Actress and theater educator Robin Jackson always eagerly awaited her monthly “American Girl” magazines. Inside were not only a treasure trove of stories, but also an original play. One particular issue featured a girl who worked as a child in a factory. With the help of her mother, Jackson decided to organize that particular play as a neighborhood show, while she performed the leading role. At the age of 8, she learned that this historic story from the 1900s extended into her modern day reality, with many children still working in factories and sweatshops. For the production, Jackson connected with an organization called Free the Children to raise donations and awareness. Playing such a character opened her young eyes, and nearly 20 years later, she still believes in the power of a well-written play. “I’ve always felt very strongly that theater can help people,” said Jackson. “It’s such an important tool to help change people’s outlook on life. There’s so much that children benefit from doing theater when they’re developing like communicating, teamwork, problem solving, self confidence, and body awareness.”
A Tallahassee native, Jackson grew up surrounded by theater via her mother’s influence. She belonged to the previous Southern Shakespeare’s Young Company, which was directed by another influential mentor, Eden Rush. Jackson became intrigued with the ins and outs of the Bard’s language. Soon she understood subtext and how dissecting every line helps an actor to transport an audience into a story.
Those early years also gave her a strong foundation for speaking clearly and pronunciation. Her first show with the group was a children’s version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” called “Puck and the Mushy Gushy Love Potion.” She was cast in a comedic role as a fairy, and appreciated Rush’s creative approach to Shakespeare’s material, which has found its way into her teaching philosophies today.
“Eden would create these really amazing characters that would engage us as young people,” recalls Jackson. “I think mutual respect and communicating with children in a very loving and honest way is important. If I can connect with a kid then no matter what I’m teaching, and they trust me, then I think that helps to engage them in learning.”
Jackson earned her AS in Musical Theater from Florida School of the Arts where she was cast in a leading role as Corie Bratter in “Barefoot in the Park.” It was the first time her chops were really challenged as she learned that comedy and drama are really one in the same if they are approached from an honest place. She went on to audition for the Florida Professional Theatre Association where she was spotted by director Lulu Bordelejo and offered a job with Artspot.
The Argentinean theater company performed in over 15 countries to bring one-hour original musical performances to students learning English as a second language. Jackson worked with them on and off for eight years while simultaneously attending the University of Central Florida for her BFA in Musical Theater.
Their formula took well-known stories or people in history and created a fictitious adventure about them. A portable set allowed the troupe to travel to multiple locations easily, and kept Jackson on her toes everywhere they went.
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