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Theater teacher takes her final bow
Owen-Williams reflects on her years here
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Candace Owen-Williams is leaving Carlisle School after 16 years. (Bulletin photo by Holly Kozelsky)

Sunday, March 31, 2013

By HOLLY KOZELSKY - Bulletin Accent Editor

Now that she’s headed north, Candace Owen-Williams feels the theater program she cultivated at Carlisle School will have the momentum to continue its strong role.

Owen-Williams has taught at Carlisle for 16 years in theater, dance and English. After graduation in May, she will move to New York to join her husband, Simon, who is in his first year as head master of the Portledge School in Locust Valley, N.Y. He was the head master at Carlisle until he left in July.

About one third of upper level (high school) Carlisle students are involved in drama each year, Owen-Williams said. Fifteen take the theater class, and about 30 participate in the extra-curricular program from 7-9 p.m. on weeknights.

Owen-Williams said studying theater is important because performing helps with “public speaking, presentation and confidence.” Additionally, “they’re constantly solving artistic problems on stage.”

Actors on stage have to reverse their thinking process “to see what the audience sees,” she said. That teaches them to analyze what they do and say “on so many levels.”

Performing in a musical “links something physical with something intellectual,” she said.

Performing also helps conquer “the fear of exposure,” she said. People are intimidated by being in front of others and perhaps feeling “less than someone else,” she said. “On stage, you’re forced to become comfortable being exposed — but not as yourself,” rather through the safety net of a character. As an actor grows in experience, he can feel comfortable on stage beyond just character.

Performance also brings self awareness, she said. An actor must constantly assess his position on stage, volume of speech and level of energy to engage the audience. He must analyze, “how am I appearing to other people, how am I being understood,” she said. That analysis on stage translates into social skills for daily situations, she added.

Senior Collin Rachner said studying under her has helped him both academically and personally. Her guidance “really helped me to find out what I’m like as a person. I used to be awkward. Now I’m much more outspoken.”

“She’s been amazing,” said Carlisle senior Nash Tetterton. “She’s one of the big draws” to Carlisle School.

Both said Owen-Williams encourages collaboration and cooperation among her students and expects them to follow a process through from beginning to end.

When asked how she motivates the students, Owen-Williams said it must be her “enthusiasm and energy for what I’m doing.” She does not just talk about the subjects she teaches; she lives them.

“I’ve never considered it a job,” she said. “I’m very lucky to be paid for what I want to do.”

She sets high standards for her students. Plus, each group has seen the previous performances and wants to beat them, she said: “They are very competitive.” That creates a level of interest and dedication that makes rehearsals run smoothly without any discipline issues, she added.


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