Some of you know that I am the faculty advisor for my school’s drama club. When our school decided to create more activities for our students who were not athletically inclined, the subject of creating a drama club came up. Without my knowledge, it was agreed that I would be in charge of the drama club, even though I had no experience with theater. Thankfully, I have wonderful support from other faculty members. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, even if it is more work than I could ever imagine. So for any of you who have helped direct or helped with student theater, here is Samantha Bennett’s “Ode to the Drama Teacher.”
Ode to the Drama Teacher
By Samantha Bennett
And as you stand there: Aghast
Because we’re three days from Opening Night and
Ado Annie still doesn’t know her lines and
The Dream Ballet is a Nightmare and
The Light Board Op just got Detention…
Let us now praise You.
You, the Permanently Fatigued.
You, the Loyal-to-the-Point-of-Self-Neglect.
You, the Keeper of a Thousand-and-Eleventeen Secret Dreams.
You are the one who makes it all Look So Easy.
Who would have expected that the most important Skill you learned getting your BA
Juggling Paperwork and Personalities and oh, right — weren’t you supposed to have a
Private Life around here somewhere?
But even though you are Sick to Death of
Spoon River Anthology
You still puddle up every time you hear
There’s A Place For Us
No matter how Off-Key.
And while you still remember when you
Brought the House Down in
You now love This House.
You have created a House where any child — no matter how Flamboyant, no matter how Shy —
Can embrace their Inner Ethel Merman (and thanks to those English 101 classes you now must teach, you are keenly aware that using “their” in the previous sentence is increasingly considered correct and honestly, it’s really the only sensible answer as writing “his or her” is as damaging to poetry as the participle that dangles.)
And you have created a House where any child — no matter how Flamboyant, no matter how Shy — can dive straight to the Deepest, Darkest, Quietest corner of human suffering and bring a room of teenagers — and yes, you, too — to silent tears.
You have made a Home for the Misunderstood
A Family for the Misfit and a
Safe Spot to land no matter how bad The Mid-Terms are.
Because despite all the Budget Cuts and
The Paperwork and
The Meetings about the Meeting to Schedule the Meetings and
The Truancies and
Dear God The Parents and
Did we mention The Paperwork?
Nothing on this Green Earth compares to watching a group of kids
Learn the true meaning of Ensemble.
And nothing compares to the pure joy of watching The Ones whom you knew would Eventually Get It
Finally. Really. Get It.
And nothing nothing nothing compares to The Confidences shared in low tones as they seek you out in
The Choir Room
The Front Seat of the Van on the way home from Fullerton.
You aren’t teaching Drama.
You are teaching Life
Which we all know is a Comedy — a Chekhovian Comedy — but a Comedy nonetheless.
And you aren’t teaching Choreography
You are teaching them to Dance.
And you aren’t teaching them how to be a Character.
You are teaching them how to be Themselves.
So here’s to you —
Making room for Art in a world that seems to have no room for Art.
(Because, by the way, that room has been repurposed as the new Standardized Test Prep Center — you don’t mind rehearsing outside, do you?)
And here’s to you —
Scrounging around for new shows that somehow match the sets you already have
Because some Genius on the School Board has
Recently Announced that not only can you not perform Huckleberry Finn
Or Anouilh’s Antigone (probably because he couldn’t pronounce it) and
Given the flap over the Scene from M. Butterfly last year, I guess
March of the Falsettos and The Vagina Monologues are
Out of the Question for the Spring
So Oh Dear God it looks like it’s going to be
Arsenic And Old Lace one more blessed time.
But that’s OK
I love Arsenic And Old Lace.
So here’s to you —
Making room for Another Coffee Mug with
Those Damn Masks on them
Making room in the Chorus for
Just One More
Making room for Each and Every Child
Samantha Bennett is a working actor and writer based in Los Angeles, and she’s the creator of The Organized Artist Company, an organization dedicated to helping creative people get unstuck from whatever way they’re stuck, especially by helping them focus and move forward on their goals. Bennett wrote this poem after presenting two days worth of workshops for CETA (California Educational Theatre Association) at their annual retreat at Asilomar, California, to honor drama teachers and their extraordinary work.