“Young Frankenstein,” which is set to run this weekend and next at Timberline High School, wasn’t director Brenda Amburgy’s first choice.
She wanted her students to put on “The Full Monty.” Timberline administrators didn’t think that was an appropriate choice.
“I defended that to the hilt,” Amburgy said with a grin. “I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ That’s the only time I really had to go out there and go to bat.”
After nearly 40 years of teaching, including 33 at Timberline, Amburgy will take her final bow at the Lacey school when “Young Frankenstein” closes May 13.
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She said she’s been threatening to retire for three years, so she felt it was time to make good on that promise.
Plus, she recently had successful breast cancer surgery after being diagnosed in January.
“They got all the cancer, and this is what I want people to know: I’m not dying,” said Amburgy, 62, who had a double mastectomy about eight weeks ago, and has begun the steps in reconstruction. “I just had a little bump in the road, and I’m good to go.”
Current and former students say they can’t imagine Timberline without Amburgy or the energy she brings to the drama program.
“She’s very eccentric and exciting,” said Lexus White, 18, a Timberline senior. “She’s such a lively spirit. I love it.”
Jacob Johnson, 20, of Los Angeles, said Amburgy is the reason he’s a working actor now. Her teaching and approach is spot on with what actors need to know, he said.
Her personality? It fits in with Hollywood, too.
“She’s bizarre; she’s manic; she’s obsessed,” Johnson said. “She’s hard-working.”
Amburgy grew up in Morton and taught at schools in Rochester and Chehalis before taking over Timberline’s program. It wasn’t much of a program then, she recalls.
“We started with a lecture hall,” she said.
But by starting from scratch, Amburgy was able to build the program she wanted and perform the shows she wanted to direct. Well, except for “The Full Monty.”
Amburgy said her approach has been to treat students like adults, and encourage them to approach a school production as though it was a professional show.
Her husband, Reilly Glore, has worked alongside her for several years helping build sets for the shows.
Amburgy said she’s loved all 33 shows, even “Grease,” which she ended up directing three times.
“I love the fact that we create magic,” she said. “I love the pressure and the stress.”
Amburgy said one of the highlights of her career was helping design Timberline’s theater, which was rebuilt nine years ago.
“I love it,” she said looking from the stage into the large, wrap-around style auditorium. “I’m going to miss this because we failed so many levies and bonds for years and years. … There’s not a bad seat in the house.”
She said she’ll also miss the energy of students, but not the 7 a.m. start of her workday and limits of a bell schedule.
What’s in the future? In the short term, she plans to sleep in and venture out into the real world.
But she might eventually turn up on a different stage, because as she puts it, she’s addicted to directing.
“Woody Allen said, ‘I do movies so I don’t have to deal with my real life,’ ” Amburgy said. “And that’s the truth. You do theater so you don’t have to deal with some of the things like the news (or) Donald Trump. …We’ll see what happens.”