Robin Lithgow – Author Biography
I was the first Theatre Adviser, and eventually the Director, of the Arts Education Branch of the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest school district in the nation.
During my fourteen years in arts administration, I facilitated hundreds of teacher trainings, spoke at dozens of administrator convenings, designed countless theatre workshops, planned sessions for national study groups, worked with a statewide team of educators who developed the K-12 Arts Standards, and served as the representative for theatre on the College Board’s Academic Advisory Committee on the Arts.
I was the primary architect and editor of LAUSD’s ground-breaking Elementary Theatre Program and hired the first 60 theatre teachers, who reached into every one of the more than 540 elementary schools. I have been called the “godmother” of arts education in LAUSD and am proud that my work was the inspiration for the “Arts at the Core” initiative passed by the Board of Education in 2012.
Before becoming an arts administrator, I was a teacher for twenty-one years, teaching every grade level from kindergarten through senior high school and ending my classroom tenure as an English and drama teacher.
My fascination with Shakespeare started long before I was in the classroom. I grew up immersed in the poetry of his plays, surrounded by actors who spoke it well. My father, Arthur Lithgow, produced the entire canon in the 1950s and 60s, and from the ages of eight to eighteen my family and I followed him from city to city, as he established Shakespeare Festivals in Ohio. This is a childhood I shared with my siblings, including the acclaimed actor, John Lithgow.
When I became a classroom teacher, and then an arts education administrator, this rich childhood informed every aspect of my practice and was the basis for my growing conviction that learning both subject matter and habits of mind in and through the arts is powerful and enduring.
My final years as the Director of the Arts Education Branch engaged me in advocacy, which was ongoing and exhausting, as, at a time of diminishing resources, we fought for funding to sustain our growth. In time I realized that advocacy can only take us so far, and that what we need is an historic look at arts education, to see how totally out of step we are in the educational environment of today. The current focus on accountability leaves out an entire spectrum of learning and engagement and severely limits the opportunities in schools for both students and teachers.