A law unto himself

Theatre teacher utilizes personal experiences to enhance program, connect with students

The curtain rises. The stage is filled with light, sound, and color. A stunning performance is delivered by a cast of young actors who are given a standing ovation. Off in the wings sits the unnoticed but essential directorial force behind the production: Theatre teacher Braedon Lawless, admiring his and his students’ hard work.

“I fell in love with theatre in the sixth grade,” Lawless said. “I really love theatre because my director got everybody super involved. We did a show towards the end of the year, and it was the first time I had a speaking role. I memorized all of my speaking lines even though I was allowed to have them on a clipboard. I had to pretend like I was reading it, but really I was reciting all of it by heart.”

Since high school, Lawless was set on going into the field of secondary education. The only question was what class he wanted to teach.

“I felt like I wasn’t good at anything,” Lawless said. “And then I realized that I’m decent at theatre, and through that I found out that I’m actually more than pretty decent at theatre. I wanted to tell stories and get students to watch them and think, ‘I want to do something like that, I want to put on one of these stories and be a part of something cool.’”

Although Lawless is only in his first year of teaching his own class, his students admire him for his teaching style. Freshman Baileigh Bryant praises him for his ability to connect with his students.

“It’s obvious that he cares about his students and is great at connecting with us,” Baileigh said. “Mr. Lawless taught me how to find ways to connect with the characters that I play, on and off-stage.”

Junior Cicero Allen also finds immense value in Lawless’s personality and teaching.

“Lawless communicates information in a fun but memorable way, which makes learning enjoyable,” Cicero said. “He also doesn’t use dense language, choosing to communicate clearly and concisely in a way that we understand. For me, he has also been very understanding of my mental health in relation to my schoolwork. He gives me time in class to work on things and always readily responds to emails and questions.”

Despite Lawless’s clear talents in his profession, there are struggles that come with it.

“The most difficult part of my job is being a new teacher,” Lawless said. “Sometimes it feels like I don’t have all the experience that I need to put in everything that I need to. It’s really hard because sometimes I walk in with these big ideas and these big feelings and then I turn around and I need to turn it into something.”

At the theatre department’s recent One Act Play competition production of You On The Moors Now, they did not place or advance to regional. As tough as this was, it let Lawless know what he needed to fix for future shows.

“One of the things that I see us working on after our loss at One Act, that we struggled a lot with in competition, was our concepts,” Lawless said. “I think we were feeling a little bit too ambitious. We wanted to take a lot of risks. And risks are fine, but only when they’re done well and they pay off, and unfortunately for us, we did not get the payoff we wanted for them.”

While the challenges of being a new teacher are difficult, they can also teach important lessons.

“Students always want to try something new, and if you give students room to grow they are going to grow naturally,” Lawless said. “They just need a push and good direction, and to hone in on that talent they have. I’ve learned that sometimes it’s not really you vs. anybody else, it’s you vs. yourself, and you can be your own destructive part of theatre.”

Lawless believes that there’s a side to theatre for every student who wants to give it a try and encourages them to join and give it a shot.

“My biggest advice for students going into theatre is, however cliche it may sound, don’t be scared,” Lawless said. “You’re gonna make friends, you’re gonna make some of your best memories of all time. If you want to tell a story, this is one of the best ways to do that. It’s a lot of fun, you’ll have a blast. You’ll have some of your most precious memories of being with friends and making art.”