Dear Don: A couple of weeks ago, I went with Jim May and a cohort of wonderful people to Oaxaca for his annual storytelling retreat. It was really great! Since I usually tell folk tales, I set up for myself the challenge of creating a personal story. I created a story about how I fell in love with my husband, Marc. It was pretty great! I’m honing it for various audiences, now and I’m happy to have started a nice little collection of personal tales – for all ages.
While I was in this retreat, I thought about you a lot. I recalled what a wonderful mentor you were to me, not only in storytelling but in theatre generally and in theatre for young audiences particularly. I will never forget playing Mother Watson in Rags to Riches. That was so fun! And I recall making some epiphanies and break throughs as an an actor in that production, too. I also remember great chats in your office about the responsibilities of teaching drama to young people, and what an honor and thrill it is to do something that you love, and share that love with young people. That really describes my career in TYA and Theatre Ed to a T. I have absolutely loved what I do.
I started a creativity drama camp 16 years ago, and that is still going strong: the Frogwarts Creativity camp, three one-week sessions of immersive drama, where we create an improvised story that takes a whole week to build, play in real time and space, and resolve Good over Evil (so far!) It is a wonderful experience, with well planned, collaborative, devised drama – and the subject of my dissertation research. Yep, I’m working on a doctorate in Educational Leadership for “Learning and Change.”
Recently, I decided to leave the University of Dubuque and seek a position in a bigger school, someplace else. Being a one-person program is exciting but exhausting and I was ready for a new adventure – hopefully someplace warmer than Iowa! I am very excited to be joining the theatre faculty at California State University in Bakersfield this fall, doing TYA and Theatre Ed. You can bet I’m planning to bring in storytelling, too!
Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for being such a brilliant mentor to me, a loving man and a wonderful person. I wish I had kept in contact more regularly, but … I was busy living the life of a theatre artist / Mom / wife / teacher … and all that. And the time FLEW BY!!! Now I’m a grandma!!! My grandson, Magnus Elliott Muehleip was born in January and his presence on this earth has renewed my faith in humanity and reignited by passion for working with children and stories. I only hope I have inspired others as you have inspired me.
I think of you often, and with great love!