Local teachers return to the stage in “9 to 5”
by Mason Neil
This month, Gesa Power House Theatre’s production of 9 to 5: The Musical is bringing several of the region’s theater teachers out of the classroom and onto the stage. Kristin Glaeser (Walla Walla High School), Heather Johnson (Pasco High School), and Eric Rohde (Walla Walla Catholic Schools) are playing the roles of Doralee, Violet, and Joe, respectively. Their return to the stage has given the teachers a chance to reconnect with their love of acting and gain experience that they’ll be able to bring back to their classrooms.
Kristin Glaeser worked as a professional actor for several years before teaching at Walla Walla High School, and she says she’s eager to be back on stage: “I’m very excited to be acting again. Not only is it one of my passions, but it will help my teaching when I return to school this fall.” Glaeser hopes her fresh experience under the guidance of director Tyson Kaup will give her a new perspective of what it takes to put on a show, and how to direct the student actors she works with. “I think it is important to keep a balance and understand what goes into a theatrical production. I’ve spent the last two years really focusing on the directing side of things, so 9 to 5 has been not only fun, but a good reminder of what it means to be an actor.”
For Heather Johnson, her experience with 9 to 5 will also inform how she directs and engages with her students. She says the opportunity to participate in a show with a cast of professionals from Walla Walla and around the Northwest has helped her develop her craft: “I always consider any theatre participation outside of school to be ‘Professional Development,’ as it revitalizes my love for theatre and reminds me of the pressures of performing, which of course will influence the way that I coach students.”
The professional atmosphere at the Gesa Power House Theatre has changed Eric Rohde’s expectations for the students he works with in his drama classes. The high pressure, condensed rehearsal schedule of 9 to 5 is much faster than the shows Rohde directs, and he says the demands of the production have inspired him to expect more from his students: “I’m hoping to tell the kids that a show works really well when people know their stuff. The cast comes together much quicker and things fall together.”
The themes of 9 to 5 translate into the classroom too. Director Tyson Kaup says he chose 9 to 5 because it connects with current issues, such as sexual harassment in the workplace, that have been highlighted by the #MeToo movement. “The concept of the show is about waking up—waking up, going to work, and doing something. And I want that to be the message of the show—waking up to reality, finally seeing how things are, and acting in a more aware and mindful way.” While set in the 80s, the show remains humorous while dealing with issues that are relevant today. To Kaup, it’s the perfect mix of entertaining and serious: “It’s a fun, lighthearted romp with a message.”
Actors, musicians and cast of 9 to 5 are each paid a stipend, which is uncommon for theaters in smaller markets. The cast includes actors from Walla Walla, Seattle, Portland, and Arizona. The show will run for two weekends from August 17-26, with two performances each Saturday. Tickets may be reserved online, at the box office, or by phone at 509-529-6500. Group sales are also available by calling 509-876-1662.
This article was also printed in the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin on Thursday, September 16.