Meet Bernadette Langdon – super mom, nationally recognized school teacher and performer extraordinaire… It’s only fitting to showcase Bern in our Step Into Your Limelight interview series. We have known Bernadette for many years – she has an enthusiasm for live performance and a zest for life. Think early Carol Burnett – she’s witty, deadpan, self-deprecating and a barrel of laughs to be around. Bernadette has such an interesting performing and teaching career – it’s amazing how she has used her experience in theater and improv into her teaching style. Did we also mention she has a beautiful singing voice? We hope you like getting to know Bernadette – enjoy!
It’s rare to see you without a smile on your face – why is that? Are you just hardwired to smile?
I guess so! I’ve always been a generally positive and upbeat person. I love to be with people and a smile is a great way to break the ice. But the real secret is… most of the time, I’m just having fun!
You have been performing for many years – tell us about some of your fondest memories and productions?
I started performing in high school and those first plays will always have a special place in my heart. Godspell was an incredible experience in which I really felt for the first time that close-knit bond among cast members that actors often describe. It had a tremendous impact on me personally and spiritually. I also fell in love with my future husband, so that might have had something to do with it!
I got involved in a comedy improvisation group in college, performed with a children’s theater troupe, and then acted in community theater productions off and on through the years. About 10 years ago, I worked with some very dear friends on a series of original cabaret shows that were really a blast. I still love to perform, so I hope that I’ll continue to have new experiences as yet unimagined.
What’s it like at home having an insanely talented family – between you, your husband, Mark and 3 children – is everyone fighting to sing over each other?
Hmmm, let me think on that one…talented? Maybe. Insane? Definitely! I love that our home has always been filled with music and laughter and performing. I don’t think there was too much competition for parts and such, not that I can recall anyway. What I do remember most is hearing the kids singing all through the house at all hours of the day and night. Now that they are home less frequently, I miss it! We do have a tradition of singing together at Christmas Mass though, and that gives Mark and me a lot of joy.
How important was considering the performing arts when deciding the many options to expose your children to?
It just seemed like the natural thing to do, since Mark and I had had so many positive experiences in theater through the years. We wanted to share our love of the stage and see if they might enjoy it, too. When the opportunities appeared through West Chester Summer Stage and at Shanahan High School, the kids just seemed to thrive on it. I imagine our own enthusiasm for it was contagious at first, but as they developed their own talents each one seemed to fall in love with performing too. Of course, we also signed up for sports, and scouts and visual arts along the way, but before long the performing arts took “center stage” in their lives. (See what I did there?)
Haha – very clever… In your opinion – what is the real value in exposing kids to the performing arts? Is it the chance to express themselves or really about allowing them to take risks and feeling the reward?
You don’t need to look far to find testimonials about the educational and personal benefits of involvement in the performing arts! I have experienced them firsthand in so many ways.
Here is my not-so-short list.
· develops self-confidence
· improves listening, speaking, and non-verbal communication skills
· promotes cooperation and positive team work
· provides practice in overcoming obstacles and dealing with disappointment
· exercises creativity, self-expression and critical thinking
· builds social skills for making friends, succeeding in school, and advancing at work
· expands awareness of popular culture
· allows opportunities for risk-taking (and not taking yourself too seriously!)
· creates connections that ground you as a member of the human race!
Also, and perhaps most important, it’s just really, really fun.
That’s awesome – How has that “not-so-short list” contributed to your kids confidence now that they are entering adulthood?
Of course, I’m biased, but by most objective measures, my kids are doing pretty well as young adults. I really do believe they received all those benefits I listed above. I credit their overall success so far, in large part, to their childhood experiences acting, singing, and creating music in the performing arts! Actually, there were a few years there when I think Ann saw more of the kids at rehearsals than I did at home. So, thanks for raising some mighty fine kids, Ann!
You have such an amazing career as a school teacher – tell us how your experience in the performing arts has contributed to the success of your teaching career?
I sometimes tell my students that, unfortunately, they’re the captive audience of The Mrs. Langdon Show. They are stuck in those seats until the bell rings! Teaching is very similar to performing, so I find that I am right at home in front of a class. Using music, rhythm, dance or acting to convey a new concept is second nature to me because of my theater background, and luckily, educational research supports those techniques for learning. When I use a character voice or sing a goofy song, the students might roll their eyes or make a face as if I am the weirdest person they have ever met! Then I know I’ve got their attention.
True or False: Teaching sixth graders is just as fun and scary as performing in front of a live audience?
Haha, sixth graders get a bad rap! They’re a great audience and always keep me laughing, too. When I was just out of college the idea of teaching middle-schoolers scared me much more than playing to a full theater, but now? Either one – piece of cake!
What tools do you find yourself using today as a teacher that are a result of your arts education and experiences?
This one is a little tough to nail down because I use many different performing skills every day. If I had to choose, I think I would have to say that one skill I use daily that was honed on stage is: timing. Timing is the secret to being an effective speaker whether you want to capture someone’s attention, bring your point across clearly, or get a big laugh. Timing is everything. Nothing teaches the nuances of timing like performing!
You are always looking for ways to grow as a person – you recently jumped in head first into the Adult Improv class offered at Limelight – what was that like? What triggered you to say “I’m doing this”?
I remembered how much fun it was to do improv in college, and I wanted to exercise those muscles again! In fact, I recently attended a mini-college reunion and had an opportunity to participate in a little improv with the current college comedy troupe at my alma mater. It was so much easier to jump up and join in after my Limelight Improv class experience! It gave me the confidence to risk it, and I am so glad I did. It ended up being the highlight of my weekend!
I love that – “I wanted to exercise that muscle” – you really hit the nail on the head. Tell us about the funniest thing that ever happened to you on stage?
Well, this didn’t actually happen to me, but it still cracks me up. Once in the murder mystery Ten Little Indians, another actor skipped ahead over several pages of dialogue to a point in the show at which a couple of the other actors on stage had already been killed. It was a riot watching them try to exit unobtrusively!