Living the 'Best of Both Worlds'
Local middle school drama teacher enjoys being part of MVCCT summer camp Programs
This Q&A feature helps readers learn more about people living and working in the Mount Vernon business community. This week’s Q&A profiles Mount Vernon Community Children's Theatre summer camp drama teacher and Carl Sandburg Middle School drama teacher Sara Jane Lilley.
Through the use of hands-on learning of the theatrical arts, MVCCT offers children, ages 3-18, the opportunity to enhance their development---building self-confidence, character, self-expression, autonomy and responsibility. The organization offers three to four productions a year, featuring children in all roles, as well as after-school programs in Fairfax County Public Schools, and both spring break and summer camps.
Lilley has lived in the Hybla Valley area of Alexandria with her husband and two rescue dogs, Hondo and Hayla, for approximately three years.
Born in Richmond, Lilley moved to Greensboro, NC with her family where she lived through high school graduation. She then attended University of Arizona in Phoenix where she received her B.F.A. in Theater Education. She also minored in Music. Lilley is currently working on a Masters in Educational Psychology degree from George Mason University. She also has participated as an intern at the Kennedy Center’s Changing Education Through the Arts program in Washington, DC.
How did you become interested in your line of work?
I have been acting since I was too young to even remember. It’s always been a passion of mine. I think acting has really helped develop me as the self-confident person I am today. I had a great drama teacher when I was a kid. Her name was Barbara, and she completely changed my life in terms of my confidence level. She was a very influential person in my life and I have very fond memories of her. She really inspired to be that same kind of person for other kids. The professional acting thing just wasn’t my thing, but I still wanted to make money doing my craft. Teaching drama is the best of both worlds: I still get the time to act and do other things I love.
How long have you been with MVCCT? What about the teaching position at Carl Sandburg?
When I first moved here, I originally had a job teaching drama at an elementary school in Reston. The program I taught used the arts to help teach the school’s general curriculum. For example, students learned about the solar system through dance, and readers’ theater encouraged students to write their own scripts. Unfortunately, that program was discontinued, but I was able to teach music there the following year. The next year, I moved to Mount Vernon Woods Elementary School to teach music. And now, I will start teaching drama at Carl Sandburg in the fall. I became involved with MVCCT after my first year of teaching. Summer came around and I simply couldn’t sit still. So, I started looking for places to work, and I was hired to teach drama at MVCCT’s summer camp. They are so much fun to work for ... I’ve now worked with them since the summer of 2009. Each summer, I teach around seven different camps to kids ranging in age from 4 to 13.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
MVCCT exemplifies what I love about teaching theater and the arts in general: that a community of professionals can form amazing friendships and work together so well. There’s something special about having all these kids come together to be part of something bigger than they are. It’s just like one great big family. And while we meet new campers each summer, we often see a lot of the same kids coming back every year. It’s an awesome community to be a part of, especially in this world of bullying and other social issues. MVCCT offers a solid, stable environment and I’m happy to part of that for these kids.
Where is your favorite place to go in our area?
Definitely the dog park near the Grist Mill. My dogs love it there!
What are your hobbies?
I love to cook. I love being outdoors, hiking with my dogs. Also, I am currently training for a Tough Mudder … I’m a real adrenaline junkie.
Do you have a favorite area restaurant?
Pizzeria Paradiso and Bilbo Baggins in Old Town.
What’s your favorite kind of music?
Folk rock and alternative.
Last book you read?
Witch Song, by Amber Argyle.
If you weren’t in this business, what would you be doing?
I’m definitely living my dream job right now. However, I often think that if I wasn’t doing theater, I would be a chef. I really love to cook … my husband is very lucky.