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Meet Teaching Artist, India Nicole Burton

We’re highlighting the incredible Teaching Artists who contribute their skills, energy, and enthusiasm to Court’s Education Initiative. These artists have a wealth of experience in both education and theatre, and we feel honored to partner with them for our Artists-in-the-Schools program. In this post, we’re featuring Teaching Artist India Nicole Burton!

When did you know you wanted to work in theatre? At what age did that become clear? 

A person looks at the camera.

As a kid, my brother and I used to act out scenes from movies. The Color Purple (1985) was the first movie that we learned every line to. I didn’t know there was such a thing as theatre until I was around nine years old. I loved acting and performing – that’s all I knew. And I knew I wanted to do whatever the characters in The Color Purple were doing to me, to their audience. I was in my first real play in 9th grade: I was in The Wiz and I played Evilene. At that moment, I realized that it was something I needed to do for the rest of my life.   

Was there a teacher, teaching artist, or mentor who helped you find your love of theatre? Tell us about them and how their guidance still helps you today. 

My brother was my first theatre teacher, music teacher, and accomplice. It really wasn’t anything he said that inspired me, it was more of his love for the arts altogether. I gained a passion for art, in general, because he made it accessible. Where I’m from, not many kids are exposed to things like art and the beauty of it. But he made it possible for me to dream and imagine – to see things beyond the walls in which I was born. 

Why did you want to become a Teaching Artist?

I wanted to become a Teaching Artist because I saw how art affected my life and the lives of the people around me. Growing up in an underserved community, I didn’t always have access to things such as theatre, so I feel it’s my duty – as an artist – to serve as an advocate. Becoming a Teaching Artist has definitely changed my viewpoint on theatre. It has inspired me to use theatre as a vehicle for change and a way to uplift voices for marginalized people, even more than I did before. I think it’s imperative to show future generations that they can use their experiences to invoke conversations about social, emotional, and economic issues. 

What’s your favorite thing about being a Teaching Artist at Court, specifically?  

My favorite thing about being a Teaching Artist at Court Theatre is the freedom to explore with students in the classroom. I love that we get to create our own curriculum that fits our specific skill set. Because of that freedom, I feel self-sufficient in the classroom. I feel very supported by the other Teaching Artists, as we meet weekly to discuss our cohorts. It’s great to hear all of the different, wonderful, creative, and beautiful work the other Teaching Artists are developing or creating with their schools. 

What play, or character from a play, best describes you?

It’s really funny, because I am a playwright…I’d say Randi from one of my own plays called The Light Post. She’s a young queer, curious, confident woman, who finds herself struggling with her loyalty to her African American community because she seemingly only dates white women. She eventually realizes that this is the result of generational experiences and trauma. I see a lot of myself in Randi and her journey.

India Nicole Burton (she/her) is a playwright, director, and educator. She received her MFA in Creative Writing and founded Ma’Sue Productions, an African American theatre company, in Akron, Ohio. India received a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere for her choreopoem Panther Women: An Army for the Liberation. Panther Women recently received two Jeff Award nominations for Best New Work and Best Ensemble. She was also a cast member of American Dreams, which was nominated for a Drama League Award.

Posted on March 14, 2024 in Theatre News

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