Life was the Stage

by Lee Elliott

When I was ready to retire from teaching drama after 30 years, I decided to celebrate the end of my career by holding a reunion for the 500+ students who performed with me. High school drama teachers are accustomed to doing everything themselves. I don’t recommend that for a large reunion. My plan was to renew old friendships the first night and hold a performance the second. We met in the Cafetorium (where our productions were held) which cost nothing because I was still employed there.

I contacted several students with whom I had stayed in touch, then went to to find others. Invitations were by word-of-mouth and e-mail. A paper invitation would have been helpful, but it’s difficult finding addresses of students who graduated 30 years ago.

The first night 350 people attended. Students brought their children and parents who worked on productions also came. I put out the old production photo albums with a sign that said “Help Yourself.” Everyone had a great time looking through the albums and choosing favorites to take. We watched production videos and read e-mails from students around the world who were unable to attend. Food donated by local grocery stores included snacks, sodas and cake. Apparently, every time someone had asked how they could help, I said, “Could you please take care of the cake?” We ended up with eight sheet cakes – enough to feed all of Sacramento.

The second night, 30 former students, now professionals actively earning their living in the theatre, performed. I hired an accompanist and we used an open-mike format. What a wonderful experience it was for my current students to watch mature performers. It was absolutely magical. Everyone agreed this was the kind of reunion they wanted to attend — where they knew and loved the people they had worked with, rather than a class reunion where they knew only a few people. The neatest thing was that I was the only person in the room who knew everyone. We had so much fun, we’re going to do it again in five years. Only next time, I am going to have a reunion committee.

About the author
Lee Elliott is a free-lance writer who recently retired from teaching drama and creative writing at El Camino High School in Sacramento, California.