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A Start in Theater

I have many wonderful memories of the Lab School – mostly from working on plays but also from all the other activities and classes and friendships that sprung from going to that remarkable school – starting with Kindergarten in the little wooden buildings where the Rod Library now stands, through third grade in what is now Sabin with Miss Mantor, and finally down the hill to the new building on Campus Street. The teacher who probably had the greatest impact was not one of the regulars but a Drama Teacher from the college, Elaine McDavitt, who taught Creative Drama to 5-10 year olds in that wonderful little theater space on the second floor. Creative Drama usually meant making up the play from old or new stories but one time we had a script. Now this was not the most politically correct era, so a bunch of white kids putting on a play about Little Black Sambo was accepted. Not only did we do a play about all those tigers running about until they turned into butter but we “toured” it. We did the play for the kids at Lincoln school and the Iowa Braille & Sight Saving School in Vinton! Now here’s the point of this story’s effect on me. When the tigers had Sambo treed and were racing around threatening him some of the little ones in the audience started crying and I could hear them and I liked it. I don’t mean I wanted to scare anyone but I was aware that this was some wonderful power I had and this where I date the start of my sixty plus years in theater.

Jump ahead to high school and our junior year and a new Drama Teacher arrived. Ken Butzier had been a college class-mate of my oldest sister, K, and Mom thought we should audition for his first play to make sure he was properly welcomed. I got cast and the next year Les Hale arrived and between the two of them we all learned a great deal about the commitment and discipline needed for creativity to flourish. And this wasn’t just for theater geeks. It was for everybody. That was the genius of that school. There were only 200 or so of us in 9 – 12 and if there was going to be athletics, chorus and orchestra, science club, the newspaper and the annual as well as Chili Suppers and field trips; then everyone had to pitch in. And we did. It was a glorious time.


David Adamson ‘62

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