New Theater Teacher Finds Flow in Shakespeare and Rap

Livia Lund, Staff Writer

Kristin Rosenmeier teaching students. She is the new performance art teacher at South and is bringing fresh energy to the South theater program.
Kristin Rosenmeier teaching students. She is the new performance art teacher at South and is bringing fresh energy to the South theater program.

South is known for its bustling theater culture and bright personalities. This year we welcome Kristin Rosenmeier to the stage as our new Performing Arts teacher. With her expressive voice and bright personality she will fit right in.

A playwright and an actor, Rosenmeier’s love for performing arts has been life-long. Rosenmeier remembers “sometime in high school I knew I had to do theater somehow for the rest of my life.” She completed that goal by attending the National Shakespeare Conservatory in New York City and also working as an actress and a teacher of various classes there. “In my life being on stage and acting is joy. Teaching here is joyful too, in a different way…” Rosenmeier has also toured nationally as the character “Marmee” in the play based on the book “Little Women.”

Having been a teacher for 12 years, Rosenmeier knows the ropes but the school size and atmosphere was a shock. “[South is] way bigger than anywhere I’ve been,” she said. “The biggest school I was in before was at 600. So, massive, massive difference.” Previously Rosenmeier taught mostly elementary or middle school grades without the large theater program we have here at South. “In one case I was creating the theater program in [the] middle school and in the other case I was taking a very beginning theater program and moving it on to something more advanced.”  

Another thing that drew Rosenmeier to South was the community and open-mindedness. A memorable experience was when a student said “That’s so gay” as an insult and another student responded with “That’s homophobic.” “I’ve never been somewhere before where the entire culture of the school was ready to say to this kid, ‘that is not an acceptable way, that’s bullying, that’s homophobia, we’re not going to tolerate it, it’s abusive,’” Rosenmeier stated.

Students having a safe space to explore and pursue theater is important to Rosenmeier. “I want everyone that comes to my room and spends the time here to know that the theater is theirs.  It’s not mine, it’s not the Guthrie’s, it’s not some touring group from New York City, it’s theirs.” A goal of hers is for every student to leave the class with the skills and knowledge to audition for a play, or to be involved in other theater activities. “They understand, they have ownership and that’s why I really teach.”

The new classes focus on the essential basics, such as knowing your objective, obstacles, and actions as an actor. Currently the class has a wide range of experience, from language learners to students with years of being in theater.  Even with all the differences, the class works. “Those concepts are for everybody,”explains Rosenmeier. “I want everybody to be challenged where they are.” Rosenmeier said.

Senior Rune Anderson, an experienced member of the theater community, enjoys the curriculum.  “Every once in while you really need to brush up on [the basics].” They explained. The class had previously been taught by Ellen Brown, South’s dance teacher. Anderson took a performance arts class with her as well and described it as more movement based. Rosenmeier herself was also a favorite part of the class. “[Rosenmeier ] knows stuff off the top of her head.” Anderson elaborates, “She’s very active and into it, all of that theater goodness.”

One of Rosenmeier’s great loves in theater is Shakespeare, although her interests are not limited to that. To her, verse and elevated speech are “so deeply connected to spoken word … and the spoken rhythms in rap music,” Rosenmeier explains. “When I listen to somebody with good flow, I’m scanning it in my brain the way I scan Shakespeare, that is to say, I’m hearing it and I’m hearing the rhythm in it and the speed.”

Coming up later this year Penumbra Theater, a traditionally African-American St. Paul-based theater company, is partnering with South to do a residency called “Black Voices,” which will be an English and theater class combined for double credits. “I’m very happy to collaborate, bring in somebody else and not be the white lady in the front of the room, all the time.” Another class co-taught with an English teacher will also be available next semester.