There’s a saying, “Those who can’t do, teach.” However, we know that the two are not mutually exclusive. EMU Drama professor Jenny Koppera does and teaches—with great success.
Koppera earned her Master of Fine Arts in Drama and Theatre for the Young at Eastern Michigan University in 2011, and has built a reputation for thoughtful, inspiring classes that open new doors for students.
“I find teaching to be very akin to theatre. You have your audience; you know where you want to take them… I feel like my responsibility to engage that audience is very important. If students aren’t engaged in my class, that speaks to me as well as to them, so it’s my job to engage them like I would any audience I have.”
Koppera’s teaching philosophy remains constant whether she’s teaching children or college students.
“I think who you are when you’re ten is more or less who you will end up being at twenty. It’s all about getting people engaged. Trust is also paramount. Trust comes first, and then we can really do whatever we need to. If you don’t trust the people you’re with in a class, and they don’t trust you or each other, everything grinds to a halt,” said Koppera.
In 2011, Koppera was selected to be one of six interns from across the globe at the ASSITEJ World Congress in Copenhagen, and she won the RYE fellowship at the International Performing Arts for Youth Showcase and the Doyle Fellowship Special Recognition Award, in 2012 and 2010 respectively.
“Children’s theatre outside the US is often much richer, more diverse, and willing to take more risks,” she said.
Koppera’s been bringing back home some of what she’s discovered abroad. She is the founder of the Global Play Project at Eastern, which enables students to put on plays from around the world. Last year she also created the Ann Arbor based Spinning Dot Theatre Company, which has already produced a number of plays.
The company, formed to bring new international works to audiences, consists of professional actors performing for children, an artist-in-residence program that enables performers, writers and directors to create pieces from scratch, and a small youth company of 8 to12-year-olds who learn to write, produce and act.
“The name Spinning Dot comes from the fact that I wanted to hint at global-ness without it being called something like Global Theatre Project,” she said.
Koppera is clearly dedicated to her life in both the theater and the classroom. She inspires both her students and the broader community and is able to encourage people to dream, play and create.
“Professor Koppera creates an atmosphere in her classes where students feel safe sharing, performing and taking risks,” says Michelle Poniewozik, a 2015 EMU graduate who minored in Drama and Theatre Arts for the Young. “I grew so much as a performer because of her support and the support of my classmates.”