After 17 years of working in various roles alongside iTheatrics, a New York-based musical theater company, Troy University alumna Mary-Catherine Chambliss was recently promoted to Director of Education.
Chambliss was first introduced to the organization in 2003 at its first-ever Junior Theater Festival in Atlanta, Georgia. The next year she attended, her school was awarded the pilot production of “Seussical, Jr.,” the most produced of iTheatrics’ musicals, at The Junior Theater Festival’s New Works Showcase. Chambliss, who became interested in theater after sustaining a cheer injury that left her sidelined, choreographed the production.
“The (iTheatrics) resident choreographer loved the choreography and asked if I wanted to come to New York that summer and help with their choreography videos, and my mom stepped in and was like, ‘She’s 13. What’s happening here?’” Chambliss recalled. “And then, next thing you know, I did go to New York and they were my first job here in the city. I was a 14-year-old little girl, and my mom came with me and I worked that summer. The relationship flourished from there.”
After that summer, Chambliss continued to work with iTheatrics as an adjudicator, a teaching artist and an associate choreographer for Choreography Videos. Six months ago, she was hired as an education advisor prior to moving into the newly-formed Director of Education role.
Despite a limited market for conversations about theater education at the time, and even today, Chambliss said she was encouraged to pursue her love of teaching by both the company, her middle school theater teacher, Merrie Chyene, and Troy University. TROY’s College of Communication and Fine Arts is one of few universities to offer theater education as a “full degree,” she said.
“To have the experience with the people at the company and my middle school teacher to tell me that, no, the only career in theater is not just performing or just the technical aspects, that you can make a career in the education field of theater, was incredible. This is what I personally loved and was never a back-up plan for me,” she said, “so to have their encouragement, and of course, the extremely excellent education in my backyard at Troy University, was pretty, pretty incredible.”
While at TROY, Chambliss served on the founding staff of Summer Spotlight, a series of intensives held each year for creative people of all ages looking to grow and develop their interests and talents in and through the arts. She was also a Pied Piper—a four-decades long tradition featuring a performance ensemble that performs for young audiences—director, choreographer and much more.
“I love that I come from TROY’s educational theater program. I think I was open to so many different things, because of being a TROY student, that a lot of my peers in the theater education world did not get to experience,” she said. “I love that I can still call up all my professors and collaborate with them. It’s the best university, and I’m really, really, really proud to be a Trojan. I come from a family of Trojans—my brother played football there and my sister became a nurse there—so that’s really special, too.”
Prior to accepting the job with iTheatrics, Chambliss served as an associate teaching artist at Lexington Children’s Theatre in Lexington, Kentucky and developed theater curriculum and Student Growth Measurements for the Muscogee County Board of Education while serving as the Director of Blackmon Road Middle School, where she was named New Teacher of the Year. During her time in Muscogee County, she performed with the Springer Opera House, Georgia’s State Theater in “A Chorus Line,” “The Who’s Tommy” and Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.” She made a move to New York City to act as Program Director for The Anderson School and developed curriculum for Manhattan Youth’s Summer Musical Theatre Intensive. Chambliss most recently served Manhattan Youth as Education Director for The Professional Performing Arts High School, Simon Baruch Junior High School, Yorkville East Middle School and The Anderson School.
Coming into this new position, Chambliss said her background in both performing and teaching has given her a unique perspective on the type of support theater teachers—and students—need.
“I feel like I can sympathize and emphasize with them and really lean into and love on our teachers a lot in this new position, and something I’m extremely excited about is not just being a voice for so many community theaters and regional theaters, but to dive into curriculum with our DOE teachers and help sprout up new and different programs,” she said. “I love that theatre education really gives teachers the opportunity to instill stage skills combined with life skills. That’s really special, and that’s what my goal is.
“I want to have educational theater programs that are high-quality where I can help our teachers help our students and establish safe spaces where they can learn theater. We really want to make the world a better place, one musical at a time.”