Scott Hafso is more than the double-threat certified by his two Masters Degrees, a Master of Fine Arts in Playwriting from the UW School of Drama and a Master of Music from the UW School of Music. He is a playwright, a composer, a director, a performer, a voice coach, a conductor, and always a teacher. In addition to being a Senior Lecturer at the School of Drama, where his responsibilities include singing and speech training for the Professional Actor Training Program, undergraduate beginning acting classes, and teaching the PATP actors how to teach, he is also a program advisor in the newly launched Musical Theater program, a collaboration between the School of Drama, School of Music, and Dance Program.
Amid teaching 130-plus undergraduates Introduction to Acting – and training and overseeing the eight PATP graduate students working as teaching assistants – Scott found the time to sit down and chat about his path to the UW, actors teaching acting, and always staying curious.
[SOD:] [Graduate Advisor] Sue Bruns says that she always notices a very significant shift in the PATPs when they go from being just a student their first year to being TAs their second year.
Absolutely. Even if they never teach a day beyond their time at UW, the PATPs are better actors because they’ve had to observe, see what is present or missing, figure out a way to address it, and come up with some element of process to help their students get from A to B. It makes them stronger in their own processes. The PATPs are here to train to be entrepreneurial artists, but teaching is now an option. It is yet another way we equip them here.
[SOD:] You have two Masters Degrees. During your time in grad school did you know you were going to want to teach?
My first job out of undergraduate studies was teaching. I was 22 and right out of the gate teaching high school and college classes. So, teaching was always part of the plan. Teaching and writing and performing have always been intertwined for me.
[SOD:] Can you describe your path to UW?
I started my graduate studies in California, but ultimately left that program and applied to the UW. I knew UW was right for me during my meeting with Betty Comtois, head of the playwriting program. I asked her, “What kind of theatre do you do here?” And she said, “What type of theatre would you like to make?” She wanted to find out what I wanted to say as an artist and then support it. That’s an ideal I aspire to and is very much what Valerie Curtis-Newton (professor and head of MFA performance) is all about. The PATP has no cookie cutter for what an artist should be and say and do. That makes for a far more interesting world.
While working on my MFA in playwriting, with additional studies in directing, I got the call – the inner call – to get my Masters in Music. For me it was the right plan to have a bit of rigor in both those areas. Then on my own, I knew how to put them together.
I was teaching at Trinity Lutheran College when Steve Pearson, the then head of the PATP, called to see if I would take over singing training for the PATP. That job description started morphing and I’ve had opportunities to teach in many different areas at the School of Drama, and now I’m also program advisor for the new Musical Theater pilot project.
“If you have any anxiety about the future, come spend some time with our BAs. These are such bright, focused, intelligent, curious students. We’re going to be fine.”
[SOD:] Part of what morphed was taking on undergraduate classes?
Really for the last ten years or so, I’ve been working with the undergrads, which I love. They are so bright and passionate and focused and articulate. I remember being at a pre-show dinner when I was directing the BA/UTS production of Bat Boy and saying to the guests, “If you have any anxiety about the future, come spend some time with our BAs. These are such bright, focused, intelligent, curious students. We’re going to be fine.”
[SOD:] Amongst our Drama BAs, it’s very common to double-major, and the BA really allows for that. Do you anticipate that being the case with Musical Theater students as well?
Musical Theater is intentionally a BA, not a BFA, with an expansive liberal arts education at its heart, and a particular focus in Musical Theater. This makes for a well-rounded artist who is hopefully interested in all kinds of things that get reflected in the work they do. I wouldn’t be surprised if ultimately the percentage of Musical Theater double-majors is similar to Drama double-majors.
Curiosity continues to be in the forefront of my thinking, and I’m grateful to be able to work at a place where curiosity is encouraged and necessary.
Curiosity continues to be in the forefront of my thinking, and I’m grateful to be able to work at a place where curiosity is encouraged and necessary. The students inspire it and I, in turn, hope to inspire it in the students. I think that’s one way we move forward as artists – as a species. To be curious.