February 05, 2013

Mr. Hall ~ What A Mentor!

Yesterday I posted a blog about some experiences from high school. It reminded me of Mr. Hall, Mr. John Robert Hall, my drama teacher at Campbell High School in Campbell, California.

What a man, what a mentor, what a wonderful human being. I met him on the first day of my freshman year. He taught English I - Drama. My family had been very involved in plays and musicals. My mother helped found the San Jose City Children's Operetta Guild. I helped with make-up and costumes and backgrounds, so I thought that Drama would be fun.

Little did I know what a huge impact this class and this man would have on me and every other student in my class.

English is not often thought of as an exciting way to pass an hour of study in high school. English was definitely an exciting hour in Mr. Hall's class, from day one.

We studied plays. We didn't just read them, we devoured them. We tore those plays apart and studied the psychology of each character. We talked about the possibilities of what those characters might have experienced as children or young adults, as wives, as husbands, as mothers, as fathers to make them act the way they did in their roles.

We studied "truth," all the different modes of truth, universal truth, your truth, my truth, their truth. Perspectives of truth. We discussed if there were, indeed, moral truths.

He taught me how to speak to a couple of hundred people as if I was talking to a friend across the table.  He taught me how to laugh at myself.

Sophomore year, I took English II - Drama. Junior year, I took English III - Drama.  Each summer he convinced a couple of dear friends of his to come up to Campbell for the summer and help us with a summer production of various musicals. First year we did "The King and I". I played one of the wives but the best part was sitting in the seats of the auditorium talking about the different characters, the choices they made, the consequences of those choices, how those choices affected the other characters. We talked about how our choices impact our lives and the lives of those close to us, even the lives of our unborn children or the partners we would choose in the future.

I learned how to apply stage make-up. I learned how to build sets, I discovered that I was an artist and had some real talent.  I discovered that I could sew and I sewed some pretty spectacular costumes and props.

We presented Brigadoon. What wonderful music, what incredible dancing and singing but that all took a second place to the joy. Joy of creating, joy of being a part of a team. Joy of having an adult who believed in you, pushed you to be a better you.

I remember Mr. Hall's laugh. I remember his smile. I remember how he always called me by my last name, called everyone by their last names unless he had a nickname for you. Once he called you a name, Twiggy, Hammerhead, Circus, it stuck with you.  I have found that at school reunions I remember nicknames and have a hard time remembering given names.

Senior year in our high school, the only English class available was English IV - Literature. Mr. Tarr;s class (another incredible teacher but that will have to be another blog).  BUT, there was an elective class available to Juniors and Seniors. Theater Arts. The first year it was offered was my senior year. We seniors always thought Mr. Hall created it just for our class. You see, Mr. Hall's first year at Campbell High School was our first year too.  We felt like he felt like we were his kids, though he called us his clowns or his clunkers.  I think he felt that he would miss us as much as we missed him if we couldn't share that hour a day discussing "the bigger picture."

Mr. Hall taught us about life. He walked us through it.  He helped us test the waters of life through drama. His impact on all of us was unmeasurable.

I still talk with friends from high school (45 years later) and they will often make a comment about how "Mr. Hall once said...", "Mr. Hall told me...," "I didn't do it because I remember when Mr. Hall said...."

I tried looking him up about 35 years after graduation. I wanted to thank him for his time, his dedication, his "Mr. Hall-ness" in my life. He had passed away. The person I talked to told me that Mr. Hall and his wife had never had any children of their own. I knew better. Mr. Hall had several hundred children of his own and we loved him very much.

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