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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How Life Decided I Needed To Stop, Part 1

Anyone who has spent much time with me over the past 6 months or so are no stranger to the recent changes that have occured in my life during that time. A couple of weekends ago I went to my 10 year college reunion and was a little surprised that, even with Facebook and Twitter, many of my college friends were in the dark about these changes. Then I realized that I'd been relatively quiet on the social media front regarding the matters that transpired that lead to me living in Abilene, Texas and (more surprisingly) not teaching theatre.

The internet silence was partly due to privacy, I suppose. I've never been a terribly private person, but over the years I've discovered that it is sometimes better to keep somethings to myself. The main reason, though, is that for a long time I didn't really know how things would transpire, and I wanted to be wary about discussing my thoughts on a public forum that could potentially be seen by students or parents of students, or, God-forbid, school administration.

The story begins back in late March of this year. I was feeling very good about myself, for a number of reasons. For the third year in a row the the UIL One Act Play I had directed had just advanced from the first round of competition, and I had a good feeling about the next round. The kids were focused and doing well, we were performing a very risky and challenging play that had not been done in UIL OAP competition before. We had lots to work on, but I was confident that we had something special. I was in a large school district at a large high school and was building a theatre program that had a very positive presence on campus amoung students and faculty.

Not that the year was without it's low points. At the beginning of the year, I'd found out that my assistant no longer wanted to help in the theatre department with productions after school and would only be teaching classes during the day. This meant that I would, again, be directing, teching and producing on my own every show of the season. This is a stress that I was used to, but not one that I wanted. Nevertheless, I had several very devoted and capable parents who helped out tremendously with costumes as well as fundraising. Also, our department was able to afford to hire a woman to come in and serve as technical director and designer for the musical, which essentially gave me an hour or so per day of extra time, and a full Saturday to do things that would have normally been ignored or put-off. So, we were able to move along despite a reduction in the number of full-time theatre faculty.

The first show of the season was lots of fun. The set didn't turn out exactly as I'd planned, but the cast was small and dedicated and everyone who saw the show gave great feedback. We had to switch the musical from Fiddler on the Roof to Pippin about three weeks into rehearsals because of casting issues, but we plugged on and put on a show that was, while far from perfect, a great experience for myself and the students.

With the highs and lows of the season mostly behind me and looking toward the next year I began to see the 2010-2011 school year as a turning point for the theatre department as well as myself. It was the year where I decided to take control of the fate of the theatre program and learn from past mistakes. No longer would I attempt to produce shows beyond our means or put up with people who were getting in the way of making the theatre program successful. I wasn't going to beg the band directors to help or worry that others weren't doing my bidding. I was going to take those dedicated and hungry students and develop them into the highest quality theatre troupe that I possibly could, even if it meant losing a few. I was going to stress quality over quantity. I was very excited for the future and the UIL One Act Play was going to be the coming out party.

On April 1, the day before we were to compete at the second level of competition I was rounding up the normal last minute details of taking a show on the road: making sure that boxes were organized with props, racks were full of costumes and the required buses and permission forms were secured. Sometime around lunch I received an email stating that I needed to go meet with our principal. I joked with our bookeeper that I hoped I wasn't in trouble. I had a good relationship with my principal, and despite a few grandmotherly tongue lashings because of my tendency to, at times, be a little..."independent"(?) she liked me and I liked her. She cussed like a sailor, called you names and you realized that she loved you all at the same time. Still, there was a very real possibility that today was one of those loving repremands. At any given moment I was possibly violating some minor (and ridiculous) policy or making the custodian mad because a performance ran long. When I entered the principal's office I knew this was different.

End of Part 1

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