Kathy Dorgan, the theater and drama teacher at Olympia High School, was in her element this summer at The Juilliard School in New York, where she was one of 20 educators selected for a 10-day directing fellowship.
“It was kind of incredible and, you know, kind of scary; I don’t think that’s such a bad thing for somebody who has been teaching for 20 years,” Dorgan said.
Dorgan stumbled upon a flier for the program at the end of the 2012 school year, and after writing a letter of inquiry she was told the program would not run in 2013. She said she had almost entirely forgotten about the fellowship when she received an email from Juilliard about a year later encouraging her to apply for the 2014 summer program.
The application process was long. Dorgan said that if it hadn’t been for the encouragement of friends like Jason Haws, she would have given up on Juilliard. Haws is a colleague of Dorgan’s at Creative Theatre Experience, a summer drama program in Olympia. He also wrote her letter of recommendation in her application.
“It was an easy thing to write,” Haws said. “The thing we have done for each other over the years is just encourage each other to go past that point of ‘Oh, I have got a lot going on’ to really reach for those things that will make us better directors and better thinkers about theater.”
On May 1 she received confirmation that she had been selected as a directing fellow. She began preparing for the 10-day program that she would later describe as incredible.
“She deserved to get in. When she came back, you could tell it was the smartest and best thing she has done for her career in a really long time,” Haws said.
Dorgan has been a drama teacher at Olympia High School for 16 years. She said that even with the experience she has under her belt, the Juilliard fellowship equipped her with techniques she had never used.
“I feel like I now have the ability to integrate a lot of the theory, a lot of the activities, a lot of even the theater games in a purposeful way into the rehearsal process,” she said. “That’s the things they taught us that I never had really worked on.”
Although her time at Juilliard has concluded, she said that the fellows will stay in contact with one another to discuss how their new skills have integrated into their directing.
“Her productions are pretty amazing. ... We have one of the nicest performing arts centers and one of the best directors in the school district,” said Rachel Foley, a drama student at Olympia High School and an intern at Creative Theatre Experience.
Dorgan said she is itching to begin her next project, “Romeo and Juliet,” with the tools she gathered from her time at Juilliard.
“I’m excited to take the work that I did and directly apply it to something I’m doing right away,” Dorgan said.