According to Wetumpka High School theatre instructor Jeff Glass, the school’s theatre program is a popular choice for students.
“Our theatre guild has 80 to 100 students each year,” Glass said. “Last year, 34 seniors graduated. I speak with other theatre teachers and they do not even have 34 students total. It’s wildly popular here.”
The popularity of program continues to grow, according to Wetumpka High School principal Dr. Robbie Slater.
“Mr. Glass just has a really good rapport with the kids,” Slater said. “They love being in there with him and they get a lot from him — not only with theatre but also life lessons. The theatre program gets kids involved in school which is a big part in helping them be successful.”
The theatre guild at the school has numerous success stories.
“Last year, five students signed performing arts scholarships for over $160,000,” Glass said. “In the last two years, three students were selected as rising artists of promise by the Southeastern Theatre Conference which is the largest theatre conference in North America. We had a show last year that qualified for the state finals and finished sixth overall.”
Glass said he is very happy with the work and recognition the students receive on stage.
“It puts this program as one of the top in the state and that is what we want,” he said.
Along with success and accolades earned by the students on the stage, Glass said it is the experience of working as a team and the lessons learned that really matter.
“The most important thing (working in theatre) does is it teaches them is empathy,” he said. I think empathy is necessary to being a healthy and successful adult.
Also, theatre teaches management skills and conflict resolution. Most importantly, kids need to learn how to fail and most don’t have that skill.”
Glass said students who take theatre fail daily. He encourages his students to keep at it until they succeed.
“Sometimes that takes weeks, days, months and sometimes it’s instant,” he said. “They learn to fail in an environment that is not always but largely a controlled environment. There are no dangers to it and they learn to overcome. I think that benefits everyone. If you’re going to be an engineer or a performer, you have to learn how to fail successfully.”
Glass has the unique experience of knowing exactly what his students experience. He was once a Wetumpka student who participated in the school’s theatre activities.
Now he is in his 16th year as the school’s theatre instructor.
“I was a military brat,” he said. “We moved to Wetumpka when I was in middle school. When you’re a military child, you travel around a lot. You have to find ways to entertain yourself and you have to find ways to make friends quickly. I think the imagination thing and social aspect of being a military kid pretty much lent itself to theatre and it is just something I’ve always been drawn to.”
Glass said he is drawn to education because he enjoys helping students grow.
“I love theatre, but if there is a greater word than love that’s the way I feel doing theatre with young adults,” he said. “You help them find their strengths and their confidence. When you see that light go off in a kid’s mind, there is nothing better.”
The Wetumpka High School Theatre Guild has produced a wide variety of performances including “Aladdin,” “Bonnie and Clyde,” “Footloose” and “Chicago.”
This year, Glass and his students started the school year with performances of “Frozen” and will perform “Second Samuel” during competitions.
“We produce a lot of work and we are very fortunate to have an audience that keeps coming back,” he said.