1999 Hall of Fame Recipients
San Antonio, Texas
“Theatre education is, to quote the philosopher Gottfried Leibniz, ‘the best of all possible worlds,’” observed Charles Jeffries, who spent forty-two years challenging and inspiring the minds of students and colleagues. “It deals with all the arts, each day. Doing something different and finding a different way to accomplish any task is a daily adventure.”
Jeffries did not intentionally pursue a career in educational theatre. When he graduated from high school, he dreamed of being an actor and saw that as the only important part of theatre. But his mentor at Texas Christian University, Dr. Walther R. Volbach, insisted that all theatre majors secure their teaching certificates. Following this advice, Jeffries discovered that indeed his future lay in the world of educational theatre, from high school and college teaching to advocacy and advisory work.
“The most important thing I did for the cause of theatre education was to go to my classroom each day,” he said. “How else could I share more effectively my love of theatre than by training and involving young artists?” A colleague reflected, “In teaching theatre, he has also taught not only the other academic disciplines, but the love of learning, tolerance for others, and abiding respect for democratic principles. This is evident in his work, but more visible in the lives of countless former students who have become outstanding citizens.”
Jeffries spread theatre beyond the classroom by founding numerous theatre companies in Fort Worth, San Antonio, and elsewhere. As a member of the Educational Theatre Association, he has served as a Thespian troupe founder and director, Texas state director, regional director, and board member. He has also served in leadership roles for the Secondary School Theatre Association, the Texas Educational Theatre Association, and the Texas Alliance for Arts Education.
After retiring in 1994 from thirty-seven years of secondary school theatre education, Jeffries founded Texas Theatre Consultants, a not-for-profit group dedicated to enhancing instructors’ abilities and assisting them in educating students to their maximum potential.
New York, New York
Sandy Levitt knows professional theatre first-hand, as a performer, stage manager, company manager, general manager, producer, and teacher. He exchanged the front lines for an intermediary role to share the magic and reality of professional theatre with students.
Although he still was performing occasionally at the time of his Hall of Fame induction, Mr. Levitt spent the majority of his time as a partner in Manhattan Tour and Travel, Inc., a company that plans affordable educational theatre tours of New York City and England.
His company also brings theatre experience directly to students with workshops on improvisation, auditions, and musical theatre. Mr. Levitt has also conducted workshops at the Thespian Festival, the Educational Theatre Association convention, and state Thespian conferences. “When you work with students and you see a breakthrough in their performance,” he said, “there is a sense of pleasure. You know that you have in some way contributed to their life. Even if they will never have a career on the professional stage, they have gained an experience that will benefit them in other parts of their lives.”
Mr. Levitt was an associate producer of Broadway Jukebox, which ran Off Broadway, and was co-producer of Fanny and Sophie and Jolie and Eddie Invite You to Come to a Party in Chicago and Miami. On Broadway he was seen in Wish Me Luck, Roumanian Wedding, The Gypsy, and Oh Mama! Am I in Love! He appeared in the national company of George M!, Coco with Ginger Rogers, Anything Goes, West Side Story with James Darren, Fiddler on the Roof, The King and I, and Hello, Dolly! At the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario, he performed in The Satyricon.
Mr. Levitt began his career with the Garden State Ballet of New Jersey. He danced lead roles in The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Balanchine’s Symphony in C, and de Mille’s Rodeo. He was the associate director of the Puerto Rican Dance Theatre in New York and a guest teacher at the Alvin Ailey School, Brooklyn College, and the Roberson Arts Center in Binghamton, New York.
May 24, 1996 was declared “Jhon Marshall Day” in Cincinnati. The day marked Mr. Marshall’s retirement after thirty years of teaching theatre. In those years, he had an extraordinary impact on his students. They saw the theatre as their home, where they found a true sense of belonging and were able to succeed in a creative and warm environment that they seldom found elsewhere at school. Mr. Marshall’s last class of seniors drafted and signed a document “adopting” him as their father.
Mr. Marshall described his motivation as an educator as a combination of a love for theatre and the joy of watching the growth of his students. “Who can ever explain the feeling of watching a play grow from concept to opening night and knowing that the students involved with the production have grown as well?”
Mr. Marshall produced and directed more than one hundred plays in his years as a high school teacher, including performances at the Thespian Festival’s regional play marathon, the Ohio High School Play Festival, for community theatres, and on board Cincinnati’s Showboat Majestic. He has hosted two Ohio Thespian conferences, served on the Ohio Educational Theatre Association board, and last year was among the first inductees to the state association’s Hall of Fame. As an actor, he has performed at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and on the Showboat Majestic, the last of America’s original floating showboats. He has translated and adapted Spanish-language works for all-student casts. After retiring from teaching, he worked part-time at the home office of the Educational Theatre Association.
“His dedication to theatre is absolute,” a colleague stated. “His enthusiasm for drama and musical theatre is infectious… His working knowledge of theatre is encyclopedic. He has created a world of culture for himself and for many students who would in other circumstances have been denied such enrichment…”
Bobby Glenn Smith describes his most important role in theatre education as being “a FAN,” or facilitator, advocate, and networker.
He has facilitated the development of curriculum, assessment, professional development workshops, and conferences for theatre education. As an advocate, he has been instrumental in getting theatre and dance education added to Alabama’s arts education framework, including theatre content standards at each grade level and arts education as a high school graduation requirement. Smith has promoted teacher certification standards that would provide the state’s colleges and universities opportunities to develop teacher education programs in theatre and supply local school systems with certified theatre teachers. Networking has enabled Smith to have a broader perspective of theatre education, establish professional relationships, and gather resources that he can draw upon for inspiration. His network includes the Educational Theatre Association, National Association of Supervisors of State School Arts Programs, National Association of State Supervisors of Music Education, National Art Education Association, and the Music Educators National Conference, all of which he is a member.
Mr. Smith’s opportunities to network remind him of why he began his teaching career: “Theatre education is the window to the world. The schoolhouse’s traditional curriculum is so confining to a student, thwarting creativity, sensitivity, and self-confidence. Theatre education offers so many opportunities for students to grow emotionally, physically, spiritually, to expand their horizons beyond their immediate environments, to experience new lives and to walk the tightrope of life with the stage as the safety net. They develop the lifelong learning skills necessary for success in any career field. And they learn about caring and loving and supporting, and building pride in their work. That is why I am so avid about theatre education being the focal point in the educational lives of children.”
Mr. Smith’s work has been recognized by the Alabama State Board of Education and the Alabama Art Education Association, and most recently he received the Alabama Governor’s Arts Award. A colleague summarized Smith’s contributions to the field: “Dr. Smith has remained a voice for all fine arts education throughout the state. He remains a true friend of theatre education, exercising daily the mission of the Educational Theatre Association: to promote and strengthen theatre arts education. He has encouraged theatre arts for all students, in all grades, in all schools throughout Alabama. It is through his many years of ‘pioneering’ that young students in Alabama will continue to become Thespians in even greater numbers!”