Meet the Staff – Carly Oliver, Resident Teaching Artist
By Theresa M. MacNaughton, Communications Associate
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m originally from California, but I’ve also spent several years living and teaching abroad in both France and Spain. I majored in theatre and French at California State University, Fresno, and also got my teaching credential there to teach high school French, Drama, and English. Most of my theatre background is as a performer, but I also have some experience working on costumes, props, and makeup.
Tell us about the first time you experienced live theatre and how it impacted you.
The first experience I have a clear memory of was when I was four and called up to be an audience volunteer at a local production of The Trojan Horse. I got to climb up inside the wooden horse and see the magic of theatre from an inside perspective.
You started your career at Hartford Stage as an Education Apprentice. How do you feel the apprenticeship prepared you for your new role?
One of the things I loved about my apprenticeship at Hartford Stage is what a hands-on experience it was. I was trained on and given the opportunity to teach many of the same programs I’m now working on as a full-time teaching artist.
Before you came to Hartford Stage, you lived and taught in Spain. Can you share your experiences and tell us about the programs you worked on?
I lived in the town of Tui in Galicia, Spain, for four years where I worked as a conversation assistant at two secondary schools. The program I was part of (Auxiliares de Conversación) hires native speakers from other countries to teach conversation-based classes. This includes assisting in what are known as “bilingual sections,” core subjects taught in a foreign language, which students who are interested in language-learning can elect to take. I assisted in math, P.E., and art classes, as well as English classes. The school where I first began working did not have a drama program at that time, and I was inspired to take the idea of the bilingual sections and apply it to theatre. I adapted some beginning drama curriculum I had to make it better suited to English language learners and started an after-school program. It was very exciting to see students develop not only their skills as performers but also gain confidence in expressing themselves in a foreign language.
What is most satisfying to you about being a teaching artist?
I love seeing student growth and excitement about what they’re doing and learning. One of the wonderful things about teaching theatre is that it allows students to grow in so many other areas: self-confidence, interpersonal relationships, empathy.
Can you share a favorite memory from your apprenticeship?
The first one that comes to mind took place at an elementary school where I was teaching our Connections program. One of the students in the class spoke very little English, and I had encouraged him early in the week to ask me questions in Spanish if he wanted and to participate in whatever language he felt comfortable. He did participate throughout the week but remained a little quiet. Then one day, when I asked for volunteers to guess what was happening in a student tableau, he raised his hand and said excitedly, “Yo veo ‘dog!’”(“I see dog!”) to describe another student’s canine pose. It was such a breakthrough moment to see him feeling confident and excited to share aloud.
What do you hope to achieve with Connecticut students this season?
To create a love of theatre for students who may not have been introduced to it yet and to give students who already have that love for theatre a creative outlet where they can learn, grow, and build something they can be proud of.
Which show are you most looking forward to this season?
It’s an exciting season to be starting as a full-time employee at Hartford Stage because I feel this great energy around me with Melia and Cynthia coming on board. I’m very excited for Quixote Nuevo because of its ties to Spain and the Spanish language. And I’m doubly excited because I get to build the curriculum that will be taught as pre-show workshops for high school students coming to see the production as part of our InterACT program.
Do you have any talents or passions outside of working in theatre?
I love learning new languages and exploring new places. I also really enjoy the outdoors and activities like hiking and kayaking. I’m working on finding the good spots in Connecticut to do these things.
What is your personal life motto?
There’s an expression I learned in Spain that’s actually in Galician, the regional language where I was living: “¡Se chove, que chova!” It means, “If it rains, then let it rain!” Galicia is a very rainy region, and there was a popular commercial at the time that featured older women who had just gone to the salon to get their hair styled and then walked outside to discover that it was raining. Instead of being frustrated, they smiled and began dancing. I don’t know that I always succeed, but I try to live my life that way – to find the joy in every moment.