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  • 1.  I think you're awesome.

    Posted 01-26-2022 03:21

    I retired from teaching theatre in 2018, after about 40 years of frustration, fulfillment, and joy.

    If I had just stuck around another couple of years, I would have ended my career during the pandemic. I just missed it.

    Instead, I watched it from the outside. I have stayed in touch on social media, through my many theatre teacher friends, and just observing.

    I am in awe of the determination, grit and sheer will that you all have put into teaching in the last couple of years. 

    In the best of circumstances, most theatre teachers are expected to perform amazing miracles with nothing but an underfunded bag of tricks and an inspirational amount of guile.

    Watching you all as you pivoted from live theatre and in person education to virtual theatre, streaming shows, unreasonable parents, frustrated students, clueless administrators, conflicting laws and regulations, mask mandates, vax mandates, social distancing, outdoor theatre, and the ubiquitous zoom has been amazing.

    Just this week, I saw a play that converted from a live performance to a hybrid show with three zoom performances added in because three cast members were quarantined a day before the performance. The cast took it in stride. The audience took it in stride. Despite the numerous factors that made it impossible, they did it anyway, and it worked.

    I know a lot of outside observers look at the work of theatre teachers and see magic. They see alchemy. They literally cannot figure out how we do what we do.  I’ve only been out of the classroom for a short while, but I’m amazed how you all kept the fires burning since March of 2020. Almost everybody reading this has had their creativity hobbled in some unique way over the last couple of years…and yet, you persisted. All that, and you still managed to do a show.
    I know how it’s done. I’ve directed a few hundred plays, and I know it’s not magic. It’s a craft. It can be taught. It can be experienced. In fact, personal experience is by far the best way to learn this craft. Still, if it looks like magic, that’s ok with me too.

    Although I often ran a one-teacher drama department, I didn’t do it alone.  I found a support system of peers. You all.  EdTA. California Thespians. Alumni. Dance teachers. Music teachers. (At every school I’ve ever worked in, my best friend was always a vocal music teacher.)

    These are a few of the things I have learned along the way:

    Theatre provides a practical application of electricity, computer science, physics, math psychology, history and literature. (This is a partial list)

    Theatre can save lives.

    It can teach tolerance.

    It can give a voice to the voiceless.

    It gives students who are lost a place to fit in.

    One play can change the culture of an entire community.

    High school students are starving for a safe place to fit in and grow.

    Keep the doors open, even if they’re virtual doors.


     One of my favorite things about Educational Theatre is this: When two schools are in close proximity to each other, they often develop a “rivalry.” This makes sense for sports programs, since they exist in a competitive paradigm. In order for one to win, one has to lose. Theatre programs do not excel in an atmosphere of rivalry. We do our best work when we cooperate, support each other, and share stuff. Many of us have solutions we have come up with that might be helpful to other teachers during the unique circumstances of this unique era. Please share them on this forum. We’re stronger when we support each other.


    Billy Houck
    Theatre Teacher, Retired
    Northern Rep to the California Thespian State Board
    Carmichael, CA

  • 2.  RE: I think you're awesome.

    Posted 01-27-2022 08:38
    Well said, Billy!!! I'm another long-time theatre educator whose retirement let me escape all the craziness of the past two years. I've also kept a close eye on my former colleagues, and am endlessly impressed by the creativity, persistence and love they have maintained throughout this trial.  I capped my retirement with a half-time position (LOL) that made me hyper aware of how inhumane the hours we put in really are. No time to reflect, to read the pertinent (or just pop) literature, to plan ahead, to conference, to do self-care...the list (and the sprint) goes on.  And then to add all the Covid/pandemic's a great time to be retired.
    Hang in there, my fellow theatre educators. Your job does indeed save lives, and teaches your world truly important lessons.

    Douglas "Chip" Rome
    Theatre Consultant
    Educational Stages
    Burke VA