I was inwardly debating whether or not to write about this here, as most of the people who read this blog really have no way of comprehending (nor do I have the means of expressing) what this means to me. But its what's on my mind now, so I figure I might as well put it somewhere. To not alienate either the portion of my audience that isn't aware of the situation I'm about to write about or give the portion that is yet another redundant recap, I'm going to tell the story as it relates to me personally.
I went to a Catholic all-male high school, run by the Jesuits, an order of priests whose principles of education are paramount. Despite my lack of affection for the Catholic Church, I have nothing but respect and admiration for the Jesuits, as they are the epoch of "walking the walk" rather than merely "talking the talk."
I pretty much wasted my time there the first two years. During the second I crashed something awful. Various circumstances were involved, but the long and short of it was that I was extremely depressed and almost failed out of school.
I come in Junior year with the same kind of malaise. A bunch of my friends mention that they're going to be joining drama. I figure I might as well give it a shot. One of the best decisions of my life. My first roles onstage, were bit parts, but what was important was the learning experience. The BC High Dramatics society was in the charge of two great men and brilliant educators, Kevin Kynock (henceforth known as TGO, or The Great One) and Chip (no nickname would suffice)
TGO is an incredibly well-experienced man of the theater. He was no stranger to the Stratford Shakespeare festival, and actually worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company, in addition to various academic honors. He served as artistic director, and through his efforts had always manage to cast every student who wanted a role, and moreover did so in a way that never seemed to weaken the show, as he made sure that everyone got to where they needed to be by the time the curtain first went up. Later on, he taught me and the 8 others in his Dramatics Seminar the fundamentals of directing, producing, and acting. I will never forget the things I learned from him.
Chip is without any doubt the greatest mentor I have ever had, the most knowledgeable man I have ever met (architect, onetime skateboard coach, onetime heavy metal singer, the list goes on...), and easily the best teacher I have ever known. From him I learned not only about stage design, costuming, prop work, carpentry, dramaturgy, and acting, but also about Life, the Universe, and Everything. I stayed after school every day and volunteered my services at first so that I could spend time with him and learn from him. My passion for theater now is mostly due to him, and if there is any truth to what they tell me about my breadth of general knowledge in my improv class then he's got a lot to do with it. When I needed to talk to him about personal matters he seemed to be able to see straight into my soul. He knew me better than was natural for someone I'd known for only so long
Working with these two men over my Junior and Senior years of high school had an enormous and profound impact on my life. It changed the very way that I look at the world, and the people in it. The program did not merely instruct me in the ways of the theater but helped me to develop and grow as a young man. For me, who had previously been in a pit of despair, it was deliverance. I do not know where I would be without it, aside for the obvious fact that there's no way I'd be studying theater, and that I probably wouldn't be writing. As I've said before, there are hardly words to explain what the Dramatics Society meant to me, but lets put it this way: Other than the Boy Scouts, it is the chapel of the only memories of my teenage years that I cherish.
And it has been desecrated. In fact it may be lost for good.
This year, TGO fell ill. He had to withdraw as Artistic Director. As if he was waiting on this, an English teacher by the name of Adrian Hernandez who I had as a Senior and know personally jumped at the job. He was given it because the administration looks kindly upon him and does its best to ignore all the good that TGO and Chip had done. What he lacks in actual knowledge of theater he makes up for with his big-as-a-house ego. He sees the school's theater as his canvass rather than a place where education is supposed to occur. Let me explain this as concisely as I can. To be a stage manager or a green room manager or a house manager, you go through three years of training; learning by doing under TGO and Chip's program. The title is not given lightly. Therefore, when Hernandez said that he was bringing in some of his English students to do these jobs for his production of Dead Man Walking, it was an enormous insult. Even more so when he didn't train them to do the jobs. With about a month of traning in the general area I knew more about stage managing than the student he brought in did by the time the show went up. Actually, I think I know more about it than him.
Hernandez did everything wrong. He didn't communicate with his tech crew, he abused his actors... the list is far too great to be posted here. Suffice to say, it was a travesty. And for the show to have even gone up was the result of an astounding effort on the part of Chip, who should have really been given the job as artistic director, and those of his students who hadn't been completely swept under the rug.
The show went up. It was still a travesty, and it still sucked, but it went up. Nothing fell apart, and nobody died, and Chip took great pains to make it so. He went through hell to do his job, to the extent of actual hazard to his health, for the sake of his students. And he was rewarded with termination.
Let me make this clear. The descision to fire him came as soon as Hernandez was made director. The administration, who have in recent years been playing fast and loose with Jesuit ideals, simply lied to him about it. Because they needed him. They needed him to make Dead Man Walking possible. They allowed him to take great pains to make it work before firing him.
That, ladies and gentlemen, isn't just wrong. It's downright evil. And I hardly use the word.
So now the theater at BC High is solely in the charge of a total sleaze, and he wants to erase the every memory of what Chip and TGO built there. He even wants to tear down the stage, parts of which I built. He's told the existing crew that there was no garuntee (read: no hope) that they'd keep their positions.
It's gone. The theater I knew, and loved, that nurtured me, and meant so much to me will no longer be known and loved by anyone. It will no longer nurture, nor mean anything to anyone.
my prolonged silence on this blog has partially been because I've been unable to think of anything else.
I waxed poetic on the subject soon after I heard of it:
Let us raise a glass to the times we shared
And to those who made them great;
Hold dear the spirit imbued upon us
and carry it boldly into the future
I shed a tear when I finished writing that. However, I have to say that TGO put it much better:
Remember the good times, and everything you've learned
Take them with you
And leave the shit behind.
As much as I try to take his words to heart I still feel like a part of me is dead.
And my heart goes out to the Sophomore at BC High I know must exist now who's in the same pit of despair I was, but won't have Drama to pull him out.