Santa Clara University

Learning Through Teaching

Michael Zampelli, S.J.
—By Michael Zampelli, S.J., Associate Professor, Department of Theatre & Dance and director of SCU’s Center for Performing Arts


I don’t think of myself as living a hyphenated life. As if living as a teacher is somehow separable from living as an artist/scholar, which is separable from being a Jesuit priest.


One life to live is exhausting enough—having two or more strikes me as excessive. When I teach theatre history or Performance and Culture or Gender and Performance, I can see my own ghost lurking on the edges of the classroom reminding me that it was interactions like these that gave me the freedom to apprehend the world freshly and that gave me the courage to fashion myself honestly. 


So I pray to God that I do well what I love and have been trained to do, that I care for my students in the way that others cared for me, and that I don’t get in the way of whatever liberation and empowerment might be taking place in my own classroom with or very often without my knowledge.


And at the same time…there is a passion tugging at me—for something—that can reveal itself in—but that is most certainly never limited to—this student or this RLC or this department or this University. And that passion—so often expressed as a question, a curiosity, or some “consummation devoutly to be wished”—drives me, despite available time, to say “yes” to directing a Baroque opera, to researching a 10th-century canoness who wrote plays in the manner of Terence, to writing an article about the Italian commedia dell’arte and the Marx Bros.


I do it all as “Michael,” of course. That’s where it gets messier and more interesting. I do it as a person who, like my students, is still trying to figure out who I am and what I am called to be.