If Evergreen High School’s new theater teacher had to name one person most responsible for his long and satisfying career, it would be his high school theater teacher.
“I grew up on a farm in Grinnell, Iowa,” explains Scott Ogle, who assumed theater-director’s chair last month at EHS. “It’s a small farming community, and my parents weren’t really very arty. The theater teacher, Liz Hansen, connected with me at that time in my life. She ‘got’ the weird, oddball kid I was, and fostered my love of theater.”
Even so, few people in Grinnell, Iowa considered the stage a proper profession; and young Ogle graduated from the high school auditorium into a computer science lab at Iowa State University. Not surprisingly, that engagement folded after a disappointingly short run.
“Computer science was so far from who I was,” Ogle says. “That’s when I discovered teaching.” That’s also when he discovered Mandi, the ISU music student who would soon become his wife.
Graduating with a degree in English, he exited Iowa stage-west and 16 years ago began teaching that subject to students at Chatfield High School in Ken-Caryl. He and Mandi settled first in Golden before moving up Bear Creek Canyon to Kittredge and finally putting down more permanent roots in Hiwan Hills. Despite a long daily commute to South Jeffco, Ogle leapt into the local community-theater scene with a will.
“When we moved up here we started seeing shows at Center Stage. I loved what I was seeing, and I got involved with the Evergreen Players. I mostly just did bit parts, but that was fine with me. I just loved being part of that group. There are some really talented and creative people there.”
Devotees of local theater may remember Ogle from productions like “Crimes of the Heart,” “Dearly Departed” and “Sabrina Fair.” But Ogle’s own talent and creativity soon pulled him off of the stage and into a directorial role. Ogle-directed productions include “Sylvia,” “Lost in Yonkers” and “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).”
Folks familiar with that last one know it contains a strong improvisational component. Folks familiar with Ogle know that his college improv crew was ranked the best in Iowa. It was Ms. Hansen who introduced Scott Ogle to improvisational theater; and it was Scott Ogle who helped introduce improv to Evergreen by co-founding the Players’ popular improvisational troupe, EPiC.
“We consistently sell out EPiC shows,” he says, with just a hint of well-deserved pride. “Improv appeals to a different, less theater-y kind of audience. And improv is a ‘safe’ route into theater for a lot of boys. They can’t see themselves in costume singing, but they can see themselves being funny.”
Meanwhile, down at Chatfield, Ogle quickly moved from teaching English most of the time to teaching theater all of the time. He arranged valuable internships and commercial auditions for many of his students at professional venues all over the metro area, and even a few up the hill at Center Stage. And when he wasn’t directing shows for young Chatfield audiences, Ogle was opening his kids’ eyes to the world of theatrical careers that have very little to do with acting.
“It’s called CTE – Career and Technical Education,” he says. “We researched what companies want, and we use state-of-the-art equipment to teach technical skills that are really applicable to the job force.”
In Ogle’s field that can be anything from running a light-board, to voice work, to mixing sound, to managing a stage crew.
“It’s all the practical applications that can help them walk right into a job.”
His determination to ensure young hopefuls a shot at a real-world job in the business of make-believe is only one of the very good reasons the theater education advocacy group Colorado Thespians has named Ogle its 2015 Senior High School Theatre Educator of the Year. Although gratified to be so honored, Ogle is quick to point out the great big snag in that particular red carpet.
“I have to write an acceptance speech,” he laughs. “I’ve never done that before. It’s tricky.”
Now working his theatrical magic at Evergreen High School, Ogle’s performing one unit of English and four units of theater, and he couldn’t be happier about it. For one thing, CTE program is netting rave reviews from students and critics are predicting an extended run.
“The administration and staff are really excited about the arts. Everybody’s been very supportive.”
For another, it’s pretty sweet to live just 10 minutes from the office.
“For the first time I can pick up my son from school,” he smiles.
Ogle sits on the Evergreen Players’ board of directors, and earlier this year he earned a master’s degree in theater direction from Roosevelt University in Chicago. These days, when he isn’t blocking a scene in the EHS auditorium, he’s drilling actors at Center Stage for his upcoming reprise of the Hitchcock classic “39 Steps.” And during rare intermissions in his busy schedule he takes a deep breath and drinks in the quiet beauty of his mountain home.
“I like that Evergreen is a small, self-supporting community. It reminds me of small-town Iowa in some ways.”
Only with more pine trees and fewer corn festivals, he probably meant to say. But there’s certainly one thing Evergreen has that Ogle enjoyed as a boy growing up in Grinnell, and that’s a theater teacher who knows how to educate and inspire.
“I love theater, and I love introducing kids to theater,” he says. “I feel like I can bring something to the Evergreen community.”