[AUDIO] New theatre teacher Meinhart emphasizes family atmosphere, encourages participation

[AUDIO] New theatre teacher Meinhart emphasizes family atmosphere, encourages participation

Lucas Fiscus
eSomethin’ Staff

Fiscus: So uh, hello would you like to introduce yourself, I guess?

Meinhart: Hello, I am Mr. Meinhart… haha you want more than that?

Fiscus: I mean, yea. Haha.

Meinhart: OK, I am Mr. Meinhart. I am taking over the theater program here, which includes the theater classes during the day and the extracurricular theater: fall play director, Winter One Acts, andthe spring music director. As well as the auditorium manager.

Fiscus: Cool! So when did you start teaching, or when did you decide that was what you wanted to go into? Why drama?

Meinhart: Actually, this is my second career. I went back for education in 2004, to get my teaching degree because I realized that through my previous career in management that my favorite part of management was teaching people. And I think I kinda always had known I was going to be a teacher, I was just kind of reluctant to do it. I wanted to go into the business world and make a ton of money. But working with the people and doing a bunch of training, that’s where my passion was, so I just said ‘you know what it’s time’. So I went back to be a teacher, I became a licensed English teacher, and I’ve been teaching for 13 years, so this is my 14th year in the classroom. But I became an English teacher, so that I could be a theatre teacher. So that really is my passion. And I’ve been actually in charge of a theater program for the past 12.

Fiscus: Ah, so you left management and making a lot of money to be a teacher and make a lot of money.

Meinhart: Ahhh right.

Fiscus: Where were you directing before this?

Meinhart: I was at Springfield High School for the past 12 years, in charge of their program and we produced a fall play in a spring musical every year — and I am pretty proud to say that we maintained and built a reputation for quality in a relatively small program so we did a lot of variety and very successful productions.

Fiscus: Okay so this can be taken in a number of ways. Originally when I asked Gentry this it was “what was your favorite musical you’ve done at PHS?” What’s your favorite musical, just in general?

Meinhart: Ah well it’s funny because my answer to this question often changes. What my favorite musical is, is usually what musical I’m working on, so I kinda tie them together. My favorite musical of all time, this is kinda a lazy answer but it’s gotta be “Hamilton.” “Hamilton” caught me by surprise, I think it caught a lot of people by surprise but Hamilton was the first Broadway show that I saw actually on Broadway, so it’s always gonna have that first love feeling for me. And the staging of it is incredibly creative, and obviously the storytelling is amazing, and the music is great and all that. But I really think it was because it was the first one I saw on Broadway. The day after Lin Manuel-Miranda was no longer in the show, and several other critical cast members but the cast we saw was phenomenal. And we heard rumor that he was still in the audience because he wanted to support the guy who took over for him. So “Hamilton” is my favorite probably of all time, professional. My favorite that I’ve worked on is actually “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” which interestingly enough the two shows have very similar feel to them in the way that they’re staged, where the the actors are a lot of the scenery and then they’re moving through the space rather than having the space move around them. But the story of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” is very much owning your outcast nature and knowing who you are and appreciating who you are and celebrating who you are and celebrating the differences in the people that are around you and I really think that that is essentially what we do in theater so it all it all comes together. And, the music for it is beautiful in the message is amazing.

Fiscus:  And for the people not into musicals, the musical version of “Hunchback,” you can find it online as a bootleg, it’s so much better.

Meinhart: Yes, yes, and it is the musical is based on the Disney film which is one of the reasons that makes it so charming and so accessible.

Fiscus: So now that you’ve kinda come here, this has been your seventh day?

Meinhart: Yeah so I’ve been here working for three weeks but we just finished our seventh actual school day.

Fiscus: How is it going?

Meinhart: It’s been great, I have been of course really apprehensive, coming in taking over for a legend right? And so I’ve been a little anxious about the way I would be received and so far everybody’s been phenomenal and I think then that it’s what makes me proud to be in the theater community but also which is making me excited about participating in Perrysburg Theatre is because everybody’s been really welcoming… really excited to get to work and get started and I really do feel like I am being welcomed openly rather than resistantly. So it’s a really good place to be and it’s a really feeling to know that we’re gonna be working together. I know there’s gonna be some bumps in the road as we get to know each other but I do think that it’s going to be a successful journey.

Fiscus: Okay I’m just going to the question I wrote originally, kinda the reason I did this. So you’re having an event in a couple of days as we’re recording this. Can you give us a hint on what the shows are gonna be?

Meinhart: OK so we’re having a big kick-off September 2nd, and I will be making all the announcements then. I will say that the fall play is going to be very different from what I think the Perrysburg stage is used to. It’s going to be a very unique, very cool show. The One Acts are the One Acts; they’re gonna be goofy and little bit of this, a little bit of that. But they’re all really cool titles. It’s gonna be a well-rounded evening. And then the spring musical, gosh I don’t really know what I can say without completely giving it away, other than I will say it’s a new classic.

Fiscus: Dang I’m gonna be thinking about this all night.

Meinhart: Yep it’s a new classic I would categorize it as a new classic so it’s not a brand new show, but it is one that I think everybody is going to be really, really excited about. I’m really excited about it, so I can’t wait.

Fiscus: Well you got everyone listening intrigued, I’m right now trying to think of one. This is gonna kinda lead to my next question. We’ve had our theatre the same for a pretty long time, do you have any differences? What’s your theatre department going to look like?

Meinhart: Well, certainly, you know, being the new guy coming in and when I started at Springfield I took over for a very well-established program and a very well respected program so I know to come in and not rock the boat. You know, I’m not gonna be making huge changes. In fact be the model of the shows are what I’m used to anyway, so that fits right in with my frame.

One thing that I really do want instill in this department, whether it’s a new thing or not I don’t know cause I just got here, but I really want to be sure that theatre is a collaborative effort. And that everyone who’s a participant in my theatre program feels important, validated, and vital to the success of the program. So whether we’re talking about the student who has the most lines and the most scenes or the student who is handing out programs and welcoming guests into the theatre, they’re both equally important and I want to make sure everyone feels that energy of welcomeness and family in our program. Because really in the theater there is a place for everyone if you have an interest, if you have a strength, if you have a talent of any sort (it doesn’t have to be theatrical talent), we have a place for you and we can find a way for you to shine in that way. So that’s what I strive for and then of course it is educational theater so I want to open up educational opportunities and I do hope that we will be actively involved with the International Thespian Society which hosts a local, state, and international conferences and things like that.

Fiscus: So is there anything you’d like to say to the wider [student body], not even all the people doing theatre. [inaudble]

Meinhart: Sure, so I guess just celebrate what you have to offer, and what’s being offered to you. There are so many cool things that Perrysburg has, just get involved and go out and appreciate it. So if you’re not a theatre kid or theatre person who’s gonna actively participate, at least come and appreciate the work it takes to do these things. So just, celebrate that this exists and you have access to this.

Fiscus: Yeah, especially after a year where we’ve kinda been in lockdown…

Meinhart: 100% yup, yup. So I’m expecting that I’m gonna be meeting a lot of audiences that I just need to get out of the house, so I’m all for it.

Fiscus: Well, thank you for sitting down with me.

Meinhart: Absolutely thanks for thinking of me and introducing me to the community.

The fall play will be a show called “Trap”, and the musical is “The Addams Family”.

Look out for Mr. Gentry’s last PHS interview before he left last year and other great eSomethin’ content!

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