Q&A: Getting children on the stage is joy for lifelong mentor

Margaret Gray is one of those lucky people who says she has never grown tired of her work. Never has
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Margaret Gray is one of those lucky people who says she has never grown tired of her work. Never has, and never will.

Called “Doc” by her students, friends and family, Gray has been introducing schoolchildren to the theater for more than half a century, first in the Draper school district for more than 30 years, and since 1986 at Mohonasen.

A Schenectady native who graduated from Nott Terrace High School, Gray got her undergraduate degree in education in 1952 from The College of Saint Rose, and then received her master’s degree in elementary education and her doctorate in the arts from the University at Albany.

‘The Music Man’

WHERE: Mohonasen High School, Curry Road, Rotterdam

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 6

HOW MUCH: $10, $5 for seniors and students

MORE INFO: 356-8200 or www.mohonasen.org

The mother of two and grandmother of six, Gray lives in Scotia. She has retired from her teaching duties but still serves as head of the Mohonasen Drama Club and is currently in the rehearsal process for the school’s spring production of “The Music Man.” Along with the school’s fall production (“The Crucible”), Gray also oversees two summer theater programs, Mohonasen Masque and Li’l Masque (second through eighth grades).

Q: Why is the theater such an important part of a young person’s academic experience?

A: It can help a student in so many ways. I think a lot of children are afraid to stand up in front of a class and be singled out. The theater gives them some confidence that can go beyond the stage and into the classroom. Students can then feel comfortable talking in front of people and gain some self-confidence that helps them in the classroom and in life.

Q: Why “The Music Man?”

A: It’s so energetic and involves all ages — so I’m using the elementary school kids as well. It’s grades 3 through 12 in this production, 90 kids, and it gives a lot of students an opportunity to perform. There’s a lot of dancing and singing in songs like “The Wells Fargo Wagon.” So there’s a lot for a lot of people to do. We’ve done it once before, and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do it again, but then I thought it’d be a great idea. We’ve done almost all of them at least once. So I decided to do it again.

Q:What’s your favorite musical?

A: Probably “Fiddler on the Roof” because, like this musical, it gives you an opportunity to work with a large cast and there’s a lot for everyone to do. I particularly love “Fiddler” because the music is so beautiful and the story line is great. I love musical theater, but I also love the music from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. The Beatles were my favorite group.

Q: Are you surprised at how much talent there is in the high school ranks?

A: When you’re looking ahead trying to figure out your schedule, you’re always wondering, “Who do I have to fill these parts?” But I’m always recruiting, and I have a lot of students who have been with me for quite a while. Then it happens every now and then, you get somebody who just comes out of the woodwork. I’ve had a few seniors who try out for the first time, and they’re so good I think to myself: “Where have you been?”

We have two wonderful leads for “The Music Man.” Alex [Resila] is Harold Hill and he’s been with me for many years, and Alexandra [Tebano] has had smaller roles before, and now she has the lead. We have a great cast. The production is in very good shape.

Q: What don’t you like about the theater?

A: There’s a lot of competition nowadays in casting. So a number of students are disappointed and hurt because they don’t get the role they wanted. That’s the sad part. Once we get into the show, that’s over with, and we really are like one big family. That’s what I love the most about the theater. We all support each other, and the older children are always so nice to the younger kids. It really is like a second family to me. I’ve had a very full life.

Categories: Life and Arts

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