Trish Dry: Drama Teacher
by Sharon Furrate Bailey
A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell when his influence stops. -Henry Adam
What drew you to earn your degree at LSU after working in the marketing/advertising profession for so many years?
A: I attended LSU twice. I was a student in the ‘80s and returned in 2011 to pursue a liberal arts degree because I realized there was a need for volunteers in the arts. But my desire was to become a teacher. Luckily, upon graduation, I was blessed to join the talented theatre arts team at the number one school district in the state, Zachary Community schools. During my first year, I traveled to four campuses teaching theatre to students in the talented program, grades K-8. After just one year, the program doubled so we brought in another part-time teacher and I taught students in 5th-8th grades. The program continued to grow each year. Today, I am full-time at one campus teaching 6th through 8th grade students. This schedule allows me to focus even more on productions and communication skills for my students.
What do you like about teaching drama/ performance arts?
A: Acting allows one to become someone else. Growing up an only child in a rural community, my imagination was my best friend! My cousins and I would put on variety shows at every family gathering. I could easily entertain myself for hours. My first chance to perform came to me at University Louisiana in Monroe, and later, in my mid twenties, I made many lasting friendships by being cast in several Theatre Baton Rouge productions. As a teacher, I let my students know, that when one takes on a role, it is time to leave all personal issues at the door. During the 50 minutes they are in my class, they are free to be someone else. I encourage them to focus and become the character he or she is playing. I hope that their time in class allows them to escape as it does mine. Directing is very fulfilling. It allows me to have a vision of a production and see it come to fruition. Sometimes (at the end of a production), I weep when I witness the growth in my students. It never gets old.
For many of my students, their role in this on production may be the only time that he or she ever perform in front of a live audience … and that’s okay!
Not everyone is destined for Broadway, but those I teach at least had a taste of the artistic world. Theatre incorporates every aspect of learning. Science, foreign language, math, history, PE, business technology and economics are all wrapped up in theatre. It builds self- confidence and improves reading and articulation skills. Have you ever thought of theatre in this way? My students also learn to hear the word “no” and accept it. This genre is one that has a lot of no’s. I like to think they leave my class with skills for the real world.
Do you feel acting and singing are spiritual gifts?
A: I absolutely believe some are blessed with the gift of music and acting and these natural abilities are God-given. I like to encourage my performance art students to pursue their dreams. I know from my own experience with my daughters that had they not been exposed to the arts, they may have gone down an entirely different career path. My oldest, Shelbi, graduated from Samford in Birmingham, Alabama and teaches theatre at a Montessori school. Emma, my middle daughter is a music education major with a minor in praise and worship and vocal performance. They were both exposed to the arts at an early age. I believe this helped shape their career paths. My youngest, Grace, will be an amazing patron to the arts! She tried acting and tech theatre and although she was gifted, she will pursue a degree in medicine. We are excited that someone will keep us all healthy!
You have directed many productions in Zachary. Which Q:are you most proud of and why?
A: Ha! It is hard to pick a favorite since each production has been so good. I have been blessed to direct for many years our community’s Black History Celebration, a “variety show” style showcase of all my students’ favorites, be it song, dance or skits. I prepared my high school students for competitions for years and they have won numerous awards. In addition, I have had the honor of working with the 8th grade Northwestern Middle School musical for years with the amazing Paula Swilley who is now a close friend. There are many other productions I have worked on with the students and other professional teachers, but too many to mention. These productions I have worked on were all meaningful, but one that will never escape me was a musical I was asked to direct. We had all the major players in place and were ready to move forward in our rehearsals, but we lost our musical director. I have never seen a group of students come together and make it happen. Our production was Broadway quality. We had directors and students from schools all over the state come to see our performances. The set was designed by Jeremy Reynolds who is now a professor at Louisiana Tech. Tony Rollins, an amazing choreographer,
worked with us as well. I had an amazing tech and house management student team led by Curtis Hooper And did I mention the lead in the musical? Well, Emma Dry, my daughter, played Tracey. It is a wonder we even speak today! We all faced the challenge together and my mom’s gumbo helped provide sustenance as we rehearsed.
What are you working on this academic year in terms of productions?
A: At Northwestern Middle School, I am teaching an Intro to Drama 7th grade class which has new students every nine weeks. Those students get a crash course in basic theatre and will perform a one-act play. My 8th grade advanced musical theatre class will be performing Alice in Wonderland, Jr. The Musical.” I will also co-direct an 8th grade advanced “straight” play class which will perform “Once Upon a Crime, The Trial of Goldilocks by Flip Kobler and Ciny Marcus.
Describe your personal journey as a wife, mom and drama teacher.
A: God truly enlightened me to pursue this journey and I am blessed. In 2008, my husband John and I opened our family pharmacy, Dry’s Pharmacy in Zachary and once it was up
and rolling, I returned to LSU. John has been so supportive! Yes, we have had trials, but I know that God is sovereign. Professionally, teaching theatre is my ministry. Each day I have the opportunity to share God’s love to my students. I have met families I never would have encountered were it not for teaching in a public-school system. God has sent me students with literally nothing—holes in the floors of their homes, no food except what they eat at school, and no Christmas presents! They help me put my selfish, minor trials into perspective.
Do you have a favorite book of the Bible or scripture that is most meaningful to you?
A. I actually have two favorite scriptures that are my “cling to” verses: “God didn’t give me a spirit of fear, but of love, power and sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?
A: Yes. I am on a 20/20/20 plan. I like to tease my husband. I told him that I plan on changing careers every 20 years. My final career will be as a travel agent. Free vacations, right? By the way, this makes my husband a tad nervous. However, I expect him to come with me.
William Shakespeare’s famous monologue As You Like It begins with, “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players.”
My friend and drama teacher, Trish Dry, would probably tell Shakespeare, “Yes, all the world is a stage, but I think the students should give mine a try.”