A Day in the Life of Jeanette Farr

Liz Cameron

They instruct students, assign papers and guide them towards completing a course. But what is it really like to be a GCC professor?

Jeanette Farr, co-chair of the Visual and Performing Arts Division, gave El Vaquero a chance to look into her day-to-day activities of both inside and out of the classroom.

At 10 a.m., Farr’s day begins with her office hours. Within her small office, AU 106-C, across from the theater ticket office within the auditorium, Farr returns e-mails, goes over collected assignments, and is available to any of her students needing assistance.

Although her office holds two maybe three people comfortably, she is still able to customize it to her likings. By adding posters of previously directed plays, “Bus Stop,” “Bat Boy: The Musical,” “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Macbeth” she adds color to the room in a creative way.

Movies like “Oklahoma!” “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Sweeny Todd,” and “Boogie Nights” are found on her shelves along with a Shakespeare bobblehead and textbooks on plays, drama, and playwriting for supplementary teaching.

As a professor for a team-taught Humanities 117, an online and in the classroom Theatre Art 101, a Theatre Art 104, Theatre Art 106, and being the producer of the play, “Life is a Dream”, Farr’s day is always filled with something different to accomplish.

“We [professors] take a lot home like students, like marking and grading assignments,” said Farr. “I became a teacher, because a teacher is a student for life. The more you do the more you gain time management skills, as a student your learning that.”

While on the computer Farr speaks about the different e-mails and online coursework she marks. Her online Theatre Art 101 class uses the Blackboard system. Online students can post in the discussion board, which she says is a huge component of the class.

Posting on the board is like handing in a paper said Farr. Having the online class comes as an advantage not only because teacher and students can interact as well as classmate to classmate, but “students share more in writing than in the classroom.”

For the students that she teaches face to face coursework can consist of half- inch binders used as portfolios with four projects that can be used professionally to prospective employers. The portfolios also carry scripts they’ve worked on. Farr said that even searching for binders is an assignment in of its own for it’s the practical of the discipline that students practice for the real world.

The type of e-mails Farr can receive range from other professors to students to the division chair. For example, someone from the college sent out a campus wide e-mail asking to state the different tasks done in the department and its milestones. Farr said that she would reply saying that her students participated in an acting workshop at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF).

On average Farr says she receives about 30 emails per day, and that’s when it’s slow. On a heavier day or when she misses checking her inbox Farr can have from 60 to 70 a day.

Her “job doesn’t really end, there’s no nine to five. If not on campus I’m thinking about prep work or scheduling classes,” said Farr.

On the weekends she devotes two to three hours for grading work and instead of relaxing during spring break was reorganizing files, folders and lessons for the following weeks.

Because of the play and its preparations, Farr’s tasks within her office hours are tweaked and involve reserving tickets for those who want to see “Life is a Dream.” Twice within the day she goes across the hall where the ticket room is located to write down the name of students interested in seeing the production.

Many students can relate to the overwhelming work load, and start to see that although they are professors, the roles seem just as difficult for professors. Both student and teacher have many classes to juggle with its own amount of homework to complete.

After an hour and 45 minutes of devoting herself in the office, it is time for Farr’s Humanities 117- Creativity, Culture and Society Kaleidoscope class in AD217 from 12 to 1 p.m.

After getting the attention of the room Farr introduced the class’s topic for the hour: An upcoming essay on film, music, and music in films. In order to start a discussion and get students thinking about music, Farr plays a listening exercise with the class. They are to write down the moods that the different song tracks evoked and the pictures that come to mind after listening to it.

Students describe listening to the “Titus” soundtrack as having a superhero feel, or something you’d find in an action film. From a smooth French song others described a longing for something or a romantic date in a bistro. Farr wanted students to think about the different things film directors think of when making a scene in a movie, and the type of feel he director want the viewers to have.

The discussion in class then turned from soundtracks, to comparing today’s music and its quality, to music of the past and talk about lyrics and certain types of songs on the radio. Humanities 117 became passionately involved in the conversation about a “little” topic like music. Some students were so heartfelt over the issue of that they were reduced to swearing in order to get their point of view across to the professors and classroom.

The teaching dynamics in the classroom between Farr and Jocelyn Heaney are well balanced between the two instructors. The two of them are intriguing and draw the students into the conversation that keeps them engrossed for the duration of the classroom.

“She [Jeanette Farr] offers a lot of insight especially in the performing arts area” said GCC student Ray Meng, “I had no idea what this class was but after the first week I knew it was going to be interesting. She offers enlightening comments that help students form their own idea and presents questions that help them further develop their thoughts. Overall she has fun with the class.”

The topic was so engaging that no ones opinion was left unheard as they debated about music. Some opinions were so opposite of one another that it made for a well rounded debate. Several students said that music wasn’t about the quality of the lyrics, but about the way you feel when you listen to it. While numerous others were in total disagreement and said everything on the radio today is garbage because all the artists sing about is sex, drugs, violence and are all products of the industry.

Once her Creativity, Culture and Society Kaleidoscope class was done, Farr was in her next class in 15 minutes. From 1:15 to 3:27 p.m. Farr combined her Theatre Art 104 and 106 so that her student directors and actors could cast and hold auditions for people interested.

What makes this classroom different from others is that it’s held in the studio theatre, a smaller more intimate stage. “Theatre has been around since 500 B.C. and they [students] are carrying on a tradition and I think it’s so neat that we’re a part of that” said Farr.

In class, students talked about who they wanted to cast, and then applied those skills by analyzing the audition and then calling the actor to say they got the part.

Elizabeth Letlow, a second year student in the theatre department, said that Farr is “fantastic, she’s one of the few who doesn’t treat students as children but as a peer. I have the utmost respect for her. She gets her point across and lets you know exactly what she expects from you. As the director, Farr makes sure we’re cohesive and work together. If you disappoint her she tells you how to be a better person and actor overall.”

By 3 p.m. the auditions were completed and Jeanette Farr went to lunch break where she brought small stacks of work to grade, for even out of office she still had homework.

Around 6:30 p.m. students involved in the play for the evening are getting dressed in costumes and rehearse their lines both onstage and in the dressing room. Farr’s job as producer is to make sure everything runs smoothly. Farr said she goes to one or two rehearsals a week but the director Ed Douglas, is at GCC every night.

She attends the performances more than once to see how the play has changed and to give tips. If problems were to occur during the performance then it’s her job to hold a meeting on how to improve and make it better for next time.

Walking throughout the auditorium, a person can get a sense of the adrenaline filled atmosphere as both the technicians and actors prepare. No one in the auditorium is sitting still as last minute tasks are taken care of before the first showing of the play. Both those in front of the audience and behind it are nervous and excited for the night to begin.

“I make sure everything is done and runs on time. I’m like the conductor for the night” said Farr when asked what her night entails. She is there as the backup plan to any problems. For example, during the fitting of the costume if the actor finds a piece missing, they can ask her or Douglas for help.

During the hour and a half before the play begins, actors aren’t the only ones flurrying around. Lighting, sound, and stage scenery are handled by technical crew who can be singled out for the black clothes that they wear. It is a way to be behind the scenes without distracting the audience from the show.

Some of the jobs the technical crew does are making sure set pieces are repaired, that the lights and sounds work when needed and to remove all debris from off the stage.

What Farr thinks is wonderful about her job is that it’s “non-traditional instruction but still instruction because they would be doing this in the professional world.” Teachers in classrooms assign tests and quizzes but here in these classes, assignments consist of memorizing lines, analyzing the script, “putting it into practice while still teaching but not lecturing.” Students are taught things that in the end benefit themselves because it can be applied when in the professional world.

Farr loves being in this department and teaching what she’s passionate about because “it’s like a family by the end if it, you’ve bonded. You rely on each other on stage,” said Farr as she got misty eyed with emotion.

Finally at 8 p.m. small groups were ushered into the studio theatre where the lights were dimmed low and music was playing, set and ready to go. I thanked Farr for the time she spent with me throughout the day and told her to enjoy the show before I left.

Through this insight into one of many professors every day life, it’s plain to see that they have hectic lives just like the average students they teach at the GCC.

For more information on the theatre department visit