Starting next year I’ll be the Theatre Director at Bryan Adams Leadership Academy (BALA) in Dallas ISD. It’s a 5A Title I campus, predominantly Latino, with a big mandate. The theatre program is pretty well established and I’ll be joining the amazing Jennifer Malmberg who is the Technical Director. When I began the interview process, it was made clear to me that the principal was interested in going big; the fine arts program on campus has been very successful and he was looking for a theatre director to help push it to a new level. He was looking for someone who had the audacity to inject a new sense of energy and… well… ambition. I assured him I did and here I am.
I began right away coordinating and planning with Jen. I should probably note that Jen and I have worked together before and have a great friendship (in fact we’re neighbors!). She was a major member of my team for my senior show at Stephen F. (I directed Stop Kiss by Diana Son) and I’ve always looked to her as an example of work ethic and kindness. I shared with her that I wanted to push BALA to perform with the rigor of many programs its size: they inducted 80 new Thespians and her technical team is made up of about 100 committed members. We would start with a show performed by the end of September, a devised piece in October, a Battle of the Bands Fall Festival at the end of October, taking kids to State Thespians for the first time in the school’s memory in December, In the Heights as our musical in January, a state run OAP ;), and a children’s show for our feeder pattern in May. On top of that, we need to do some renovations to the auditorium and have crafted a comprehensive plan to turn my massive portable into a new performance and showcase space that we call the “Little Theatre” for the fine arts department. Oh yea… I’m definitely audacious to say the least.
So how do I plan on pulling all of this off?
Audacity and ambition go hand in hand. You have to have the audacity to believe in the possibility and the ambition to know where to aim. I have to believe in myself, first and foremost. I have to believe that I have the drive, endurance, passion, and focus to pull it off; but, i’m only one person and I won’t be able to do it myself. I have to look to my team and know that I can trust them. Every situation is different and I’m lucky to be working with someone so wonderful as Jen. She has a profound understanding of her campus and students and is largely the reason the program has grown the way it has. I know that she will speak openly and honestly with me and I had to build the trust that I would be an active listener. We look to each other as two links in a chain designed to pull our students to greater heights.
I also worked to build honest and open relationships with my new administration. I made some significant progress in beginning a major renovation project on my theatre at my last campus by being clear and specific with my principal, school board trustee, and even superintendent along with the directors of Capital Improvements, Fine Arts, and Maintenance. I told each one “I have both the time and and energy to get this done” both to let them know I meant business and would not be letting up, but also to show them that I was a passionate and dedicated partner. It was less ultimatum and more pledge. This is easier said than done, but I am diligent in building positive relationships even with administrators that may not have the vocabulary to understand where I am coming from or why what I do matters. If they don't believe in my work, I hope they believe in me.
Finally, I look to my future students; teenagers I have only met in passing but whose work I’ve seen on stage all year. The reason I am in education is that I believe teenagers, more than anybody else, have the ability to shape and form the world they want. They are at the point where they are formulating their definition of the world and realizing its potential. High school is a formative time in that sense, it establishes the possibilities of where they can go, even if they aren’t sure how they will get there or where they plan to go in the first place. College and technical training is about giving them the tools to shape the world, high school is about giving them the scale to measure it. I believe in them implicitly for that reason. I know that if I set the goal in front of them and believe in them, they will create a path towards success that I can’t even begin to imagine.
I am still in the early stages of this whole new adventure. It’s a lot to consider given that I have only been on campus a handful of times; but, I’m in the business of people not places. I do not know everything about where I am going. I do know that the people who I’m going there with want the same thing I do: to create a powerful and meaningful impact on each other and to define a world all of us can live in. I have the audacity and ambition to do that much.