Mike Levin is an instructor at the Flagstaff Arts & Leadership Academy (FALA) and has taught numerous literature and theater classes throughout his career. He brings a great energy to the classroom and is always looking for ways to engage and inspire his students. Levin has taken students to theaters all over the U.S. to show them a wide range of productions beyond the boarders of Northern Arizona. He also encourages students to explore every aspect of the theater experience from acting, to writing, to building sets and promoting theater events. Each year during the Fringe Festival students get to write and direct their own short plays. Under the direction of Levin, students become fully invested in their performances, making it that much easier to connect with the material.
Levin does not shy away from giving his students challenging material to work with. He has been recognized for choosing productions with complex and socially relevant themes. For instance, in the 2014-2015 academic year, Levin and his students put on a production of “Origin of Seasons” a social commentary on domestic violence. To prepare for the play, students attended trainings and workshops on healthy relationships. In the same academic year, they also performed an original play called “Frontera” which deals with US/Mexico border relations. Students from Levin’s Advanced Creative Writing class helped write the piece and it was performed in May of 2015 by his Advanced Acting class. Through these projects, Levin demonstrates to his students that theater can be used as a tool for discussing important and complicated social issues.
Under the direction of Levin, students pass on the joy of theater to other schools that might not have their own theater programs. For the Yellow Belly Ponderosa Project, creative writing students worked with researchers at Northern Arizona University to gain knowledge about forest health and management. They used this new information to write a play aimed at elementary school students, which was performed the following year at Hopi and Navajo elementary schools.
One of Levin’s most notable projects of 2015 was the production of Stephen Schwartz’s “Godspell” at the Orpheum Theater (it was nominated for a Viola Award on its own in the Performing Arts category). Over the course of just three shows, Godspell 2015 performed in front of an audience of just over 850 people. The production was a collaboration across classes at FALA; the Advanced Acting class evidently performed the show, the technical theater class built the set and offered their media and outreach skills, and the music classes sacrificed time so some of FALA’s finest musicians could form a live accompaniment band for the show. Mike Levin directed the show and gave his unpaid time and effort to connecting these students and creating a bond that would never be broken. Godspell stands as a solid work of art on its own, but it was the consistent effort of Levin and his students that created such a powerful theater experience, for actors and audience members alike. If you ask any of the actors, student band members, or instructors, they will all undoubtedly say the same thing: “Godspell changed my life forever.”