Briggs resumes teaching English, optimistic about children’s acting career

Jenna Rabah, Staff Writer

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Over his 11 years at the school, Christopher Briggs has been an English teacher, acting teacher and the director of the school’s Drama Club. Briggs taught full-time English while starting the high school’s Theater Arts program.
The drama club is working on two productions for the fall and winter shows. One of the productions is Crazy Town, directed by Katherine Vandrilla. Crazy Town is a comedy that tells the story of an unconventional town. This is a place where monkeys feed people at zoos and where nice guys take on the interrogation room. The play will open on Friday, November 3 and run until the night of Sunday, November 5.
The second show that the drama club will put on this year is In the Heights, directed by Briggs. This musical takes place in a vibrant Latin-American neighborhood in Washington Heights, New York. The production gives the audience a taste of hip-hop, salsa, merengue and soul music. This musical was written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is also the writer of the Broadway musical, Hamilton. In the Heights will open on the first weekend of March.
Freshman Jada Fong said she joined the drama club because it has a history of producing quality shows. Fong states, “the show we are working on now [Crazytown] is really coming together well so far. I’m sure it will be a great show.”
In his beginning days of teaching at the school, Briggs was a full time English teacher. He taught many English classes like Creative Writing, Public Speaking and English classes for the Alternative Education program. As the theater program grew over the years, Briggs taught fewer English classes. This year Briggs’ main focus is teaching theater arts classes. However, he also started teaching two AP Language classes again.
Outside of school, Briggs loves to see shows, spend time with family, and go out on his boat. His wife, Kendra Dickinson, is also an English teacher at the school. Briggs and Dickinson met at summer theater camp in 1987. Both starred as the main characters in the play Oklahoma, and fell in love offstage as their characters did in the play. Like Briggs, Dickinson also loves acting and dedicates her time as the drama club’s choreographer and helping with costumes, makeup, and set construction.
Briggs, his brother, guidance counselor, Nathan Briggs, and Dickinson all ended up together at the high school. Briggs, who was trusted and had a good reputation, told administration about his qualified brother and wife.
Briggs and Dickinson have two daughters, Riley and Ella, ages eight and eleven. Both of their daughters have a knack for performing.
Briggs and Dickinson, however, did not push the girls to theater; they found their own way. The parents felt that it was narrow-minded of them to just expose them to acting.
Briggs said, “They really love it. Ms. Dickinson and I are really happy to support them as long as they are having fun doing it. It is not something that we want to push them to do by any stretch… we tried having them play soccer, tried giving them other music lessons, dance and baseball, but they really kind of hated all of that. Theater is the only thing that sticks with them.”
Overall, both of the Briggs kids have performed in two professional productions each. The two sisters have both performed in A Wonderful Life at the Goodspeed. Their oldest daughter, Riley, was also featured in Anastasia played at Hartford Stage, while Ella, has played the role of young Judy Garland in Chasing Rainbows at the Goodspeed this past October.
Both of the Briggs daughters understand that along with the fun of acting comes the hard work and commitment. As a child, Ella is performing eight shows a week.
When it comes to their dreams, both the girls have touched upon the thought of performing on Broadway. However, Dickinson compares their chances at Broadway to playing in the NFL — slim.
Briggs’ own love of theater began with his first play, at church, in the fourth or fifth grade. Briggs said, “I’ve just kind of really started to love it ever since then.” He admitted to liking being on stage, going outside the box, having fun and being funny.
He started out in the place of his own students; as a member of the drama club. Briggs went on to complete the first of his theater arts degrees at the University of Hartford Hartt school. Dickinson said, “He is passionate, a critical thinker, creative, visionary, and sarcastic. He is someone that has to grow on you.”
His love for performing arts and his hard work has made Briggs the man who he is today.

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