Friday, January 31, 2014

Passings: James "Jim" Woland

Throwback Thursday or Flashback Friday: I was deeply saddened today to hear of the passing of my High School Drama Coach Jim Woland. There were only a few teachers in High School that I ever thought changed me for the better, and Mr Woland was one of them. I auditioned for my first play in 1976 and was subsequently cast in several others, including a lead and several major supporting roles, plus a few ensemble casts. He was one of the reasons I had a Communications and Theater Arts major when I shipped off to college.

He demanded nothing less than the best of his students, be it in class, the HS Newspaper (where I was a staffer) or on stage. He had many friends in NYC who worked on Broadway and often incorporated their techniques into our performances at PHS. Most of us who worked under him (and many of those who just knew the man) felt he was worthy of Broadway work, yet he was content to work with students and then theater organizations in the Harrisburg area to the delight of all who had the opportunity to work with him.

He also had the uncanny ability to create terrific sets using the bare minimum of supplies that were offered in a High School setting. He took to my father's junk yard for old auto parts once to have rusted mufflers along the stage for a performance of Hamlet, and stage crews could also be seen painting over flats that has seen years and years of cutting, nailing and pasting. He even had me once write some original lyrics for a song used in one of his productions, something that I am proud of to this day. Like I said earlier, he could draw the best work from the barest of bones, and we all loved him for it.

Unfortunately, like many of my High School acquaintances, I didn't keep up with him. I met him once at a random event and came out to him. He was not surprised. The picture of me is from one of Mr Woland's directorial efforts, a production of Story Theater, where I was part of the ensemble, and also sang. Sophomore year, 1977.

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