In 1963 I applied for a teaching job at a junior high school in Queens. I was hired to teach English, direct the school production, and coach the students auditioning for the High School of Performing Arts. I’m proud to say that every student I coached was accepted to the school.

One of my favorite stories concerns a student named Mel Johnson, Jr. He was in my ninth grade class, and I was coaching him to audition for the High School of Performing Arts. He came to me one day to say that he was being pressured by his family to pursue a more stable profession. I remember telling him “Don’t listen to your parents. You must do this business,” which he reminds me of every time he sees me. Mel went on to do many Broadway shows including The Lion King, but might be best known for his role as Benny the cab driver in Total Recall.

Other students included comedienne Nancy Redman, actor/singer Tony Azito, Pirates of Penzance Tony winner, Laurie Graff, Grease (Broadway), Jose Febus, and Frankie B (Bonsangue), whose credits include The Sopranos, Law and Order, and many commercials.

Before I retired, I had an acting student, Yeni Alvarez, who was not sure she could take all the rejection of this business. I told her to follow her dream. Today, she is with the Innovation Agency in LA, conquering the Latina field in voice overs and commercials. Yeni starred on one of the most successful Latino series, Los Beltran.

A flyer for one of the many “Library Series” I ran featuring the drama class.

After five years in junior high school, I went on to the high school to teach theater and direct productions of The Fantastics, Fiorello, and You’re  a Good Man, Charlie Brown, among others. I also developed a library series where my theater students presented scenes from great plays – from The Glass Menagerie, to Winterset by Maxwell Anderson, to Macbeth, and so on – for the entire school, giving my theater students the experience of performing them while at the same time exposing the English students to great classic and contemporary works. 

Teaching theater, directing productions, and still doing the business was a wonderful experience, and I wouldn’t have changed it for anything.

A yearbook farewell to me upon my retirement.