OK, I'll come right out and admit it. I'm not a big fan of Shakespeare. I'm fine with a sonnet here or a snippet of "all the world's a stage" there, but to sit through two hours of grandiloquent oration? Thanks, but no thanks.
I was a little underwhelmed when my daughter brought home the news that her North Hall High School drama class was presenting "A Midsummer Night's Dream." I figured it was one of those productions that I'd just have to endure because that's what moms do. It's in the job description.
My interest was piqued when I found out Gail Jones would be directing the play. Gail and the Glazers go way back. When our Molly, now 23, was a preschooler in White County, Gail directed her in "Charlotte's Web" at the Sautee-Nacoochee Community Center. Molly's first lines, spoken as a baby duckling, were, "Honk, honk. Waddle,waddle. Beep, beep."
Molly went on to be cast in any number of other plays directed by Gail. There was "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever," "Oliver" and "Narnia."
Molly brought her love for theater with her when we moved to Hall County. She continued to study acting and theater in high school; her name is etched onto a star in front of Gainesville High's performing arts center. Now she's in graduate school with hopes of teaching language arts and theater in a high school somewhere, someday.
Throughout the years, Gail taught special education and ran the theater program at White County High School. Her daughter, Blake, and Molly acted together at the Holly Theatre in Dahlonega. As high schoolers, they performed in "Annie Get Your Gun" along with another of Gail's students, Blake Daniel. If the name's familiar, it's because he went on to star in Broadway's "Spring Awakening."
At the beginning of this school year, Gail moved to North Hall High School. The plan was for her to teach special education and co-teach theater with Jan Ewing. She and Jan are both talented teachers and gifted directors. When the two of them combine their talents, the results are simply magical.
Take for example "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Instead of using the traditional Athenian forest setting, Gail placed it in 1968 San Francisco. The fairies wore India-cloth skirts, gauzy tops and flowers galore.
Lysander and Demetrius, the knights, sported uniforms right out of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band. There were tie-dye shirts, love beads and go-go boots. The band, which provided Greek chorus style introductions to the scenes, played 60's hits by the Turtles, Simon and Garfunkel, even the Cowsills' "The Rain, The Park and Other Things."
Our Rachel was the pianist and a vocalist in the band. I was thrilled and amazed when I heard my 14-year-old daughter unerringly channel Grace Slick in "Somebody to Love."
I went to the play the first night because I had to. I went back the next night because nothing could have kept me away. For the first time ever, I really enjoyed Shakespeare. I laughed until my sides ached as Cody Ballard's Puck wove his magic and turned a pompous actor into, literally, a jackass.
Gail, Jan and their students worked a miracle. They made a 400-year-old classic accessible to the Facebook generation, and to me.
I noticed there were lots of tears that last night as the cast and crew called Gail up to the stage and presented her with flowers.
It was only later that I learned the story behind the tears. Gail is one of the Hall County 100, teachers whose contracts will not be renewed next year.
That's a fine fare-thee-well. This woman has given so much, has still much more to offer our kids and she's being swept out the door like chalk dust.
I realize it's not a personal thing, just a matter of last hired, first fired. It doesn't make me any less disappointed at the thought that my Rachel won't get to benefit from working with this amazing educator.
Gail will, I'm sure, land on her feet. It would take a pretty shortsighted administrator to not recognize all she brings to the table. Oh, wait ... that already happened, didn't it?
Originally published in the Gainesville Times on march 20, 2009