As a finale to my "Reunion week" here are a few thoughts on my experiences in high school Drama class. Led by Gary Bowman, a "young turk" just out of college, all of those things emasculated in the other classes were explored in depth here: The war, politics of fascism, alienation and despair, comedy and tragedy, and of course- young love. The class itself was rather free-form, with an emphasis on improv and student-written material. And the discussions! Mr. Bowman was always in trouble with the administration (or maybe he just needed a smoke) and was out of the classroom so we had a lot of time to converse with each other. Nevertheless, I managed to learn, mostly about girls. For some reason, perhaps because we were "acting", the usual male-female routines that kept us divided had been disrupted just enough that some real interaction took place. Not quite full-blown psychodrama (although psychodrama was hot at the time), but close enough for sixteen and seventeen-year olds. Ionesco, Brecht, Shaw (GB and Irwin), field trips to the Guthrie Theater and, what was even more thrilling, field trips to Sir Tyrone Guthrie himself!
The instructor encouraged me in a way that I had never previously experienced. Writing skits, making sound collages and radio plays, film making, painting (that big white thing on the wall behind his face in the photo above), exploring photography and, of course, acting. A few years after my graduation, "Art magnet" schools opened and these offerings became part of the regular curriculum. He bailed me out of my underground newspaper mess by arranging that my student assistant work would count as that final credit I needed to be able to graduate. I really think my life would have taken a turn for the worse without his support- or rather, a much sharper turn for the worse. He was a champion for all of us, a fighter. He grew disillusioned with education and left teaching altogether after the next year.
I'll spend tomorrow night with many of those drama classmates. I've seen the list of attendees, it really is quite remarkable how many of them will be there. My joy at seeing them again will be no act.