Faces & Places: Talented Teachers

Upper School Spanish teacher Mariana Mariel, College Counselor Micah Lyles and Upper School History teacher Lucio Benedetto are three members of the Hockaday staff who participate in the arts while they are not working on campus.

Mariel has been acting intermittently for 16 years. Although working in theater was her mother’s passion, Mariel soon started taking workshops and classes and started her own acting career.

She was part of the Argentinian club, a social club that is involved in theater.

“About five or six of us that were really involved got together and formed an independent community theater,” Mariel said. “We started our own theater company and only did plays in Spanish.”

Acting is very energizing, according to Mariel, but she always needed to get past the fear of being on stage.

“Fighting through those feelings to accomplish something is extremely rewarding,” Mariel said.

Mariel’s favorite part of performing is giving life to a character. Unfolding different layers of a character before the audience and communicating those emotions is key. Acting is all about telling a story through the character’s emotions, she reflected.  

“Since the theater that I participate intends to be in a small space, the relationship and engagement with the audience is very important,” Mariel said. “It has taught me how crucial human relationships are.”

Juggling teaching and acting are very challenging for Mariel, but acting became a key component of her life. For the years she was not acting, a piece of her life was missing. Mariel plans to continue her acting career after she retires from teaching, although that is in the far future because she has only been teaching at Hockaday for nine years.

“I have always talked about opening my own space,” Mariel said. “I think everyone has talent, and if you have a space where you can go and explore that talent, I think it would be very nice.”

Similarly, Lyles works as an assistant director. He and Marianne Galloway, Lyles’ directing partner, are working on “Self-Injurious Behavior,” a play running off Broadway.

He became involved in theater when he was working as a high school English teacher. There, he volunteered to direct the one-act play.

“I just volunteered and fell in love with it,” Lyles said.

He founded a local theater with Galloway and they collaborate on one production a year.

Theater is an activity that sustains Lyles as a person. Reading a script that speaks to him urges him to get involved in that project.

“I am always a person that reads from the perspective of the characters,” Lyles said.

Balancing working at Hockaday and assistant directing plays is a tough challenge for Lyles, so he limits himself to one show per year and makes sure that it is a project he wants to be a part of.

Lyles’ main job is looking at the relationships within the characters in the show to create a cohesive environment.

“It is an environment of people who just enjoy each other,” Lyles said. “Creating that environment within a show is really rewarding.”

After he retires from Hockaday, he plans to pursue theater full-time. He wants to teach Middle School theater to help the students understand who they are through the characters they are portraying.

“I think theater is something I will be involved in forever,” Lyles said.

Although he is not involved with theater, Upper School History Teacher Benedetto stays involved with the arts through music.

He has played the guitar since high school. Although he plays just for fun, it is an activity he participates in on a regular basis, performing for his friends and family.

When he was younger, Benedetto was interested in Bob Dylan and traditional old fashioned blues, so he started playing acoustic guitar.

“I pick up the guitar and it is relaxing and challenging,” Benedetto said. “When you get focused and get a song right, it is a cool release.”

Even though guitar is his main instrument, Benedetto is also teaching himself to learn the banjo. He wants to learn how to play old mountain music.

He sees playing the guitar as a long term activity and something he is going to continue long after his years at Hockaday.

Being in the spotlight, behind the curtain or playing an instrument provides these three community members a way to relieve stress and transport themselves to another place. As expressed by all three faculty members, art is a creative outlet where a person can be rewarded with lifetime experiences and talent.  

“It’s very energizing,” Mariel said. “I absolutely love it.”

PHOTOS: 

  1. Upper School Spanish teacher Mariana Mariel explains concepts to her class.
  2. Mariel listens to her students speaking Spanish.
  3. Upper School History teacher Lucio Benedetto explains his lesson in the History of Art class.
  4. College Counselor Micah Lyles works on his computer in his office. 

Story by Campbell Harris

Photo by Jenny Choi

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