Kentlake theater is ready to break a leg

The Kentlake Drama Club gained a new director and are in the process of rehearsing “Mamma Mia.”

Kentlake High School has a theater program full of talent and motivated students who basically direct themselves.

But like any high school after school activity, there needs to be a dedicated teacher to lead them in the right direction.

That’s where Elisa Doyle comes into play. She’s the new theater director at the high school.

Doyle started her time at Kentlake as a theater director, language arts teacher and drama teacher at the beginning of this school year.

Before she worked at Kentlake specifically, Doyle’s career started as a language arts teacher in a small town of Colorado. She said the graduating class of that high school was about 24 kids.

Then she moved onto teaching middle school and high school for about 14 years before becoming a mentor.

“I was out of the classroom and it’s a very small niche position and it’s what I always wanted to do until I started doing it. I wasn’t with students anymore, there’s a lot of energy involved with this type of position and I missed it. That’s what brought be back,” Doyle explained.

Doyle became director of the drama club because a teacher who was directing before her also taught math and she said he was not able to juggle both jobs.

One thing led to another and Doyle took over.

“I thought, ‘I could do that job.’ I have experience in both language arts and directing and it just sort of all fell together really fast and I was offered the job in maybe two weeks,”she said.

Going into the directing portion of her job, Doyle said she expected to be the one to tell students what to do and how to do it.

To her surprise, it was much different.

The students are able to direct each other and get everything sorted out amongst themselves, Doyle said. She’s just there to be a facilitator.

“They’re amazing. They are so driven and they’re so eager. They’re so talented and creative. I think my favorite part is just watching the teamwork and the way they sort of work together to pull this stuff off. Sometimes I feel like my job is just to kind of sit back and sort of keep their freedom,” she said.

The show the cast is currently working on is “Mamma Mia.”

There are three students who Doyle said have stepped up.

Grayson Wuelfing acts as stage manager, Elizabeth Gerken is the student director and Hannah Williams is the dance captain.

Gerken said working as a student director is a lot of work, but is also really fun.

She said it’s like “directed play time.”

Wuelfing said from a tech standpoint it’s also a lot of work, but worth it.

“For me personally, it’s really rewarding to see a show fully done and to see it being performed. I think a lot of the techs have a lot of fun doing it as well,” he said.

While all three students love their roles, Wuelfing and Gerken said it can be sort of a challenge to get the other students to listen to them when it comes down to it.

On the other hand, Williams said it’s easy to get everyone’s attention.

“I think it’s kind of easier for me to get their attention mostly because I’m a senior and I always have a mic, and I’m scary,” Williams said laughing. “I love teaching them the dances and seeing how well they can do because we’ve been doing lifts and stuff and I was afraid they weren’t going to be able to do it, but they just kick it out. It’s really awesome.”

Doyle looks like she might have it all together, but she said that she too has encountered some difficulties during her time as director.

She said the scheduling aspect was new to her and something she needed to figure out and fast.

Doyle teaches a full day of classes daily and then she and cast members are at the school until about 5:30 p.m. four times a week practicing.

Parent volunteers are what have saved her, she said.

“They just sort of know the program and they just very much made sure I was taken care of,” Doyle explained.

Doyle learned the value of time during her first play that she directed in the fall, “A Midsummer’s Night Dream.”

With that play, she said the cast was not very large and while they pulled it off in the end, more time could have been spent rehearsing.

That’s why Doyle said they started casting for “Mamma Mia” before winter break in December.

“I have not done a musical before, just plays. So I knew I would need extra time so I did auditions way back before we even left (for) break. So we had the whole show cast. We had the first cast meeting before we left for break. I just gave them the music and gave them that time to learn the music, learn the show and learn the songs,” she explained.

The easiest part of Doyle’s job was bonding with students and getting to know everyone. She said that aspect was surprisingly simple.

All three student directors said they had similar feelings.

In previous years, the drama club had a different director from year to year. So this year, they said they were sort of nervous to see it would pan out.

“It’s so great. We’ve had a lot of crazy director changes these past few years. It’s been a whole mess. But Ms. Doyle has kind of come in here and saved everybody’s morale because after last year we were kind of down in the dumps. And then she came in and she was so warm and receptive to everybody. She kind of saved our theater program,” Gerken said.

Wuelfing followed up by saying, “from a backstage creative standpoint, it’s good to be able to go to somebody that I trust and that I feel can make good decisions regarding set pieces or regarding different changes that I need to discuss with her. She makes it a lot easier than former directors that we’ve had, which to me is an amazing thing. She is one of my favorite people.”

All three students quit sports to be part of the drama club. They all also said they could see themselves doing this as a future career.

Doyle said she hopes to retire with this job.

“It’s the first job I’ve ever had — I mean I’ve always loved teaching, it’s what I was absolutely born to do — but it’s the first job that I’ve ever had that I truly forget that I’m working. This is a pure joy to come in on a week off and I get to be here. I love it,” she said.

“Mamma Mia” will be presented May 2 to May 4 and then will be performed again May 9 to May 11.

“Come see our show!” Everyone shouted with excitement.

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Gretchen Leigh is a stay-at-home mom who lives in a neighborhood near you. You can read more of her writing on her website livingwithgleigh.com. To see her columns come to life, follow her on Facebook at Living with Gleigh by Gretchen Leigh.
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