Lilli Ann Linford-Foreman
Professor of Theatre Arts and Communication
When the curtains come up, empathy should always be front and center. That's how you unlock a powerful acting performance, explains Lilli Ann Linford-Foreman, longtime professor of Theatre Arts and Communication at COCC. "Seeing the world through someone else's eyes is a skill that must be employed," she says. "It isn't theoretical."
For the Stanford-trained actor, who brings to the College working experience as an actor, singer, playwright and director (of more than 60 works), her focus on empathy yields more than believable characterizations — it helps encourage personal growth. "I truly believe that the material students learn in acting and communication can be life-changing for them," she says. "I love the ‘aha' moments where a student suddenly puts information together in a new way and discovers something unexpected about themselves or the world."
Teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed how adaptable her students truly are. "For instance, my public speaking students quickly grasped the opportunities inherent in delivering a speech via live camera feed, and made the most of it," she adds. "I've been surprised and gratified by the way in which COCC students have adapted to this new format."
Linford-Foreman began teaching actors, public speakers and other communicators at COCC soon after earning her MFA from Pennsylvania State University in 1987, beginning by running the Theatre Performance program (now on hiatus).
As a frequent collaborator with local theatres, Linford-Foreman often gets to see her students take the stage. And it puts those lessons — of organizing thoughts, of building confidence — into action, where empathy shines through. "There is something magical about the successful performance of a memorized and fully realized scene, and that feeling of transcendence and achievement stays with students long after the term is over," she says.