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May I Return To The Beginning?

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It’s three in the morning. The birds are chirping like crazy, there’s the sound of a train in the distance and across the street the meter man is ticketing cars parked on the wrong side of the street. I guess it’s just some of the benefits of sitting on my front porch and living in my little acre “forest in the city” I’ve created. Mostly tranquil, it’s a great place to relax and reflect.

I love my yard, loosely landscaped– some parts manicured, others untamed. It’s a lot of work to maintain but I love working outside and getting my hands dirty. It gives me time to reflect on life and dream of the future as my mind unwinds all the knotted and pent up thoughts stored away from the stressful activities of everyday life.

This is a year of milestones. I turned 50 in December, Michael and I celebrate our 20th anniversary in September and my career is taking an unexpected turn that has yet to be determined.

At school, the colleagues I’d worked with for fourteen years all retired. Together, we’d built a musical program that I’m extremely proud of. For the past year though, it was hard to watch this beautiful thing come to an end. I just didn’t know how final it was for me. Now, all of us are gone and the future of the program is completely unknown. It’s a bittersweet ending to a very stressful but extremely rewarding chapter in my life.

Over the years, the musicals have taken us from back alleys to exotic lands. We conjured up hope and laughter, tears and sorrow– celebrating the joys of life and the difficult challenges of the human condition. Live theatre is like nothing else.

There were some years we knew exactly what musical we wanted to do next but more times than naught, it was an organic process that just felt right. This year, we did Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat — and perhaps not so coincidentally, it was the 30th anniversary (for me), directing it as my very first show in 1983.

From my 1983 production of Joseph.

From my 1983 production of Joseph.

The final number in the show, Any Dream Will Do, asks the question, “May I return to the beginning?” I got it– a milestone and the end of a collaboration. It was a time for reflection and of celebration.

This the 7th time I’d directed the show– each one, somewhat unique. I’ve never tried to duplicate a previous production but it has always been important to me that one element remain: the magic.

That 1983 production was magical. Nearly every person involved in that show went on to have, or had a career in the visual and performing arts. The right group of people brought together at the right time, in the right place can make magic and somehow we did. We were all novices then– unseasoned thespians full of passion and youth.

That was my beginning.

Joseph 1995

Joseph 1995

In 1995, I directed a production that was inspired by the Donny Osmond version that had become wildly popular. Every kid out there knew about Joseph, had seen it or been in it. This year was totally different. None of the students knew the show or were necessarily excited about doing it, so it was my challenge to bring that excitement to life.

After so many productions, you’d have thought this one would be easy. Yet, time and time again I found myself second guessing my choices and vision and tried to keep the overall focus, while allowing elements of the show to evolve naturally as rehearsals progressed. It was a true collaboration of thoughts and ideas that really made the show work for me. Being such an ensemble show, it was fun seeing the cast’s excitement build and all their hard work and determination pay off in the end.

Joseph 2013

Joseph 2013

Then it was over.

The show, a fourteen year collaboration of an amazing creative team –and as it turned out, the end of my time at Bartlett High School.

All bittersweet.

May I return to the beginning?

I’ve learned a lot over the years about the importance of reflection. Though I don’t feel like I live in the past or want to actually re-live the past, the lessons learned only move us forward. I’ve had the privilege to work with, and learn from, many wonderful people. Teachers, parents and most of all– the students, have inspired me and taught me in so many different ways.

Do I actually want to return to the beginning? No. It was a marvelous, wild ride while it lasted. I wouldn’t change a minute of it. Now it’s time to move on.

I think it’s a huge mistake to live in the past, yet there is so much to be learned from it. It’s nice to look back from time to time at where I’ve been. It often helps put today in perspective and helps guide my tomorrow.

I’m on my second pot of coffee now, the sun is coming up and sounds of distant trains and chirping birds is slowly being over taken by that of garbage trucks beeping and other people starting their day.

A new beginning.


4 Comments

  1. I loved reading your post. My own experience in my high school musicals was a turning point in my life. A place of acceptance and community that I never felt anywhere else. Thank you for posting. More importantly – thank you for being one of the amazing people who keep theatre and the arts alive for students. Best of luck on every new journey.

    Like

  2. Herb Linamen says:

    Always enjoy your blog entries and this one is no exception. I well remember your first “Joseph” production and fell in love with the music. Always proud of you and your accomplishments. Dad

    Like

  3. Virginia says:

    Loved reading it…….will be rereading it. On with the next chapter.

    Like

  4. Sue says:

    Jeff, this was a beautiful post- love it, brought some tears to my eyes- its so hard to believe all the changes at BHS. I guess I feel lucky that Nick has graduated and is moving on. Praying that you find happiness in whatever the future brings. Congrats to you and Michael and congrats on so many great years at BHS.

    Like

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