Finding Mr. Clark
I am a huge believer in the power of social media. And recently that belief was strengthened yet again over a social media activity.
I found Mr. Clark thanks to Facebook.
Nearly every working actor today has a "Mr. Clark" somewhere in their past. Maybe from high school. Maybe college. Or even middle school if you were lucky enough to grow up in an arts-based community. But almost all thespians have a Mr. Clark. Or maybe even two.
Mine was the amazing Mr. Stephen Clark, drama teacher extraordinaire at Milwaukie High School. Go Mustangs!
Time for a secret:
I loved high school.
I know, odd. But I really did. And Mr. Clark and our merry band of Thespians were a huge part of that love. I participated in every show during my high school career either on stage or behind the curtain. From the seems-to-be-a-requirment-of-high-school-theater- Fiddler on the Roof to the hilarious Arsenic and Old Lace to our fair share of Shakespeare (high school Shakespeare, ugh!). Since this is my blog, I will say my personal favorite was West Side Story which we did my freshman year back in 1986. (In fact, that is the show the above photo was from. I played Anybodys, the tomboy that wants to be a Jet. Such fun.)
But no matter the show or our contribution to it, Mr. Clark made us all believe we could do a bang-up job. We were all stars to him.
The silly costumes and their sometimes malfunctions...
The opening night of Fiddler where our Tevye passed out from heat stroke. He was skinny Tevya from that night on...
The trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival where I had to be rushed to the hospital for what turned out to be, thankfully, a minor issue...
The laughter, blood, sweat and tears that made up high school drama.
I have tried, unsuccessfully, to find him for many years now. Partly to tell him (re: brag) I am a working actor. I wasn't all that fantastic an actor back in the day so I loved the idea of saying "Hey, look at me!" But mostly to tell him thank you. To let him know the impact I now - with the wisdom of age and kids of my own - know he was to my young life. Not to be dramatic or anything - actors never are - but I doubt I would be an actor today if not for Mr. Clark. I for sure wouldn't have loved my high school experience as much as I did without his influence.
So, I did that. I wrote him an email and told him of his awesomeness. And he wrote back and told me he remembered me and wasn't surprised to find out my career choice. He is still teaching and influencing our next generation of Thespians. In fact, one of his past students was so impressed with him that she started a Facebook group with the title "I Worship Mr. Clark". I know the feeling kid. I am going to go speak to one of his classes here soon and I am thrilled for the opportunity to give even a little back to this great man.
Who was your Mr. Clark and how have you honored them?
P.S. I know Mr. Clark well enough to know he will hate this blog post. He is a very humble man. He will just have to deal.