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Meet Katey Mushlin

Today we’d like to introduce you to Katey Mushlin.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I never would’ve guessed that I would end up as an educator. I had so many challenging times in my years as a student, I was resistant to education as a whole. I never had teachers/mentors that treated me with respect and lifted me up with positivity. Arts education felt like it was rife with competition and cutting each other down, rather than the kindness and support that actually fosters success!! So, I think subconsciously I initially fell into arts education to be the kind of teacher I always wish I’d had.

I’d been performing sketch and improv comedy all over LA at places like The Second City, iOWest, The Comedy Store, ACME Comedy Theatre, UCB, etc. And during that time, I was spending my days touring Elementary Schools, performing Education Children’s Theatre with the Outreach Dept of the California Science Center, teaching kids all about how the brain works or how to save energy or how to eat healthy balanced meals, and I found that even more than the performances on stage, I loved the moments after the show when I could interact directly with the students about their experience. I was searching out those moment of true connection with these kids through the arts and I realized that more than anything I wanted to share my gifts through teaching and not only performance.

It was then that I met my two partners in teaching that made all of this possible for me. Susanna Spies and Comedy Playground, a teen stand up comedy/improv program, and Chad Scheppner and Theatre 31, a children’s music theatre company. I have worked alongside both of these incredible artists for almost 15 years and it has been the true professional joy of my life.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
For me, my main struggles have been internal. Transitioning to an educator is loaded for many artists, myself included. We’ve all heard that terrible adage “Those who can’t do, teach…”, right? I mean, have you ever heard a more hateful statement to the millions of men and woman that share their gifts tirelessly to lift up and support the future of our society?? Sadly, that statement was running through my head as I began this journey of education as well as the negativity that I had experienced from many of my former educators. Initially, I looked at teaching as a representation of my failures as an artist, rather than my huge successes as a teaching artist, so I resisted it. I pushed away the possibility that I was good at it and mostly how deeply I loved and was satisfied by the process. Luckily I had some wonderful friends in my life that realized how fulfilled I was sharing my gifts in this way and supported me completely throughout this transitional time. And now, I feel closer to my art as a teacher than I ever did before I was teaching. I learn so much from my students every single day that translates into my work onstage. I am a better actor and improviser thanks to my time in the classroom and each student that has graced my room.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
As an independent contractor, the fun for me is that I am part of many people’s businesses and included in many different visions. I deeply believe in and love collaboration. “Teamwork makes the Dream Work!!!” As an independent contractor, I get to put my imprint into many different shows and classes.

I am known for being very high energy and hugely supportive of my students and that translates into everything I am doing. I believe that we achieve our greatest work when we feel safe to try new things, so I bring that into any room I am a part of. I teach through kindness. I teach through love. I teach through the belief that this student CAN succeed if they are allowed a safe place to explore. I teach them to not be afraid of their failures as an artist. Those failures support our work as significantly as our successes and they will help us to always grow within our art, which is everything.

I am an improv teacher, so even when I’m working on a musical that has set staging, I am sharing my gifts with the students on how to make big choices, or how to keep the moment alive. I am encouraging their spontaneity and allowing them to trust their instincts to make choices that are fun for them and the audience alike.

I have been so lucky to have been on the Improv Faculty at AMDA College and Conservatory for the Performing Arts for the past eight years and it is the true honor of my professional career. I love sharing my gifts with these incredible young artists and watching them grow. I am so grateful for that whole community and so thrilled to be a part of the vibrant artistic community that is cultivated within the walls of that beautiful school.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
As I’ve mentioned previously, I did not have the support and mentorship I’d hoped to have had from the adults in my life as a young actor, aside from my high school acting teacher in Rochester, NY. His name is Michael Schneider and he was wonderful for me as I initially became the artist I now am.

So, my credit goes mostly to my peers onstage and those that I have had the pleasure of teaching alongside.

Of course, I will have to say Susanna Spies because it is her initial belief in me that even sent me on this incredible journey!! And now, so many years later to share this beautiful program with her is one of the true gifts of my life.

Also, Chad Scheppner for being my other artistic partner all of these years and supporting and believing in me 100%.

And I would also have to say, my dear friend (television writer and creator of Netflix’s Dead To Me) Liz Feldman, who I have performed with countless times and was the first one to really become aware of what teaching could be in my life. We were living together and performing together during those years when I was resisting my gift and she was able to really shine a spotlight on how much I truly loved being on this side of things and that teaching might actually be my true calling. For that, I will be forever grateful to her.

Also, my husband Nick Scruggs who is always my greatest cheerleader in every way. He supports me completely and totally and was there with me every minute as I became a teacher. He believes in me with everything that he is and I am truly lucky to have him by my side.

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