Watertown theater

Watertown High School theatre teacher Edie Pope straightens up a workbench for tolls in the school’s construction room. She plans a large expansion of the school’s theatre program. ANGIE MAYES

The theatre program at Watertown High School is young, but first-year WHS theatre teacher Edie Pope has goals to make it a program all of Wilson County can be proud of.

Prior to this year, WHS didn’t have a full-time theatre teacher. Instead, teacher and coach Brandi Holcomb held the reins of the theatre program, producing shows each year and introducing students to theatre.

Pope, from Carmi, Ill., located in southern Illinois, has an extensive background in theatre, having done it for most of her life. 

She started with Fairfield High School’s production of “A Sound of Music” when she was in the second grade. After attending high school in Carmi, she had the good fortune of having a cousin who was a theatre teacher. That cousin and her husband, also a theatre major, started The Carmi League of Arts.

“They did a musical every year,” she said. “They did a play sometimes. The first show they did, I was in sixth grade. It was ‘Fiddler on the Roof’. And I was hooked. I was in every show after that. By the time I’d graduated from high school, I had done 21 shows.”

Carmi is just across the Wabash River from New Harmony, Ind. That town had a professional theatre troupe and Pope was cast in plays. 

“After that, I didn’t do theatre for years and years,” she said. 

 

Skills for the students

Pope worked in Rutherford County schools for 16 years, always involved in school theatre, before coming to WHS this year.

She said she loves WHS and loves the fact that the program is new, and she gets to create it. She hopes to be able to immerse students in theatre through all four years of high school.

“I don’t think any student should be prevented from having performance opportunities,” she said. “I truly believe in the value of the program. I do believe in creating a well-rounded, well-adjusted, very-capable adult. I believe in arts.”

She said she believes in “the art of theatre art. I think it is healthy for students not just psychologically, but it’s practical. They learn teamwork, they learn poise. They learn to think on their feet and that makes a good professional.”

In addition, she said the students learn responsibility, “because that curtain is going up. At this time, on this day, you don’t have a choice but to be ready. That makes a good professional.”

Theatre students learn practical skills in construction, sewing, electricity, cleaning, painting and more skills.

“Even being on stage,” she said. “It’s a living thing. It’s a dynamic state. It is not static. And you have to be on your feet all the time, working with another group of people all of the time.”

With the exception of hanging lights, which students are not allowed to do, the students will eventually learn to work the light and sound boards. They are already building sets, painting them, working on the stage floor and working on the curtains. 

“We have tackled all aspects of facility management,” she said of classes she’s taught this semester. “We have addressed public relations. We’ve done musical and theatrical productions. We’ve done dance. We have not sung, but we’ve studied the music.”

The students also learned about prop making, she said. They are now learning to juggle. 

Pope began at WHS at the beginning of the school year, and, just three months after school started, she produced her first play there, called “Ordinary Heroes”.  

Pope credited Holcomb for the work she did with the classes and plays.

“Brandi has done an outstanding job creating the opportunity for that,” Pope said. “Now it’s my job to create that foundation so the program can grow. So, this semester has been a mile wide and an inch deep.”

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