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Faculty Spotlight: Amanda Cutalo, Upper School English (and Fall Play Playwright)

Faculty Spotlight: Amanda Cutalo, Upper School English (and Fall Play Playwright)

What do you enjoy the most about your work?

The AHA moments! Nothing quite compares to the excitement of being in a classroom, sharing ideas with students, and watching them make new discoveries about themselves, the literature we are reading, and the world around them. And I certainly share in these discoveries with my students. Even when we read The Great Gatsby, a text that I have taught for the past nineteen years and loved for even longer, with each new class, there is always a new sentence to analyze or a new perspective to find. Or, of course, there are also those quieter moments of teaching English that are just as exciting and valuable, like when a student finds her thesis statement after she pushed through a daunting case of writer’s block.

Who/what had the greatest influence on your career path?

Richard Roper, my high school theatre director, who chastised me for not remembering to bring socks to my first “costume check” and who taught me about the kind of performer I wanted to be. From him, I learned that theatre is demanding. There are no short-cuts to an excellent performance, and it is necessary bring one’s very best- and appropriate socks- to each and every performance and rehearsal. Also, Dr. Michael Berthold, my English professor and thesis advisor at Villanova, who inspired me to become an English teacher. Though I’d always loved English, it wasn’t until I was sitting in his classroom during the fall of my sophomore year of college that I realized, “This. I need to do this.”

What is your best piece of advice?

Honor and celebrate the half-baked ideas you have swimming around in your mind. Share them in a class, talk about them with others, write them down in a messy first draft, think about them some more. All great pieces of writing need to come from somewhere- and they usually start in a very messy place. Embrace the mess!

Tell us about your research interests and/or recent professional development.

I had a unique opportunity for professional development this year to revise my play "In Theater and War," which our Upper School students will perform in November, under the direction of the amazing Jan Baldwin. This has been such a rewarding experience, especially since I have not set eyes on this script in five years. I've always heard writers say "Put your writing away for a while. Lock it in a drawer and come back to it when you have fresh eyes. You'll see things you didn't see before." I get it now. And even better, I now have the opportunity to learn and receive constructive feedback as it comes to life onstage.

The Fun Stuff:

Favorite Food:  Any good Italian food, especially spaghetti with red crab gravy (the kind of meal that involves loud, chaotic cracking, gravy squirting in every direction, and fights over who gets the bodies)

Favorite Song: "Don't Rain on My Parade"

Hidden Talents or Skills:  I break out the original choreography to "Bye Bye Bye" whenever I hear it (whether it's appropriate for the setting or not)