Behind the Scenes of the Behind the Scenes

Tech Theater Gains A New Teacher

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Photo by Ryan Kelly

The new Tech Theater teacher Zeph Kenna smiles in front of his desk during an interview. After teaching science in Coppell and working in community theaters, there’s a lot of excitement towards starting his new job, according to Kenna. “This is the first time that I’ve been kind of involved in a large program like this,” Kenna said. “I used to be able to just kind of teach my class and go on my way. In this case, I’m involved in something a lot bigger.”

Caleb Taylor, Reporter

The show must go on. Despite a staff change midway through last year’s season, the school’s theater program put on eight different shows in the span of eight months. However, those kinds of numbers don’t come without work – and sometimes, internal conflicts. One such issue comes in the form of teacher turnover, with the tech program having had five teachers in the last six years.

Losing a teacher means a lack of direction, according to junior Michael Zolidis. Being left with faulty equipment, unfinished sets and looming deadlines means more responsibility is left on the students to get their act together before the next teacher arrives.

“It’s very new every time a new person comes in,” Zolidis said. “We try to treat them with respect, like, [we remember] oh yeah, you’re in charge. And then we try and learn as much as we can, but each one is different. Each one changes [things] in their own way. You just have to adapt.”

This year, the theater program has brought on a new face. Zeph Kenna is a Dallas native who graduated from the University of North Texas and spent time honing his teaching skills as a science teacher.

“I taught science in a school called New Tech,” Kenna said. “I taught a bunch of different science classes throughout the years, just kind of all over the place because it was a small school. I taught whatever needed to be taught. For the first chunk of my teaching career, I was teaching science and I knew that eventually I was going to switch [to] Theater, but I was content where I was for the time being.”

Despite being a science teacher, Kenna had a double major in physics and theater. He worked at the Epic Theater in Grand Prarie, Texas as well as various local theaters as a lighting and sound designer on the side, picking up valuable experience.

“[I was] mostly running concerts, but it was a community stage, too, so it could be rented out by anyone,” Kenna said. “I ended up running lights for fashion shows, poetry nights, pretty much every battle of the bands that went through there and there was also a recording studio attached to that premises. So I worked in the recording studio whenever it was rented out by musicians, podcasts, anything like that. That’s where a lot of my expertise comes from. I had a really positive experience there, and then once I finished my master’s in Theater, I was ready to look for somewhere else. And that’s kind of how I ended up here.”

Transitioning from science teacher to a theater teacher isn’t too common, according to Kenna, but he said he enjoys the similarities between the two jobs. Being in two fields allowed him to explore more avenues in college, and take the time to learn what was important and interesting to him.

“There’s a lot of things that are the same; shop safety is almost the same as lab safety as far as, like, pulling your hair back,” Kenna said. “No fingers in the fire. Only now it’s just no fingers in the saws. A lot of it is very similar safety-wise and project-wise as well. Every time I’ve told someone what I majored in in college, I always get the same thing, like, ‘that’s unusual’. And yeah, it is unusual, I guess, but there are plenty of people that do math and arts or science and art. I know it can get expensive, but take the extra class or so of something that’s not really related to what you’re studying. I took a jazz dance [class] one semester just because I wanted to learn what that was.”

Kenna said he is excited to tackle the year. He recognizes the challenges of the position, but he says he is confident in the students and is looking forward to gaining a better understanding of the ins and outs of the job.

“This is the first time that I’ve been involved in a large program like this,” Kenna said. “I used to be able to just kind of teach my class and go on my way. In this case, I’m involved in something a lot bigger. So as far as balancing time between, okay, we can use this much class time to help on the plays and I can use this much class time to do a lesson. Or we need to dedicate X amount of time to make sure that this happens. Really, it’s the timing of everything and how to dedicate time and resources that I’m still learning. And as more of the shows go by, I’ll have a better understanding of how much time I need to dedicate to each thing and to make sure that all these things are going off successfully.”