with whatever you please, what would it be?

Dana clowning around

So glad you asked, because in my secret, other life, I’m a fantasy grant-maker. I’d create an incubator for arts and wellness initiatives in rural Maine. Maybe I’d open a community arts center. I wouldn’t reinvent the wheel, though, so I might funnel those funds right back into other arts and social service organizations that are doing great work. I’d shop local.

Imagine you are 94 years old. You’re looking back. Do you have any regrets?

No, no regrets.  Nothing but gratitude.

%d bloggers like this: