Cool to Be Smart: The Many Roles of Jane Barnette
By Lauren Highfill
Jane Barnette has several impressive titles at KSU, including resident dramaturg, but there’s even more to this assistant professor that makes her a shining part of the theatre and performance studies faculty.
Barnette seeks to break through the “eye-glazing” parts of theatre history to get students to think critically. An example Barnette uses in class is “Theatre attendance was low during the Italian renaissance because of the bubonic plague … details.” Her sarcastic “details” comment counteracts many students’ aversions to history with a humor that “makes it cool to be smart,” Barnette says. “You have to understand the sarcasm in order for it to be funny.” But Barnette doesn’t view the front of the classroom as a place strictly for entertainment. Humor serves to get students’ attention, “to counteract the regurgitation model” of dates, people and places to which many history classes fall victim.
Researcher and NAST Representative
A thick, heavily tabbed black binder—which Barnette lovingly refers to as “my baby”—sits beside her on her desk. The stuffed three-ring is the product of many months of Barnette’s hard work as KSU’s representative to the National Association of Schools of Theatre. Every five years Barnette is charged with preparing for the department’s NAST reaccreditation. “It’s an exhausting process but it reinvigorates me to get back into my own research interests,” she says. In recognition of her research, Barnette will be presenting a paper in November at the American Society for Theatre Research conference.
A dancer for many years, Barnette moved to yoga after an injury forced her to hang up her dancing shoes. She’s in the process of getting her teaching certificate in yoga and, in conjunction with KSU dance instructor Hylan Scott, wants to start a once-a-month faculty yoga session on campus. These sessions would be a way for “faculty to bond and relax together,” she says.
Barnette embraces two often ignored groups in America, the visually impaired and the elderly. As a graduate student in Texas, Barnette translated American English into Braille. Now that she has more time to devote to volunteering, Barnette would like to “bring theatre, music and art to the elderly. They really appreciate it,” she says.