In a former life, I was a theatre kid. Awkward. Creative. Smart. Self-conscious. Belter-of-songs, alone in my room. You know, a theatre kid.
I used to put on shows in my backyard with the neighborhood kids. Writing, directing, acting and craving the applause from all of our parents who gave up 30 minutes of their afternoon to laugh at our Oscar-worthy shenanigans.
From my first show as Glenda the Good Witch in Wizard of Oz in third grade to joining a local theatre group during the summers in middle school, I was immersed in the process it takes to perform.
Perhaps it was the mark of being the middle child. My older sister was incredibly smart and excelled in academics. My younger brother was the family clown, causing a ruckus in whichever room he entered. Theatre was mine. It was something I did alone, away from the things my siblings had mastered.
By the time I got to high school, I felt adequately prepared. I had spent a majority of my young years, at that point, in the performing arts. Then I met my high school theatre director, Mr. Bodick. He had a few things to say and teach me about that…
Mr. Bodick passed away unexpectedly this summer.
A world I thought I had grown out of, a world that filled my heart with such joy and confidence, a world dotted with camaraderie and creativity, came flashing back in waves.
At a local gathering celebrating his life, an outpouring of sadness and beloved memories, made for a remarkably touching tribute to the legacy Mr. Bodick left his students. I was quickly reminded of how wacky and wonderful the theatre community is. I stood next to friends from long ago, who I giggled with backstage and those who I shared secrets crushes with during cast and crew afterparties.
For me, theatre was a much-needed outlet. It allowed me an opportunity to push through fear, focus on characters and memorization, practice my public speaking and provided me a sincere sense of accomplishment after every final curtain.
But more importantly, it gave me and so many others a place to belong.
Belonging. Something so needed in this exclusionary world. Whether you were a geek, jock, crippled with self-doubt and dramatic (who me?) or slept with your International Thespian certificate underneath your pillow–we all belonged on stage.
And, crazy enough, we got along.
Because we had to. We had to coordinate scenes, choreograph dances and sit through read-throughs, shoulder to shoulder with peers often outside our friend circle. Those opportunities taught us theatre kids much more than making sure to remember to point to the orchestra during final bows.
Mr. Bodick was a master of organizing the chaos and making sure everyone had a place on stage; whether that meant running around backstage being part of the tech crew or belting out tunes as the main character. Everyone belonged. Everyone.
Last night, we celebrated his life in a fitting way: by putting on a show filled with his favorite songs from musicals he directed in over 30+ years of teaching and directing. It was special, with very few dry eyes in the house. (It also didn’t hurt that a fellow alumni and two-time, Tony award winning actress, Sutton Foster joined the stage.)
Yours truly also performed a number from Oklahoma with current and past theatre ensemble casts. My heart breaks for the kids at school who won’t have him for a teacher during their tenure. Being back on my old stomping grounds reassured me, though, they would be okay. Theatre kids are resilient like that. They showcased the same camaraderie that made my theatre years so special.
The normal routine of the pre-show jitters, happened of course. Heart pumping beforehand. Practicing the moves backstage. Taking a quick nervous pee in the dressing room right before. I can’t tell you how surreal it was being back on stage in my old high school.
Everything looked the same. Smelled the same. Being on stage felt the same.
I ran into teachers, old friends (including my pals, Dan Clay, AKA: Carrie Dragshaw and Lauren Molina) and friends’ parents, some of which had silly stories from my youth. Some even reminded the hubster how lucky he was. (Their checks are in the mail.) Dare I say, I felt proud.
Mr. Bodick would have been proud. In fact, I’m lucky enough to have his words right here on my blog, saying as much, from a post I wrote years ago about how important teachers are.
For a man who treated his students like professionals from the get-go, hearing he’s proud of you is the cherry on top of a life forever touched by his dedication to his craft. It
meant means the world.
It always will.
Thanks for so many fond memories, Mr. Bodick. You’ve made a lasting impact on so many theatre kids–turned adults–who won’t forget.
Donna Guith says
written Caroline. Mr. Bodick would be so humbled but so proud!
Caroline Peterson says
Awww, thank means so much! Thank you!
Mary Ann Redhage says
Thanks for sharing – this was so wonderfully put. I adored Rick (I still feel strange calling him that…) I was a student of his in his first year at Troy High, and in his very first Musical (Fiddler on the Roof). I went on to do all the other shows I was able to with him directing, and you are so right…he treated us all like professionals. I’m sure that is why all of his productions were top notch. I really wanted to be there for the tribute but I’m now in South Georgia and couldn’t make it. I’m sure he was looking down and so proud of all of you and he had to know how many lives he has touched.
Mary Ann (Tighe) Redhage
TTE Class of ’89
Caroline Peterson says
Of course! It is odd calling him Rick. Thank you for sharing your memories too. <3
What a beautiful tribute to a wonderful educator. Thanks for sharing this story from your life and how it was influenced by such an incredible experience. I was always envious of the theater kids at my high school. I always wanted to be one of them but always lacked the confidence to just own my dance experience and learn the rest.
Caroline Peterson says
You still can do it! Theatre is great for all ages. 🙂 And thank you!