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Meet Kaitlyn Thames: GAC Drama Teacher and Theatre Director

This past year the GAC family welcomed Theatre Director Kaitlyn Thames to campus. Originally from Dallas, Texas, she attended Abilene Christian and graduated with a BFA in Theatre with hopes and dreams of a musical theatre career. However, after college, life took her in a different direction when her family moved to Nashville, Tennessee. There she fell into a teaching position at a local private school and found herself developing and directing a high school theatre program for 12 years before moving to Atlanta and joining GAC.

While starting a job in a new environment in the midst of a pandemic wasn’t easy, Mrs. Thames has risen to the challenge and is already creating many unique and creative growth opportunities for our theatre students.

We are blessed to have Mrs.Thames join our community, and we look forward to watching her students grow and expand their Theatre repertoire.

Read below to learn more about GAC’s new theatre director and teacher, Kaitlyn Thames. 

Tell us a little more about your upbringing and family life. Where are you from? Where did you grow up? I was born and raised in Dallas, Texas with my parents and my younger brother. My brother and I were both into theater at a very young age so we spent most of growing up being driven around to various rehearsals and performances. My parents were always supportive but our mom in particular was our biggest cheerleader. I attended public school until my freshman year of high school when I started attending Dallas Christian School (which I graduated from in 2003). 

As a child, what did you dream of becoming? 
I had so many different dreams, but most of them involved performing in some way. The specifics usually depended on whatever performer I was into at the moment. My childhood centered mostly around Whitney Houston, Amy Grant and dreams of being a pop star. And then when I discovered Broadway, there was no looking back. We made our first trip to New York as a family when I was in 7th grade, and it is still one of my favorite places on earth.

Where did you go to undergrad? Why did you choose that university? 
I attended Abilene Christian University. I first started looking at the school because that is where my high school theater teacher went and she loved her time there. I was hesitant at first because it was only 3 hours away from Dallas in this small west Texas town and I thought I wanted to get far away from Texas for college. The ACU theater program is a remarkable program that challenges their students in the best way. The professors there do an incredible job of making sure that every graduate leaves with the skills and connections that are needed to make it in a very competitive industry. 

What is your degree in?
I have a BFA in Theater with a focus in Directing.

What motivated you to go into education?
I fell into education unintentionally 12 years ago and haven’t left yet! 

Did you ever imagine you would find yourself in teaching?
I honestly did not. The community children’s theaters in Dallas were a huge part of my life and the main reason for my love of theater growing up. During college I decided that my plan would be to work at the regional and community theater level and maybe someday start a children’s theater of my own. 

Right after we graduated, my husband got a job in Nashville teaching and coaching and I intended to put my plan into motion, but I started subbing at his school and discovered that I really loved being in an educational environment. I also realized that the school did not have a theater program so I created a proposal to be hired as their theater director and spent the next 12 years building the theater program. I had absolutely no idea when I started how much I would grow to love teaching, but I’m so glad that it all worked out how it did. 

What drew you to GAC? Share the backstory of how you found GAC and decided it was the place for you? My husband, Josh Thames, actually graduated from GAC in 2003 and his family has a long history with the school. He was not into theater, but some of his friends in high school, along with his younger sister, Katy were part of the theater program while they were here. 

GAC was definitely a program that I loved hearing about and seeing what they were up to. When we learned this summer that the position here was open it seemed like the timing was perfect. Josh loved his time at GAC so getting the chance to move to Atlanta, be around family, and get to be part of this school was an opportunity that neither of us wanted to miss!
 
What courses do you teach at GAC?
I am currently teaching Drama 1 and 2, Drama Tech and Directing, and Visions

What do you enjoy most about teaching theatre?
My joke answer that I usually tell people is that it’s like having a built in audience that has to listen to me every day! Which is definitely true, but in reality, I love watching the students grow in both their passion for their confidence and skill on stage or backstage or in the booth or however they choose to be involved. Theater was such a huge part of my life growing up and I love sharing that joy and passion with my students! 

In the COVID era, how are you utilizing GAC Sync for Theatre class? 
We have actually been able to play some pretty fun theater games and involved both the in person and sync students over the past couple of weeks. 

What health protocols are you putting into place to make Theatre safe for students and teachers? 
We are leaning heavily into the idea of individual character development, which enables us to work on becoming better artists with individual monologues and projects without putting each other at risk. We are using masks and learning how to project.

Describe class and how you are moving forward with Theatre and social distancing? Will students still perform shows this year? 

We are still performing this year (just very creatively). We entered the GTC One Act Competition which was held virtually so all performances were filmed and streamed. Each show had to abide by the new guidelines, which involved 9 socially distanced acting areas on stage and only one actor allowed in each area at a time. I chose The Misanthrope by Moliere, which enabled the characters to interact with each other through phones and computer screens and allowed us to use the isolated staging in a way that makes sense. 

My theater classes are all exploring what it means to be part of the theater world during this pandemic and our reflections, monologues, and stories will be put together in a film version that we presented at a Theater Drive In this past fall. We were excited to get to connect with our audience in a different way while also keeping everyone safe and distanced. 

What do you do to connect with students?
Connecting with students is my favorite part of my job! Being new at a school the year that everyone is either behind a screen or wearing masks is challenging, but I have been trying to spend time these first few weeks of school talking and listening to my students. I love starting class and taking attendance by asking a question and then instead of saying here when I call their name they have to answer that question. Just one of a few easy systems and games that I am putting in place to help get to know the students and what they love and enjoy. 

How does GAC provide professional development for teachers? 
GAC has done an incredible job so far of utilizing the teachers and expertise they have here on campus to help educate and inform their fellow teachers. I have been teaching for 12 years but I am doing things this year in the classroom and with technology that I have never done before. I am very thankful for an admin, tech, and teacher team here that welcomes questions and wants to help set you up for success in your classroom any way they can! 

What would you tell a parent or friend considering sending their child to GAC?
I have a son who just started K4 here at GAC and he came home the first day smiling ear to ear and telling me all about the new friends he made. We moved from Nashville to Atlanta in a 2 week period and the admissions department was incredible at getting us set up and helping every step of the way. I would definitely recommend GAC to anyone considering it!

How would you describe the culture at GAC? What sets us apart from other schools? 
I have been blown away by the welcoming atmosphere created by both the teachers and students. I have only been on campus for 3 weeks and I already feel like part of the family. I have also been so impressed by the classes and opportunities that are offered to each student here. 

Where would someone find you outside of the classroom? What are your hobbies? 
More often than not if I am not in the classroom then I am at rehearsal! But also I enjoy spending time with my family, which consists of my husband Josh and my 5 year old son, Jonas. We love adventures that involve ball games, traveling, and concerts! We also have family that live all over the country so usually if we are traveling it is to visit family or we are headed to the beach! 

What is a book you’ve read recently? 
I recently finished Untamed by Glennon Doyle and loved it! I also re-read Pride and Prejudice almost every year and my favorite book of 2019 was The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern.

What are you listening to right now? 
I love music and my favorite thing to do is create playlists with all different artists and genres and have them in the background constantly. My playlist of the moment includes Beyonce, Harry Styles, Maggie Rogers, Chloe X Halle, Surfaces, Bakar, HAIM, Joseph, The Head and the Heart, The Killers and so many more!

What’s one thing that’s still on your bucket list?
I would love to skydive, spend some time in London, attend Coachella, and perform in a stand up comedy show.