While we can agreeably cringe looking back at our high school years, high school theatre programs are what inspired many of performers today to pursue their dreams. I remember staying extra hours at school to rehearse and signing up for theatre technique classes. Most of my high school career was spent rehearsing and training instead of having a huge social life, and I think a lot of us can say the same. High school for many people isn’t the best, but theatre can save that.
I wish I could look back at my high school theatre program and have fond memories, and reminisce about the first time I was coached in a scene, or sung for my whole school. For a few months after graduating, I could. But as I am currently writing this, I don’t feel fond towards my high school theatre program anymore. I get a feeling of dread when I remember that my theatre teacher was found to be engaging in sexual miscounduct with one of his students.
I was somewhat lucky in my upperclassmen years. I got a few leads, I did successful work in my theatre classes, and I was cast in every production I auditioned for. At some point, most actors wonder why they were turned down for a role or why it is so hard for a director to look at them. I used to wonder that too. The theatre teacher seemed to always have his favorites, and he had two in particular.
I’ve been out of high school for half a year, and thankfully he has lost his job because of this. It made me sick when all of this was confirmed to know that I was in a setting that I thought was safe but had a predator who preyed on young girls who were my age and had a passion for theatre.
The worst part about this is how often it seems to happen in other high school theatre programs. Often, I read an article about the director of a drama club being romantically and sexually involved with a student, causing an upheaval of the program and students to suffer because of it. I have talked to other theatre students who have similar stories about a performing arts high school program having a teacher who preys upon minors. And it makes me sick.
We need to watch out for young students who may be targeted as a predator’s next victim. Of course, not every high school director is a predator. But I fear that it may be a rising issue and that young artists who have loads of potential as a performer may not get to live out their dreams due to the unsafe environment they are trying to learn in. I fear that young actors and actresses feel pressured to doing things they don’t consent to, just to be cast in a part they want. And the fear makes me sick.
If you are under suspicion that something that something isn’t quite right, please report it. if school officials don’t do anything about it, please seek law enforcement. If you feel ike you could be the target of predatory behavior, please ask for help. And hopefully, we can make the theatre community a safer place everywhere, especially in high schools.