Meet the new director of St. John’s Theatre

Sabre HotalingThis year, St. John’s Theatre has a new director, Mr. Hotaling. Prior to directing at St. John’s, he taught at Boston College, Suffolk University, and Stonehill College. Most recently, he worked as the head of the Drama Department at The Chapin School, where he was also faculty advisor to the Drama Club and  Film Club. He graduated from Tufts University and St. Anselm’s Abbey School.

The Sabre sat down with him to learn more about his plans for the future of St. John’s Theatre.

What is your vision for the program?

So early in my time at St. John’s, that’s a hard question to answer in a way that feels complete, but I will say that it’s obvious to me that there is a lot of interest and a high level of commitment that could be tapped into. Theater, film, and TV are a huge part of all of our lives, but we don’t always get the chance to study those disciplines. I think there could be opportunities to have classes in theater and film history, production, and acting in the curriculum some day. 

For the extracurricular program, I want to find plays and musicals that speak to the moment – shows that are relevant and challenging and that are about  the world we live in today. I love the classics, too, but I especially love them when they have something to say about the world we are living in today

I’d love to establish at St. John’s the kind of environment that got me into theater originally: I found a community within my school that was closely connected and at the same time open to all. You can’t really make theater without meeting everyone where they are, accepting their backgrounds and experiences (and then working really hard to make something great together).

What got you into theatre?

The kind of environment that got me into theater as a student, and what I got to be a part of at Tufts and Boston College at the start of my teaching career were essential. Here’s what I learned then and still believe:

  1. The theater has to be a safe space for everyone. Our job is to experiment, try things, play, and fail (sometimes) together before we invite an audience in.
  2. Everyone can make a positive contribution to a creative process: we all get better when more voices are heard. That’s impossible unless everyone in the room feels respected and valued.
  3. Individual identities and specific stories are what theater is about. Actors, of course, are playing someone else, but I don’t really believe they can do it without being honest with themselves about both what they might share with a character and the distance between them and their character. 

What made you want to become a director?

I was terrified when I directed my first play. I was “the designer” and my partner at Tufts was “the director.” We decided to switch roles: I directed and he designed a version of The Odyssey. I think ultimately I was comfortable calling myself a director because I was in an environment where no one got put into a box. 

What has been your favorite part of St. John’s Theatre so far?

Kiley, Teresa, Aidan, Rose, and Maddie stand out as student leaders whose commitment and focus are equal to any student leaders I have ever worked with. At the same time, the tech crew, new ninth-grade students, and everyone else have been really welcoming to me. I’m really looking forward to when some of them disagree with me and I change my mind and the work we’re doing gets even better because we talked about it.

What is your advice to anyone that wants to join St. John’s Theatre?

Come talk to us: Kiley or Teresa or Aidan or Maddie or Rose or me. Talk to the students in the fall cast or crew: they’ll give you the best idea of what the process is like. If you don’t have experience – that’s what we’re here for.

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