Your Dad Can’t Come Backstage: An Oral History of the Blackburn High School Theatre Department

CHAPTER ONE

Jim Reynolds’ Temper

VICKI: I first met Mr. Reynolds in the fall of ‘06. He seemed driven, a little lost, and full of ambition fueled by the Wendy’s across the highway.

TIM: Yeah, he would have one of the student officers bring him a medium #7 from Wendy’s every day after school to get himself mentally ready for that night’s rehearsal…(Pauses)…God, I wanted to be an officer so bad. Not just for the college applications, but for the glory. Your senior picture would forever be on the wall if you made President.

CHANEL: Rehearsals always went long with him. Our parents would be waiting in their cars outside, our cellphones ringing endlessly with worry. But Mr. Reynolds had a vision, and anything distracting the group from achieving that vision was forbidden. One time we couldn’t get the doors opening and closing fast enough in the spring ’08 production of Noises Off!. He thought it ruined the entire comedic core of the piece if we weren’t able to get the releasings and slammings of the eight doors on stage in sync with “a hummingbird’s wings”, he always used to say. (Laughs)

HEIDI: Oh yeah, Jim was a big slapstick guy. Sometimes the most outrageously funny people are also, secretly, the most tragic.

ALEX: I remember that Noises rehearsal. My dad was the mayor at the time and had a vital state-wide meeting to get to at the courthouse that night, but he had to pick me up from rehearsal first. He was so furious at Mr. Reynolds, I remember, he stormed backstage and pulled me out to the car.

CHANEL: After Alex’s dad came, Mr. Reynolds kicked over the side table in the living room set, shattering the blue lamp that had been used in BHS shows for fourteen years. He then proceeded to stand in front of us with a maniacal look on his face, held out one of the freshly-printed programs for the show, and ripped in in half.

ALEX: My dad missed his meeting and didn’t get to vote on garbage tonnage pricing limits for the state of Oklahoma.

HEIDI: I think a lot of people channeled their daddy issues into Mr. Reynolds. We never quite knew where he stood in terms of sexual orientation. But that didn’t matter. He was this unreachable entity…this, this frightening, towering, figure, with a terribly pathetic home life. His best friend was his dog, Martha. He’d always bring her to rehearsal. He’d feed her the Wendy’s chicken nuggets sometimes.

VICKI: That old black lab has seen me naked, changing in and out of costume, more than any man has since I graduated from that place.

TIM: I was just a freshman when I took his Drama 1 class, and when Mr. Reynolds first stood up from his desk and screamed at me for breaking while I was supposed to be acting out a pretend shipwreck during the Improvised Pantomime part of class, he gained my eternal respect. From then on, I knew wanted to be President. I wanted to be in.

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