Theater Director Bonny Parlee Reflects on Rashi Alumni and Looks Ahead

by | Oct 29, 2021 | Community, Learning, Our Stories

In your 23 years of working here, what are some things that are new and what are some things that are the same?

I first started working at Rashi in the Fall of 1999. I was hired as an “Artist in Residence” to come in and teach some basic theater and run drama games as part of a Middle School arts rotation. I then was asked to do an after school program and we did our first fall play “Murders in the Heir,” an audience participation mystery.

Who knew that this would begin a 23 year tradition of after school productions?!

We had so much fun that we then proceeded to do a musical in the Spring – “Pirates of Penzance, Jr. Edition.” Who knew that this would begin a 23 year tradition of after school productions?!

My position at Rashi has changed immensely. I have gone from a mostly a Middle School focus to a full school focus. Through the years we have added a grade-level play for each of the Lower School grades, a variety of talent shows and cabarets, a Shakespeare Residency for Middle School, participation in the International Thespian Society (ITS), awarding membership to Middle School students for theater excellence, participation in the Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild (METG) which produces the Middle School State Drama Festival each year as well as a variety of contests for both actors and technicians as well as a musical theater branch that adjudicates our musical each year. We have gone on “mini tours” to NewBridge on the Charles, singing through the halls as well as the schools that we have partnered with for the Jewish Coalition for Literacy (JCL). We even had a Traveling Troupe that used to go on the road to Preschools.

I have truly enjoyed watching so many Rashi students grace the stage in my 23 years and I have watched Rashi families grow up in the Theater Department.

Our theater home has changed through the years from our old cavernous auditorium with dressing rooms in the stairwells of Newton to our beautiful state-of-the-art theater here in Dedham with legitimate dressing room spaces and fabulous acoustics. I have truly enjoyed watching so many Rashi students grace the stage in my 23 years and I have watched Rashi families grow up in the Theater Department.

When you think of Rashi Alumni, what words or thoughts come to mind?

Our Rashi alumni are confident individuals that have found their voice and use those voices to advocate for themselves as well as make the world a better place. They are strong leaders and they are passionate when they speak. It has been wonderful to hear what our alumni are doing in theater in both high school and college. Many of them have stayed in touch and will communicate when they are in productions.

Our Rashi alumni are confident individuals that have found their voice and use those voices to advocate for themselves as well as make the world a better place.

Through the years I have enjoyed hearing from alumni about how they knew what the high school or college directors were talking about, as we had introduced them to technical design back in middle school! I also have enjoyed talking with our Tikkun Alum recipients who have thanked me for helping them with public speaking back in Middle School as they now have the confidence to speak to large or small audiences about the various organizations they now represent.

What are some of your favorite things about being the Theater Director at Rashi?

My position at Rashi allows me to work with students from Kindergarten through their graduation. I have truly enjoyed the opportunity to watch the students grow and develop into strong confident leaders. I know that not all of the students go on to work in the theater, but I know that the skills that they have gained from being a part of the theater program have allowed them to become confident speakers no matter the size of the group and they know what it is like to be a part of a team and a community.

I know that the skills that they have gained from being a part of the theater program have allowed them to become confident speakers no matter the size of the group and they know what it is like to be a part of a team and a community.