Aptakisic Junior High theater teacher set for the second act
Aptakisic Junior High teacher Carolyn Thomas-Davidoff shows off the school's theater stage on Jan. 24. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 8, 2013 6:03AM
BUFFALO GROVE — For Carolyn Thomas-Davidoff, junior high serves as her students’ last stop on the childhood express before they are off-loaded into high school and the beginning of adulthood.
That is why, in all her years as the theater director at Aptakisic Junior High, Thomas-Davidoff never cut a student from a production.
“If you want to stay in it, there is something for you to do,” Thomas-Davidoff said. “At this age, kids shouldn’t have to limit their choices. They’re going to have to limit their choices a whole lot more when their older.”
But for Thomas-Davidoff, who is set to retire from the school in June, the age of numerous options is returning. While she never tired of teaching, Thomas-Davidoff said she plans to attack other opportunities. The list starts with the world of professional theater, which she never explored as a young woman.
“I walked backward into teaching,” she said.
Thomas-Davidoff recently finished the last production of her teaching career with her umpteenth staging of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs ... What If?” — a version she co-wrote.
Beginning this summer, she will spend more time at GreenMan Theatre Troupe, which has been a side project for years for the Western Springs resident.
Another driving factor in the retirement decision, she said, is the driving.
“I’m on the road usually by 5:20 in the morning,” Thomas-Davidoff said. “With rehearsals going long, it becomes a lot.”
And in “Das Box” — the crews’ long-running nickname for the acoustically challenged theater in the gymnasium— rehearsals often went long when cast sizes grew. So many students wanted to take part in “What If?” that Thomas-Davidoff led two distinct casts and crews, which staged separate performances.
Thomas-Davidoff explained that as long as a student was academically eligible, she would never turn one away from a potential learning experience.
“Lots of junior high kids have absolutely no idea that they could act,” she said.
And if they cannot act, theater often opens other doors for them, she said.
“It can be the kid who figures out how to stack the scenery in the right place, so that people can get off stage without tripping over it,” she said.
In that regard, Thomas-Davidoff has always emphasized that the lessons students learn in theater can translate to other career fields.
“I’m not interested in creating a whole bunch of out-of-work actors,” she said.
Nor is she interested in resting, once she reaches retirement.
Thomas-Davidoff said she would consider substitute teaching, but will focus on a variety of larger theater opportunities. In either case, she said she would carry with her the memories of all the students performing inside Das Box.
“I find the kids infinitely fascinating, which is one reason why I can do the same shows over and over again,” she said. “I will miss opening up possibilities for them, when they discover they can be good at something. When they discover there is a place for them.”