Of Redmond Drama: 1978-2006

By Sharon Pape RHS Drama Director 1990-2006

To give a history of the Redmond High School Drama program from 1990 to 2006, I really must include the years I was the drama teacher at Redmond Junior High (1978-2006). In 1990, the two programs merged into The Redmond Drama Program Grades 7-12. Initially, I was hired in 1978 to teach Drama and English and to run the after-school Drama Club at Redmond Junior High (RJH). With very supportive principals and enthusiastic students, our productions grew from one show per year to one per semester. Later the music department collaborated and we added musicals as well.

While I was building program opportunities at RJH, the drama program at RHS seemed to have different directors. I believe those directors were also English teachers, so drama was not their only subject. An English curriculum comes with a massive amount of papers and drama productions take hundreds of after-school hours; I was so fortunate at RJH to have two or three drama classes in my schedule. I was also fortunate to have former RJH students who were happy to come back and be in RJH plays. The mix of new and former students grew the drama program and with it came amazing parents.

Parents have always helped with food for production week and cast parties, but early on I received special support, including a local dentist who loved theater and built many of my sets. One year as a fundraiser the ‘Arts Department’ built a haunted house in the gym with the drama parents who also became some of the ghostly figures that roamed within. Another parent was the audio-visual director for his church, and he became our resident videographer.

Fundraising was a constant activity. ASB contributes a budgeted amount, but costumes, sets, royalties, and special effects can easily eat that budget up in one production. Ticket sales help, but growing a program, attending conferences, field trips to performances, and bringing in outside artists for workshops would not have been possible without parent financial support.

In the late 1980’s a couple of ‘Drama Mommas’ took on the paperwork to make Redmond Drama Boosters an official 501(c)(3). (This was a huge task.) With our non-profit status, I was blessed with board members who had as much energy as their kids. The Redmond Drama Boosters were now my financial partner and dreamed with me about new experiences we could offer our students. Coincidentally, I was also offered the drama position at RHS and the two programs merged to become Redmond Drama Grades 7–12. I could teach drama at both schools full time and often had the same students for six years.

The significance of the parent support would be incomplete without recognizing the efforts of one parent, Lisa Tracy, who made it her mission to include a performing arts center in the plans for RHS. I think the superintendent and probably the school board realized that ‘yes’ was the only answer that she would accept. Lisa was not only on the parent design committee, she was the quality control person who did the final walk-through in the theatre. Redmond Drama was truly a teacher-student-parent partnership.

With the merger of two programs, we ran a four-production season. A musical in the fall at RHS, a show at RJH, another at RHS, and the Spring Drama Festival of student-directed plays. Drama parents continued to step forward and became an integral part of the production team. Diane Nelson began costuming with me at RJH and stayed in the program long after her daughter graduated. Laura Welton added her talents in make-up and hair and both women nurtured and taught workshops to so many students. Finally, Jill Hayes rounded out our team as ‘Assistant Everything’ from schedules to programs, publicity, and crisis manager for students who forgot something. Because of those ladies, students spent more time in the green room and costume shop than they did at home and former students continue to stay in touch, even babysitting their children’s children.

With Thespian chapters in both schools, students attended state conferences. We continued the end-of-the-year dessert (started at RJH), recognizing student achievements and added Senior Wills to underclassmen, a student-produced end-of-the-year video, and senior scholarships from the Redmond Drama Boosters. Additionally, in 1992, I began taking a group of students and parents to the National Thespian Conference in Lincoln, Nebraska. For five days each June, we saw the best high school theatre converge on the campus of the University of Nebraska. I think we only missed one conference in 14 years and that was the year we moved into the new Performing Arts Center at RHS.

I was asked to identify my favorite shows and I loved something about all the productions. Here, in shortened form, are some of the highlights:

  1. Three marriages grew out of productions: “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Angel in the Night,” and “The Odyssey.” (Their weddings were such fun!)

  2. Students became teachers and one a professor and playwright at the University of New Mexico.

  3. Several students, including the current stage technician at RHS, have careers in technical theatre or film.

  4. Some are professional actors.

  5. A student choreographer now has her own dance studio, training future dancers.

  6. One directed shows for Carnival Cruise Lines.

I always told the parents in the fall Open House that my goal was to create students who were willing to take risks, develop an appreciation for the arts, and most importantly, try to walk in their characters’ shoes for a little while to understand what it means to be human. If they happen to become theatre professionals, that is just “icing on the cake.”

Through Facebook, I keep in touch and love to hear about their weddings, children, and accomplishments. They continue today to be the same caring, responsible, and passionate people I knew. They have also maintained the friendships that were forged so long ago. For my part in that journey, I do take much satisfaction.

~ Sharon Pape