It Takes a Village

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RodO… photo courtesy of Jasmine Osiowy

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” Henry Brooks Adams

As originally published in e-Know:

Mount Baker Wild Theatre’s spring musical production of the Drowsy Chaperone played May 7th at the Keys City Theatre. For those who have enjoyed the amazing Baker productions for the past many years, they will know this play marked the close of an era. The youngest group of students who had the privilege of working with the late, great Rod Osiowy are getting ready to graduate.

Rod was a special teacher. He believed in expanding and opening the high school’s theatre productions to include the whole community. It was not uncommon to see the chorus or main characters being played by local business people, clergy, and other pillars of society. And Rod encouraged children from the local elementary and middle schools to join the casts. Rod called it stocking the farm team. He knew that the love of theatre, when instilled at a young age, would carry through into the teen years. By the time the children who began performing as young as 5 years old got to high school, they would be seasoned performers, ready for whatever challenge Rod might throw their way.

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RodO and Evan… Photo courtesy of Jasmine Osiowy

Grease, Beauty and the Beast, Jesus Christ Superstar, Anything Goes, Seussical and Les Miserables, just to name a few, Rod Osiowy along with his partner in crime, Musical Director Evan Bueckert managed to create theatrical experiences far exceeding the expectation for a high school production. But more than that, Rod taught each person who worked with him the importance of being a part of the team.

It was a grand tradition. Opening night of each show Rod gave the Village speech. It went something like this:

A high school production is like a village. All sorts of people are part of the village. You have the Mayor and Council members, who look after the townsfolk and make sure that things are fair for everyone. There are the law makers and the ones who enforce them. There are trades people and artisans, builders and business people. All of the townsfolk are vital, important and have their own unique purpose. And of course you have the lovable village idiot (and Rod would point to himself, causing great gales of laughter). The thing about a village is that every person is important and nobody matters more or less than anyone else. We work together for the success of the village and we remember that the energy we bring will affect everyone. Attitudes are contagious, so make sure yours is worth catching.

Important life lessons from Rod Osiowy.

Tessa Charlton who played Mrs. Tottendale in the Drowsy Chaperone recalls: “Rod had a way of making everyone feel special. I loved to be the center of attention but Rod helped facilitate that diva in me in a productive way. Towards the end of one of the rehearsals we had for Beauty and the Beast, Rod approached me and complimented my eye for the number we had just been working on and asked if I’d address the cast with my opinion on what we needed to work on. I felt like the most special kid in the world, even If I was just an 11 year old kid playing a dancing tea cup.”

And Eve Sperling remembers: “He always knew how to make us laugh and he was so easygoing but just strict enough to keep all us hooligan kids under control. He always had a smile on his face and a joke ready, and he remembered everyone’s names, even if they were a small chorus part that to anyone else would be ‘insignificant’.”

The Village metaphor is kept alive and well by the young people who worked with Rod, carrying on a legacy of inclusion and mentorship. Tyrel Hawke, who graduated several years ago, has returned to the area to work as an RN at the Cranbrook & District Hospital. Hawke volunteered as the vocal coach and pianist for the production.

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Tyrel Hawke… photo by Julian Bueckert

“Quite often I’m asked why I volunteer my time for this program, and my answer is pretty simple. During the awkward point of my life I call high school, Rod and Evan took hundreds of hours out of their lives to spend with kids like myself and help us create something amazing. This led to confidence and purpose for me during high school and careers and opportunities ever since. Rod had a way of making each one of us feel special and that we can always try harder to achieve something great. I am forever indebted to Rod, Evan, and the Baker arts program. I’m still stopped occasionally by people saying, ‘aren’t you that Jean Valjean boy?’ ten years after we did Les Mis. I do these shows for the spirit of Rod, my younger self, and these kids that have a lot more drive and dedication than many adults I know.”

Bethany Turcon is the new Drama Teacher at Mount Baker and was the Director of the Drowsy Chaperone. This was Turcon’s first experience as a director and she managed to create a production worthy of all that have come before. Along with Evan Bueckert and Stephanie Tichauer, and a host of other fine and dedicated designers, musicians, technicians and volunteers, Ms. Turcon created another Village, one that lived up to the legacy created by Rod Osiowy.

Everyone should have a teacher as great as Rod Osiowy. Thankfully his legacy lives on in the fine work and dedication of the students and colleagues who carry on in the village he created.