The Arts and Education Coucil named John Burroughs School Theatre Director Wayne Salomon the Art Educator of the Year.
Honored at an awards ceremony at Chase Park Plaza on Jan. 24, Salomon has held the position of Theatre Department chair for 23 years and has directed plays, dance performances and musicals at the private middle and high school in Ladue -- including 2011's spring musical, Cabaret. Salomon has also taught drama, speech, debate and honors English.
“We are delighted with this year’s honorees," Arts and Education Council President Cynthia A. Prost said in a statement. "They truly represent the breadth and depth of the arts community in St. Louis and the corporations, organizations and people that make it possible."
The council has recognized trailblazers in the local arts community at the annual awards ceremony since 1992.
Considering the wealth of talent nurtured under his guidance, it may come as no surprise to many that Salomon received the award.
Among the professional actors and actresses Salomon taught and directed at JBS are Mad Men's Jon Hamm, Ellie Kemper of The Office, 24's Sarah Clarke and Heather Goldenhursch, whose performance in the Broadway production of Doubt was nominated for a Tony Award.
"We have a pretty good pedigree," Salomon said. "It's been a nice kind of launching pad for students with the parent-killing interest of theatre."
The 62-year-old University City resident comes from a professional stage acting background, having performed at The Muny and the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Salomon has also directed professional shows in St. Louis, including the recent run of Closer at the Gaslight Theater.
Working as an actor has given Salomon practical experience in knowing what works. He tries to take the best techniques from good directors and avoid the worst habits of bad ones.
"I think that my approach to the work is probably a little bit different than many directors and acting teachers because I'm using exercises from 110 years ago from Moscow art theatre," Salomon said.
Salomon employs what he calls the "Russian Method," a style of acting taught by fin de siècle play director Constantin Stanislavski.
"When Chekhov began writing plays, actors didn’t know how to act in them," Salomon said. "These are great exercises that put you in touch with yourself first. Once you learn about yourself, then you learn how to share yourself."
Factors as elemental as how one breathes can affect an actor's performance, Salomon said.
"Most of us don’t breathe correctly," he said. "If you act in theatre, you have to breathe through your mouth."
Salomon finds "warehousing" to be another helpful concept of the Russian Method. He encourages actors to dig deep in their memories to pinpoint specific, sensory details from their past that put them back in a certain mood.
"You can go back into your warehouse and find the time when you first experienced love," Salomon said. "You have to think of specific things: the color of a dress, the color of a tie, any minute detail, and you’ll eventually fall upon one that’s the memory. It’s called a 'trigger.'"
After nearly a quarter-century of directing high-caliber student shows, Salomon has no intentions of resting on his laurels. He plans on teaching at least until his 15-year-old daughter graduates, if not longer.
"Burroughs has made me who I am," Salomon said. "I'll be here 25 years next year. The guy who showed up on the first day has been validated by the Burroughs experience."
Following the successful run of Cabaret from Feb. 24 to 26, the JBS theatre season has more to offer lovers of the performing arts. Their production of 12 Angry Jurors -- a mixed-sex version of the classic 12 Angry Men -- hits the school auditorium on the first weekend of May.