For the students and parents of the Evergreen High School theater department, Margaret Gorman was exactly what they needed in a drama teacher.
“We really needed a person to give us that support and to give us that home back,” said junior Devon O’Brien. “Having that person come in and having her be as fantastic as she is was great.”
In January, the theater department was dragged into the spotlight when former drama teacher Stephanie McCrea was arrested — and eventually convicted — of having sex with a 15-year-old student. She was sentenced last month to serve five years in prison.
The ordeal halted the spring musical and rattled the confidence of drama students and their parents.
“Last year was a devastating blow,” said Becky Young, O’Brien’s mother. “All the kids, they really pour their hearts into this. What happened shattered things temporarily.”
Theater, Young said, helped her son transform from a shy middle-schooler into a mature, confident high-schooler. Even so, she said she was hesitant about the idea of a new drama teacher.
“I was so worried that someone was going to get in, get my son to trust them again and hurt them again,” Young said. “I didn’t want to see that happen.”
Amid the uncertainty and hurt, Gorman came in and put the focus back where she said it needed to be: the students.
In May, school administrators invited Gorman to meet with students and parents after school to field all of their questions. Students asked her about Constantin Stanislavski, the father of method acting, and which house she would be a part of if she attended Hogwarts, the magical school in the “Harry Potter” book series.
“Oh, I’m born on July 31, the same day as Harry Potter. I’m a Gryffindor,” Gorman said. “I think it surprised us both how instantly the group clicked together.”
Karen Asbury, who has a daughter in the program, was impressed.
“She’s just so warm and joyful and sweet,” she said. “We now have a really strong, wonderful, nurturing program again because of this caring director.”
Gorman, who teaches drama and French, doesn’t want to talk about last year; she wants to focus on the 75 hours of sword-fighting skills that went into this fall’s play, “The Three Musketeers,” which had its final performance on Saturday. She’s preparing for the spring musical, “Oklahoma!” and already has a covered wagon secured. Alongside the parents who volunteer to help with makeup, costumes and rehearsal dinners, Gorman says she’s putting all of her energy into putting on the best performances.
Gorman is new to Evergreen High School, though native to Vancouver — she graduated from Hudson’s Bay High School. She previously led theater programs at Hazelbrook Middle School and Tualatin High School in Oregon.
“My priority is the students,” Gorman said. “We are all ready to work very hard and do what’s right for the students.”
And the students welcome that attitude.
O’Brien, who played the Musketeer Aramis, said he’s glad that the drama room is a place he can again call his second home, where he can do what he loves: being on stage.
“With acting, you become a whole other person,” he said. “It’s no longer a character to you. … It’s a whole new experience that can’t compare to anything else.”