5.27.2005

The End of an Era

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.

10 comments:

  1. Something you might know already, but if you don't you will find interesting.

    The Jesuit Order was founded during the Reformation, part of the Catholic Reformation, or Counter Ref...whatever you want to call it.

    Anyways, it was founded in order to re-educate people on the teachings of the Church. They allowed both Catholics and Protestants attend their schools, and the Protestants did actually send their children to the Jesuit universities because they were the best around. And the Catholics could try and re-exert their influence over the non-Catholics.

    Reading your blog made me remember that from a long lost memory of a class...i guess i really did learn something in that class!!!! :)

    but on to the heart of your post. im sorry that something you loved so dearly was ripped apart. you will find other theatres that you will love, let that comfort you, may the experience make you grow as a person and an actor.

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  2. Yes, I did in fact know this. I believe that we were taught to call it the Counter-Reformation. I don't know about then, but nowadays, there is no real attempt to convert. The mission of the Jesuits today is to make the world a better place by adhering to a remarkable standard of education.

    Thank you for caring

    Though what hurts the most is that I am basically among the last to be educated in all meanings of the word by that program. It made me what I am today, and the fact that it's now gone makes me feel like a last-generation member of a species doomed to extinction. Indeed there will be other theaters, but none will compare.

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  3. "Indeed there will be other theaters, but none will compare."

    Unless you build one.

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  4. I have difficulty with not being flippant and you deserve better than that with this post. So, I send you a hug and a nod of empathy from one who has weathered something similar.

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  5. I'm not sure if I can say anything meaningful here, so I'll just say I'm sorry such a huge part of your life has passed. It might not always seem like it, but the future has more cherished memories in store for you. Hang in there, bud.

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  6. I have the disadvantage of being on AOL ( suc) right now in Puerto Rico so this will be short.
    This sounds painful for you but remember that just because something is torn down, gone, done, and over, does not diminish the fact that it was built, happened, and existed at one time and your part in that as the part of others is also not diminished. Such is life.
    This is not to take light your feeling on this as pain is pain no matter.
    Pain goes away, it does. Good Luck with this as your introspection seems oft to divert you.

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  7. Oh I know I'll never lose my memories. Its just that there is now one less place where those ideals of theater education are taught. In fact, most of my dejection is about the people who have been cheated out of the experience I had. I had wanted my younger brother to learn theater there, as he's proven that he has a real talent for it (he played a small role in Macbeth when we did it there and he proved to be a capable and intelligent performer who can take direction) But never shall sun that morrow see. Though you're right, Steve. It will get better, and to quote Macbeth once again(see above), long is the night that never finds the day.

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  8. There is some good news to this whole affair, I thought you should know. El Diablo Cubano is keeping the One Acts. However, he said there will be fewer comedies and he will be picking them. I have a plan: get people to submit nothing but comedies and/or musicals except for one or two. I am already planning to write MBTA: the Musical with Graham. As for positions, I know not yet. Green Room and House (Sigh) are the most expendable, but he likes me, so I might be lucky. The managers have a meeting with him Thursday in regards to next year. I'll keep you posted.

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  9. ooh... MBTA the musical? I have a suggestion. have all of the music be in the style of street performance. Also, there needs to be homage paid to Charlie and the MTA

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  10. I was sent a link to this entry by a friend of mine, who I met in BC High Drama in 1984. I had not heard about Mr Kynock's illness, but it saddens me to hear the state of BC High Drama.

    When I was a member from 1984 till my graduation in 1987, I, like you, found a major turning point in my life. We would hold our production in the AV Room, on the far end of McElroy near M-4. Between Mr. Kynock and Fr. Jack d'Anjou, I found direction in my otherwise drifting teenage years. While Mr. Kynock was always a flamboyant over-the-top persoonality (at least when I knew him), he was very wise in his handling of student productions, not letting the director getting in the way of the students learning the craft.

    Thanks for the post, and I hope that the transition to the new teacher has balanced out and gotten a little smoother. It also made me feel old, but that's not your fault ;-)

    Joe Yuska '87
    http://www.geekdroppings.com

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