It began last September. A friend and I decided we’d do it. We brought a third friend on board. And we set out to put together a show for one of our favorite people on earth.
At times, it has felt like a pregnancy. Goodness knows, it’s lasted as long as one! All that planning which started way back in September of 2018 will finally come to fruition at the end of this month.
Three of us are organizing this musical tribute. And twenty-three “old-timers” are pulling themselves out of retirement to take the stage. We are doing it for our former teacher, director, mentor and the man we still call friend. His name is Harold.
Harold retired after 39 years of teaching high school college prep English in 1998 in a small rural community in northern Indiana. He has directed countless plays and musicals over the years while overseeing the business end of the theater and faithfully doing set and stage work behind the scenes. If you really want to honor this fantastic man, (and you live locally or semi-locally), I invite you to join us for his musical tribute show. Oh sure, I will be performing snip-its of all the roles I specialize in: the mean child, the ditzy blonde, the hussy, and the deranged woman who hates her job, but this show is not about any of the performers. In fact, there won’t even be a curtain call. You see, that would put the focus on the singers. And this focus will all be on our beloved former director and English teacher, Harold.
In a world where it seems everyone is out to make a name for him or herself, to climb the corporate ladder, and to go “big” let me share a few details about Harold.
- Upon his college graduation, Harold taught for one year and then moved to my beloved school district where he completed his career. Could he have made more money in a bigger school system? Absolutely! But he stayed and created a consistency that is rarely seen in any business, let alone in education, these days. Because of his steadfastness there was consistency in the English department and the school. There was consistency with those of us who were his students. I’ll admit, I didn’t feel overly prepared for much of college, but I was more than adequately prepared for my college freshman English class. All because of Harold.
- Harold demanded classroom excellence. We wrote and wrote and wrote some more. He was a stickler with grammar and I am sorry to admit, much to my blog editor’s chagrin, I still have never quite conquered the proper use of a semi-colon, but please don’t blame Harold! That’s all on me. He would give us two grades on our papers. The top grade was always my favorite because it was based on content and it was usually an A. Imagine my good-little-student-shock when initially my bottom grade (the dreaded grammar grade) was a C. I thank God for those Cs. It taught me there really was a bar for excellence and the bar would not be lowered. I would somehow have to work hard enough to reach that bar. (Man, I wish parents would let our teachers bring back that high bar!) Harold forced us to read an enormous amount of literature. I complained at the time (as any respectable teenager in the 1980’s would) yet when it came time for summer break, I’d been inspired and challenged myself to read a great American classic novel a week, not because I had to but because I wanted to possess just a fraction of the literature foundation Harold possessed. There’s no denying Harold played a huge part in my love of literature and writing. All because of Harold. (That’s a fragment and he’d kill me for using it, but he doesn’t have a computer so he doesn’t read my blog!)
- But perhaps the greatest contribution Harold made to my life was providing a quality theatrical program. For a kid who grew up doing theater it was a must that I attend a school where theater, good theater, was a reality. At age 4, I was actually in the auditorium when Harold produced the first musical on the stage in which I would one day perform. Who knew at the time the importance that stage, Harold, and what Harold started would have in my life? My high school years were not necessarily easy. I faked my confidence to hide my numerous flaws and insecurities as much as anyone possibly could, but the stage was always my home. The characters I played were my best friends. And Harold was supportive through it all. Later in life, when I was hired to teach elementary school at the same school system which I’d attended, it was Harold who gave me my chance to direct musicals. He believed in a 25 year old, bossy, brash theater buff, and because of his vote of confidence in me I was able to direct some of the neatest most talented young people ever. And let’s be real, I can hardly wait until the upcoming show just to spend time again with some of those “teenagers” I directed long ago. I even get to perform a duet with a young man who was in my third grade class the first year I taught so it truly will be a walk down memory lane for many of us. But once again, who made all of these connections possible with the never-ending investment of his time, talent, and treasure? Of course, it was Harold.
The theme of “finishing strong” keeps reappearing in my life. As my beloved octogenarian former English teacher and director ages, he still plays such a vital role in my life. In fact, just these past few months as I’ve slogged my way back to school through grad classes, he has encouraged me, checked on me to see how I’m holding up, and made me laugh with his unique sense of humor. He has listened to me. He has listened to me a lot since the wreck. And I never feel judgement but only the strength of a solid trustworthy mentor. Life is short and I want to be like Harold. I want to remain consistent. I want to always strive for excellence. And I want to provide amazing opportunities to young people (and adults) to help them find their place in this world.
I thank God for a wonderful mentor and friend in my life. I thank God for Harold. And as I grow old, I want to finish strong like him.
Until the next Wednesday the Lord allows.
Tickets for the Saturday, May 25 show, “A Tribute to Harold Norman: 45 Years of Churubusco High School Musical Theater” are on sale now for $10 by contacting: firstname.lastname@example.org.