History of the Drury Drama Team

 A National Reputation

     A major step in my own professional development was joining the Educational Theatre Association, parent organization of the International Thespian Society. In 1993, I ran for Massachusetts State Director of the EdTA and was elected. I held the post until 2005 when I retired as the result of term limits. In 2000 I was the EdTA board of Trustees selection for induction into the EdTA Hall of Fame, presented that year in Washington D.C.
During my tenure as State Director, I created the Yankee Thespian Festival. This is a meeting of schools from throughout New England, New York, and Eastern Canada. An exciting event of the Yankee for me is the International Cast, a cast composed of the best students from all the participating schools. The International Cast has only one day to prepare the play. I direct the cast. The Drury Drama Team has been an active participant in Thespian Festivals. We produced plays at 16 International Festivals in Indiana and Nebraska and have produced plays at all the Yankee Festivals. Two of our students, including Allison Rennell, was elected as one of seven national student leaders in the Thespian Society. 

By the late 90s the Drama Team had evolved into an academic department of theatre with a national reputation for innovation and excellence.  In 2000 we hosted the Yankee Thespian Festival in cooperation with the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA.) During our 2001 -2002 season, our theatre was completely renovated along with the entire school. MASS MoCA was very generous and offered their space and staff to us to produce our second production of The Miracle Worker. Over 1300 students and teachers attended this multi-media extravaganza. In November of 2003 we saw an even larger audience when we presented The Wizard of Oz with a cast and crew of 200. Our actors ranged from second grade to to senior citizens. We received a lot of publicity when our cast marched in full costume in the Fall Foliage Festival Parade. After the play our cast went to Broadway to see the musical, Wicked.  In November of 2002, the curriculum committee of Drury High School approved the creation of an honors level theatre course. This signals an entirely new academic challenge and opportunity for the Team.  

A Beginning

The Drury Drama Team has gone through a unique metamorphosis. Starting as a casual extra-curricular activity, it eventually has become a nationally known academic department of theatre.
 Near the end of the 1988-1989 school year, I approached the English faculty of Drury High School with a request to be a volunteer director for a play about drug abuse. The project was turned down because the English faculty thought that the subject material simply would not be accepted well by the students. I remember accepting their decision and almost leaving the building. At the last moment, I decided to give it one more try. I thought that somehow this was an important project that was worth doing. I asked Debbie Coyne if she thought that another play might be more acceptable. She was enthusiastic and the Drury Drama Team was born. What I eventually directed as the Drama Team's premiere was the one-act play, Juvie by Jerome McDonough. It's a bit scary that our theatre program, that has grown and prospered for over two decades and has developed a national reputation for excellence, almost died before it was born! I have since come to rely on Debbie Coyne as my inspiration and mentor in the field of education. She and Principal Roger Cirone were invaluable to the Team and personally to me by giving me direction and advice. 
Developing Its Own Identity

     A great deal has happened with the Drury Drama Team since its founding. At first, the Drama Team was an extra-curricular program producing a few one act plays. After two years, Roger Cirone gave the Team the status of a regular full credit course as part of the English Department. The first year of the course I had four students. These students were seniors that were selected as being very conscientious and serious about theatre. Three of these students continued with theatre in college. 

     The first full length play produced in our third year, was The Diary of Anne Frank. Andy Hoar of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (then North Adams State College) was extremely generous and constructed scenic flats and platforms that were used for many years for drama and music department projects. For this first full length play, my family was very helpful. My daughter made some costumes, my mother made cookies to sell during intermission and my parents and daughters sold refreshments before the play and during intermission. My father made the posters. Even my dental staff got into the action with my dental assistant and Darlene, my wife selling tickets at the door. Now I have a dedicated staff of  volunteers that do all this work, but it's nice to reminisce of the days when it was a "family affair." 

     A year or two later, at the request of Debbie Carter, the Drury Drama Team became its own academic department, separate from the English Department. I had known Debbie when we were both students at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. We met on the UMass stage as actors in the production of Li'l Abner. I was "Mayor Dawgmeat" and she was one of the Dogpatch maidens.
  A Very Active Theatre Program

Over the next few years, the Team grew and settled into a schedule of producing full-length productions, monologues, children's plays, field trips, one-acts and working in cooperation with the Music Department on the musical play every March. In addition, we produce plays at the Yankee Thespian festival and the International Thespian festival. We are most proud of staging two world premiere plays that have since been published. Removing the Glove by Clarence Coo concerns homophobia. The other, G.L.A.M.O.R. is by famed playwright Stephen Gregg. A few of the major productions we have done are as follows: The Miracle WorkerOur TownSkin of Our TeethRomeo and JulietA Midsummer Night's DreamThe CrucibleAlice in WonderlandOne Flew Over the Cuckoos NestThe Wizard of OzThe Children's Hour, Radio TBSThe Wizard of Oz and Little Shop of Horrors. Of course, this is an academic course and not an extracurricular activity. As such, all of the productions that we stage are done as part of the theatre arts course and include class work in many aspects of theatre. I consider the plays just a "side effect" of the course. The real products are the skills and development gleaned by the drama students.
The Drama Team's Progeny

The Drama Team has been so successful that other theatres have been formed in its image. Another local high school formed its own Drama Team and Drama Teams have been formed in a middle school and grade school in North Adams. In 2004, Drama Team alumni "gave birth to" Mill City Productions, a new community theatre. On April 16 the new theatre starred Drama Team alumni Liz Urban, Mike Grogan, Marissa Carlson, Tim Mangun and Jackie Degiorsis in its premiere show. I felt like a proud father! 

Dr. Len Radin

Diary of Ann Frank - December, 1990
From our production of Little Shop- 1997

On May 3, 2006, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney presented Doc with the Points of Light Award.

Note: Doc says that in no way does this
reflect on his political leanings!
The End of the Drama Team ?!

On November 20, 2006 I sent out the following e-mail:
Dear Friends, Our Crucible production proved once again that our students have what it takes to stage high quality, meaningful theatre. I was very happy with our efforts. The Drama Team has been among my most rewarding and satisfying experiences over the past 20 years. My students and alumni have always been and will continue to be very close to my heart. With that being said, I told my students today that I plan to eventually retire from teaching. It will not be this year or perhaps even not next year, but within the foreseeable future. My tuxedo is frayed along the edges.   
Two blue devils served as the logo of the Drama Team from 1989 to 2007
Before the Drama Team

There was theatre as an extra-curricular activity at Drury High School before the Drama Team was founded. It was in the form of the senior play or the annual musical. There was no department of theatre before the Drama Team was founded in 1989.
A Rebirth. The Drama Team Lives!

Following the November, 2006 production of The Crucible, I contemplated retiring from my voluntary position. The prospect of ending the Drury Drama Team and theatre at Drury High School was depressing and was a decision not arrived at lightly.

When James E. Montepare, Superintendent of North Adams Public Schools heard about my plans, his reaction was immediate and definitive. He asked me to reconsider and within a few days established the position of District Drama Coordinator and offered me the position. My new job description not only would include exactly what I had been doing at Drury for 19 seasons, but also included building a comprehensive, sequential, academic department of theatre spanning all grades and schools in the North Adams Public Schools. My administrative duties would include recruiting an elementary drama facilitator for the three elementary schools and a middle school Junior Thespian Troupe facilitator who would start a Junior Thespian Troupe and teach theatre at Conte Middle School.

Our 2007-2008 twentieth season became a rebirth of the Drury Drama Team instead of the end. Our 20th season included six performances of a large cast production of The Wizard of Oz utilizing cast members from six years old to adult. In June, 2008 the Team traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska to participate in the International Thespian Festival. Mr. Montepare joined the Team in Nebraska for two days and received the prestigious National Administrators Award for his understanding of the importance of educational theatre and his encouragement and nurturing of the arts in schools. Our student, Anna Sebastino was elected as Region IV International Thespian Officer with an area of responsibility of the entire northeast quarter of the country. We presented the play, Booby Trap and participated in the Tech Challenge. The festival was a fitting end to an extraordinary 20th season.  The Drama Team lives! 

At a meeting of the northeast theatre teachers at Lincoln, Nebraska, it was announced that Dr. Radin has been named to the Northeast Educational Theatre Association Hall of Fame. He received the award at the Palace Theatre in Waterbury, Connecticut in December, 2008 at the Northeast Regional Thespian Festival.

As enumerated above, in 2008 a North Adams Public School administrator (Mr. Montepare), a teacher (Dr. Radin) and a student (Anna Sebastino) all received national or regional awards in educational theatre. Yes, the Drama Team definitely lives!

Booby Trap at the International Fesival
Here are our old logo and mascot.
Howard Cruse created a new logo and mascot to celebrate the rebirth and expansion of the Drama Team.
Hair - 1988 (one year before the Drama Team)
Mascot drawings ©2007 by Howard Cruse; 
used by permission of the artist.
Mascot drawings ©2007 by Howard Cruse; used by permission of the artist.
Anna, Dr. Radin and Mr. James E. Montepare
The last three years have seen significant growth of the Drama Team. With the elimination of Conte Middle School, Drury has become a five-year school. We have eagerly welcomed eighth grade students to the Team. In 2008 we presented Sunday Night, a new play by famed playwright Stephen Gregg. The play has since been published. We also took Twitch, a world premiere by Stephen Gregg to the International Thespian Festival in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Our production of Dracula drew record crowds and rave reviews. In 2010 we staged The Diviners by Jim Leonard Jr. to great success. Our production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest began our 24th season at Drury
Luke talks about Doc.
Twitch by Stephen Gregg
Sunday Night by Stephen Gregg
The Twenty-Fifth season of the Drama Team was truly spectacular. Over 100 actors, technicians and support personel were involved in a massive production of The Wizard of Oz. 
I am retiring from teaching - again.

The Drury Drama Team has been among the most intensely satisfying and joyful aspects of my life. It has become an extremely important part of who I am and what I do.  It never ceases to amaze me to see how much positive impact the Team has had on so many people over the past twenty-five years. It has changed lives, including my own.  I do think, however, that it is time to hang up my tuxedo. I want to retire from teaching while I still feel passionate about it. I want to retire while I still think it's a calling and not a job. I want to retire while I still feel unlimited energy whenever I enter the Drury theatre. I want to retire even though I will greatly miss the fine young men and women who bring the Drury stage alive.   I know there will be times that I will feel a yawning hole in my life, but my tuxedo is getting frayed and needs a rest.

I will finish the school year and will bring the Team to the International Thespian Festival one last time.  I will make myself available next year as a resource and mentor for my successor. Superintendent James E. Montepare and I will work to see that the Drama Team's 25th season is not the last. 
Break a leg. I love you all.
PS. I am NOT retiring from dentistry.