Last night the Jefferson County Board of education made an unexpected foray into experimental theater. The plot revolved around how the school district would enact a hastily constructed pay scheme for its teachers.
The protagonist, Superintendent Dan McMinimee (played by Superintendent Dan McMinimee), argued valiantly for pay which would attract and retain high quality teachers and avoid having Jeffco become a training ground for surrounding districts. The script was subtle enough not to add “…as happened in Dougco” since this was so artfully implied by its having been uttered by an actor previously from Dougco. It is the opinion of this reviewer that, should Mr. McMinimee tire of his role in this play, he might consider auditioning for a role as Atticus Finch in a fairly decent dinner theatre production of To Kill a Mockingbird; he was that good.
The antagonist was John Newkirk (played by John Newkirk). Fairly twirling an imaginary Snidely Whiplash moustache, he repeatedly argued to lower to cap for stipends from the hero’s suggested $81,000 to something in the neighborhood of $60,000. Alas, after a while his repeated claims not to understand how Jeffco’s pay compared to neighboring districts began to feel stiff and unmotivated.
Providing a little lighthearted relief, Julie Williams (played by Julie Williams) would occasionally chirp such saccharine phrases as “I love our veteran teachers!” Her performance was unconvincing, and the plot would have moved along just fine without her.
The bold experiment lay in the fact that clearly a group of performers had not only not been given scripts, but it appeared they were unaware that they were participating in a theatrical performance. Two members of the board, Leslie Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman, along with Lori Gillis and several other staff members from the district’s accounting office, provided constant injections of reality into the fictional world inhabited by the play’s other characters. This district staff provided the real world charts and graphs which Mr. Newkirk played off of, almost like a melodrama performed on real railroad tracks with a real train racing down to squash a trussed victim (or in this case, 85,000 victims). Ms. Dahlkemper kept bringing up a fact-finder’s report, which the play’s author(s) had clearly chosen not to include in his (their?) fictional world. Adding to the absurdity was the repeated use of the word “negotiation,” which had no context at all in this version of reality.
The climax of the performance was, alas, ruined by actor Ken Witt in the role of Board President Ken Witt. His primary contribution to the production was to cast the deciding vote. He paused for dramatic effect, but too long, and with the self-aware smirk of the most amateur actor. Spoiler alert: The pay designation for raises verses stipends will be $81,000. For now. Audiences may expect a sequel, more tragedy than comedy next time around, I suspect.
In another interesting twist, the teachers in the audience participated in the performance by getting up and walking out. It is doubtful that this was part of a collaboration between them and the playwright(s) as the author(s) of this performance are not known to collaborate with educators.