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I really appreciate Playscripts and their work toward creating better theater and theater experiences for all. Jay Muldoon Theater Teacher, Fairfield, OH
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Teacher Spotlight: Deborah Carlson — Columbia Central High School

In this new monthly feature, we chat with teachers from around the country, picking their brain about their theater program and the art of teaching theater. First up: Deborah Carlson of Columbia Central High School, fresh off their run of the pop musical Cyrano de Burgershack.

What made you decide to teach high school theater?

I love teaching teenagers. I have been blessed with incredible talent and my kids love doing what they do—and what’s really cool is that they come from all areas of the school…band and choir, football and basketball and volley ball players, cheerleaders, and special needs. It’s quite rewarding for me.

How do high school students benefit from taking theater classes and working on productions?

I have found that theater brings out the best in kids—that they will say to me, “I’d really like to do the musical, but I can’t sing (or dance or acted before.)”  Well, let me tell you! I have taught the least talented kids to become the best of their abilities and seeing their faces just glow with their achievements is phenomenal.  They also learn how to work together, become responsible, and expand on their experiences past what they would normally do in high school life.

How do you choose a title to perform?

I was drawn to Cyrano because I knew it fit for my kids. Actually, I had been reading lots of scripts all summer and was just about to settle on another play from another company when just popped up on my computer. I was able to download Cyrano and found myself laughing out loud and knew my kids would love it!!

What made Cyrano de Burgershack right for your students and your school?

 Ditto above, plus the kids basically knew the songs since they are from their time for the most part.

Cyrano de Burgershack features pop songs by artists like Bruno Mars, Adele, and Madonna.  How did your students react to the music?

They loved them….every day one or more of them would say things like, “I just heard ‘My Prerogative’ (or any of the songs) on the radio today!”

 Favorite song in Cyrano?

I honestly loved them all, but one of my favs was “Call Me Maybe” because we had great choreography for it which we included the boys in even though it was for the girls.

Why do you think audiences continue to connect to the story of Cyrano de Bergerac?

Cyrano story is such a classic…my kids didn’t know the original story from 200 plus years ago, but a lot of them knew the movie with Steve Martin, Roxanne. They even did some google searching of the original story. So it was a learning tool, as well as a very fun play. And, it’s that age old thing, boy loves girl, girl just wants to be friends, they have a disagreement, then all is well in the end.

What was your favorite moment from your production or rehearsal process?

There were so many great moments—during the “Turtle Love” song, two of our senior boys were doing this little stint behind Roxanne and Christian acting like turtles and my staff and I (plus the kids) would just roar with laughter, all the while Roxanne and Christian stayed in “the moment” of the song. So, I was able to purchase two turtle costumes and they boys wore them for the performances. It was priceless!


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