Sequim High School’s drama program is continuing on with some familiar faces.
John and Laura Lorentzen and David McInnes, all Sequim School District teachers, agreed to take on theater programming at the school, including the popular operetta and senior class play.
The trio replaces long-time SHS play director Robin Hall, who learned this fall her contract with the district would not be renewed.
The Lorentzens and McInnes said they are long-time friends with Hall.
“Robin is a very talented director and a good friend,” said Laura Lorentzen, who will co-direct the senior class play and operetta.
“Our goal is to continue the excellence of the musical program.”
“We just want to move forward in a positive direction and serve the students,” said John Lorentzen, who remains the musical director for the shows.
Sequim School Board members approved contracts for the three program leaders on Nov. 6. That includes McInnes co-directing the shows with Laura Lorentzen and directing Sequim Middle School’s “Shrek the Musical Jr.” in March, with John Lorentzen directing the music.
John Lorentzen said the push for them to take the job came after students feared the after-school drama program would go away after the all-school play, typically set for fall, was cancelled.
The three teachers said that, because of the timing of contracts, it was too late to cast and produce the all-school play.
No decision on an instructor for next fall’s all-school play has been made, they said, but the Lorentzens and McInnes said they would be interested in taking that on for the sake of keeping the tradition of three plays each school year.
The three are also looking to shift the senior class play, “Be True to your School,” from a two-week run to one weekend tentatively starting Jan. 31.
“Shrek the Musical Jr.” runs tentatively March 8-9 at the middle school, and the high school’s operetta, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” tentatively runs May 3-18, pending approval of licensing.
Backgrounds in drama, music
All three teachers have backgrounds in musical theater production.
The Lorentzens moved to Sequim in 2011 from Nevada. John, a Port Angeles native, teaches choral programming at Sequim Middle and High schools. He taught choral and musical theater for 23 years at Reed High School in Sparks, Nev.
“I found musical theater to be a great recruiting ground for the choral program,” he said, “especially for young men who thought it wasn’t cool to be in a choir, but cool to be in a play.”
He met Laura, a Sparks, Nev. native, in college at Brigham Young University. They married while attending school.
The Lorentzens later had a family and split time between being professional singers and teaching.
Laura took 12 years off from teaching while raising her children, but later helped direct the musical theater program at Reed High School with John for several years.
Once in Sequim, Laura taught music for elementary students and the choral programs for middle and high schools in Chimacum School District before accepting a position at Helen Haller Elementary as its music teacher this fall.
McInnes, a Sequim High grad, has been active in the local theater community and acted in high school. He’s most recently been co-directing, performing and helping behind the scenes at Olympic Theatre Arts with his most recent appearance in its show “The Explorers’ Club.”
He just took on teaching drama classes at Sequim Middle School after 12 years teaching math there and 16 years at Greywolf Elementary School.
The Lorentzens’ son, Mark, takes on the role of auditorium technician. He’ll manage scheduling and upkeep of the auditorium, too.
“Mark has spent hours trying to get things back up to their original capacity,” John said.
While taking on the productions means more work into the evenings, the teachers say they are excited to continue the programs.
With no drama classes at the high school, Laura Lorentzen said she’d like to see the program train the students more to be like in the theater field.
“There’s something very unique about getting a group of people together developing the many complicated elements of bringing a show together,” she said. “That memory is like a bonding experience for the kids they’ll have for the rest of their lives. That’s the magic of theater.”
McInnes said theater helps people overcome public speaking too.
While at a choral event at the University of Nevada, John Lorentzen said he ran into a former choral student who was attending law school. She told him a professor complimented her composure/presentation, which she attributed to musical theater.
Changing stage hands
The change in guard follows Sequim School District administrators’ decision to require after-school, co-curricular programs be led by certified teachers.
Hall, a Sequim grad, is not certified, but acted in high school and began helping with the high school’s plays in 1994 with “Little Mary Sunshine” before taking on directing duties in 2011, following the retirement of former instructor Christie Rutherford. Hall’s last show as director was the operetta “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” last spring.
Hall previously said she was under the impression she’d be leading the program again this fall after she and her husband Jeff, the former auditorium technician, met with school officials.
“I came out very happy thinking they’d want to do improvements in the auditorium,” she said.
But Hall was soon thereafter told by district staff they were “going in a different direction” with no further information about her or her husband’s positions. She continues to work as a Native American Advocate through the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe tutoring Native American students in Sequim School District.
Sequim school administrators in September said they were following federal guidelines under Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA requiring teaching certification in after-school programs like drama.
Former Sequim assistant superintendent Ann Renker said local school districts hold some authority over decision-making, such as requiring certification, until the state’s plan is approved on the federal level.
Requiring the change came in three-fold, she said.
• A goal of creating a level of fairness, also called educational equity, for students to have the same level of educational leadership in class and in after-school programs.
• The second is about preparing students for real life, and that if they have a career goal to go in the arts, a certified teacher is best trained to help, she said.
• Seeing/recording growth over time.
Sequim school’s superintendent Gary Neal previously said district staff is trying to anticipate federal standards that will require after-school programs with public performances such as in theater and science fairs that require teaching certificates to lead the programs.
“We definitely want to continue the program,” Neal said. “I’ve always been a proponent of the fine arts and performing arts.”
Through it all, Hall said she’s never been told of grievances or complaints in her tenure.
“No reasons were given other than you’re not a teacher,” she said. “We can’t figure out what we did wrong.”
Regardless, Hall said she’s trying to move on from the decision.
“To be honest, I didn’t look into it,” she said. “I get a pit in my stomach after thinking about years of shows.”
Her son will remain in the drama program, she said, and she feels the Lorentzens will do a great job.
For now, she’s going to continue to work, have Thanksgiving dinner with family, and she’s scheduled for a lumpectomy for breast cancer on Nov. 27. Hall said the tumor is very small and that doctors caught it early.
“I did everything right,” she said.
For more information on the drama programs, contact Sequim School District at 360-582-3260.