Amanda Hestwood has a clear vision for the Loft Stage. And a thing for bongo-playing monkeys.
Q: The Loft Stage has been in operation now for five years. As it’s theater director, what is the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
H: Nothing worth it comes easy. I know that sounds cliché but I tend to forget how hard it can be until I am in the thick of it. Directing can be a little like childbirth; I tend to forget how hard it can be because the joy of watching kids create magic is so powerful. The payoff is so worth the challenges.
Q: If you could travel back in time, what would you have done differently?
H: As lucky as we are to have the amazing space that we do, I would take what I know now about the theater space itself and try to influence some of the building decisions. We have spent a lot of time and money fixing problems or purchasing equipment that should have been here day one. A fly system that goes all the way out would be nice.
Q: What has been the most surprising thing about your job?
H: My son pointed out the answer to this question. People in the community know the Loft Stage and I am constantly having those really sweet moments when someone finds out I work at East Ridge and talks about what we do with such reverence and community pride. I think my parents understood how influential my job can be when a Loftie grandparent approached us while we were out to dinner. To this day, I don’t know whose grandma it was.
Q: What has been the hardest thing? The most gratifying?
H: Personally, I am an extrovert so much of my energy comes from the energy of others. Fortunately, and unfortunately, the people I spend most of my time with are students. When their energy is good, I am like a charged battery. When things are not so good, I can be in desperate need of a jumpstart.
Q: Thinking about the next five years, what changes would you like to see for the Loft Stage?
H: Growth and opportunity.
Q: What would you need to fulfill this vision?
H: Good question. Continued support and communication from parents willing to show that the three high schools can meet the needs of their students in different ways.
Q: How important are volunteers to staging a successful show?
H: Without our volunteers we could not be the program that we are, period. It takes more hands and a willingness to give up your time for kids to have a student-centered program. If I had a magic wand, I would take the fear away from parents who think they don’t have the skills to help us in the scene and costume shops. Just show up ready to work with kids. We will do the rest.
Q: What kind of student experience do you hope for? What are some of the obstacles to a successful student experience and what changes are needed?
H: A good one. Each student’s experience is unique and as much as I would like to implant a chip that makes magical bongo-playing monkeys appear in every student’s mind every time they think of the Loft, I can’t. Overall, the feedback I get from students, parents and alumni says we are on the right track.
Q: Competition: Good or bad? Explain.
H: Competition is good and it is a part of theater. Students compete for parts, awards, and scholarships. My personal feeling is that theater doesn’t need to be unnecessarily competitive. I am drawn to theater because it is cooperative, collaborative and creative. As a person I am very competitive but I don’t think that winning means that there has to be a loser.
Q: Completely unrelated to theater, what is your biggest personal fear? (e.g., taxes, alien abduction, spiders, disembowelment)
H: Drowning. I love the water and I was a competitive swimmer in high school but if a nightmare is going to wake me up in the middle of the night, it will be about drowning. And bongo-playing monkeys.
Thanks Ms. Hestwood, and congratulations on another fantastic year!