Teaching Artist

“Mary Hall Surface is a leading and passionate contributor to the field of theater education for young people. Her work in theater education and production has helped thousands of young people give voice to their experiences and individual perspectives of the world.”

--Steve Barberio

former president of American Alliance for Theatre and Education


Mary Hall brings her enthusiasm for the power of the playwriting-pen to students and teachers across the US and to regional and national arts education conferences.   Since 1997, Mary Hall has been a Kennedy Center teaching artist providing professional development for teachers and drama residencies for students and communities.  She has presented workshops with students, teachers and docents at the National Gallery of Art. In 2015, she will join the faculty of Project Zero Classroom at Harvard University and returns as an instructor to the Washington International School’s Summer Institute for Teachers.

Available Workshops:

Standing in a Character’s Shoes:

Deeper Meaning Through Monologues

Presented at the Kennedy Center’s Partners in Education Annual Meeting 2013 and at Kennedy Center’s Changing Education through the Arts for Teachers, 2010 and 2011

Helping students develop understanding of the emotions and motivations of literary characters and historical figures is often challenging. In this two-part workshop, explore ways to help students imagine, improvise, and write monologues (a dramatic speech by one person) that reveal the emotions beneath a character’s/person’s words—the subtext—and how those emotions change—the turning points. Discover how students can look beyond the surface facts of a text, image or event and search for deeper meaning, both as readers and writers. Join Mary Hall Surface, award-winning playwright and drama teaching artist, as she shares how this process of questioning and inferring can enrich students’ empathy and deepen understanding of real or imagined characters.

For teachers of Grades 5 - 12

2 3-hour sessions.  Part 1 can be offered alone.

For up to 30 teachers. 

In-school demonstration teaching residency available

Sample Activity

Going Global: Uncovering Complexity and Expanding

Perspective through Drama

Presented at Harvard University’s Project Zero Classroom 2015 and Washington International School’s Summer Institute for Teachers 2015

New in 2015

The ability to recognize multiple perspectives around issues of global significance is an essential skill in our ever-increasingly interconnected world.  How can we encourage students to explore the perspectives of people whose beliefs, values, and experiences are likely very different from their own?  As importantly, how can we help students articulate their own world-views and to understand how they were formed? This workshop invites participants to recognize multiple perspectives through a process that integrates social studies, journalism, and drama.   Stories of real people at the center of global human development issues such as education, health care, and gender equality will spark the workshops’ investigation.  After first interactively uncovering their own perspectives on these issues, participants will try on-- with their voices, bodies, and imaginations— the feelings and circumstances of the real stories’ characters through a series of drama-based activities. Working collaboratively, participants will deepen their understanding of the source images and texts by taking an empathetic journey into the lives of others.  Experience how self-understanding and empathy are essential building blocks of global competence, both for our students and for us.

For teachers of Grades 7 – 12.                                                                                  

1 3-hour session.  

For up to 30 teachers.

In-school demonstration teaching residency available

“Ms. Surface deepened students' understanding

of economic development in Tanzania, Nigeria

and India by challenging them to ask critical

questions. Exciting to see her fostering global

competency in our students.”

                    Lisa Vardi, Head of Social Studies,

                                                       Bullis School

A Playful Approach to Writing

Presented Nationwide since 2001

Playwriting offers a powerful way to interest students in writing or pre-writing processes. Participants examine ways to help students learn how to think like playwrights and to develop a script—written or pictorial—that draws on their improvisations of characters and ideas. Workshop activities are drawn from Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. At the sponsor’s request, another work of children’s literature can be used.

For teachers of Grades K – 6.                                                                                  

1 3-hour session.  

For up to 30 teachers.

In-school demonstration teaching residency available

Sample Activity

The  Kennedy Center has a great online resource about arts integration. Visit:

www.artsedge.kennedy-center.org/content/arts-integration.aspx and explore.