STC Finds Leadership in Henderson
December 20th, 2006
Several months ago, it seemed that the gap that would be left in the Stuyvesant Theater Community by English teacher and current STC faculty advisor Annie Thoms’s departure from the STC would never be filled. However, that all changed three weeks ago when English teacher Mark Henderson was officially confirmed to be the new faculty advisor by the STC slate and Thoms.
“I talked to Henderson, to the slate and to [Assistant Principal English Eric] Grossman about it,” said Thoms about the appointment. “We are all very pleased.”
This marks the end of a rather short search, according to senior and STC Communications Coordinator Ben Alter, to find a teacher who would succeed Thoms after her one-semester maternity leave next term. She will return to Stuyvesant to teach, but plans to permanently leave the STC.
“We talked about the different teachers we wanted and we had Ms. Thoms talk to them,” said Alter.
According to senior and STC Studio Theater Coordinator Hannah Freiman, the STC slate had at first approached social studies teacher Clarissa Bushman about the position, due to her “excellent job with ‘Fiddler [on the Roof],’” said Freiman. However, Bushman declined due to time restraints. Afterward, Thoms approached Henderson.
“He is a new teacher and he wanted to be involved in more extracurriculars,” said Thoms. “So I had a conversation with him.”
“It really could have been a lot of things,” said Henderson, when asked why he chose to be involved in the STC. “There is an amazing theater program here, and thus I chose to stick with it.”
Though Henderson does not have any experience in theater, the STC slate believes that he is qualified for the job. “I think that above any sort of theater experience, being excited and dedicated to this job is the most important qualification,” said Alter. “Mr. Henderson definitely exemplifies that.”
“We were looking for someone who would be organized and really be on top of the organizational aspects of things, especially because we generally have more than one show going on at once,” said STC Technical Coordinator Natalie Meltzer.
“This role has many different administrative and organizational tasks which I have had experience with,” said Henderson. According to him, his organization experience roots from previously serving as an editor for two different publishing companies, Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group for six years and W.W. Norton & Company for two years.
According to Thoms and Maria Santos, the duties of an STC faculty advisor include organization, talking with the administration, attending meetings with Assistant Principal Organization Randi Damesek and Building Coordinator Theresa Bynum to schedule calendars, attending STC meetings, overseeing the appointment of slates and choosing of plays, and serving as the “faculty opinion” of the STC.
After agreeing to the position, Henderson started a “transition period,” said Thoms, attending meetings with the STC and Damesek.
The search had its share of confusion, specifically when, according to Freiman, rumors emerged that foreign language teacher and faculty director of the Winter Drama “Blood Wedding,” Milton Diaz, had approached the STC for the position and was to be the new faculty advisor. Diaz has said that he “enjoys working with the students on their creativity.” He declined to comment further.
According to the STC, though, those claims were unfounded.
“We didn’t let the rumors affect our decision,” said Meltzer. “It wasn’t like an application. Mr. Henderson’s name came up, and Ms. Thoms thought he would be really good.”
Henderson recently had his first taste of a STC activity by sitting in on the interviews for the slate of the studio musical “Godspell.” “I’m learning the behind-the-scenes stuff,” said Henderson.
“The adjustment period has been small, and he just jumped right into it,” said Meltzer. “He was very opinionated and he has many good ideas, and he’s just great.”
In the future, Henderson said he plans to advise individual student productions, but, contrary to what Thoms has done in the past, does not want to faculty direct anytime soon.
“To me, one of the amazing things in Stuyvesant, and particularly the STC, is [how] student-centered and student-run it is,” said Henderson. “I like that the role of the adult is not as necessary because the students do their jobs so well. I do not plan to make any major changes the STC.”
The STC slate has yet to see the full impact of the change until Thoms finally leaves in January, but it believes that next term, it will be just as effective as it is now.
“I definitely think [the STC] will be able to function as well,” said Meltzer. “[The STC slate] has been keeping a good calendar and good notes so that Henderson knows what to do later on. We kept in mind that Ms. Thoms wasn’t going to be here for long, and we knew that for a long time, so we prepared.”
Freiman said, “I think, at first, we will have a little bit of difficulty because we’ve had Ms. Thoms for so long and she started it, so she obviously knows how it is run, but in the end, we will overcome the adversity.”
Despite the possible difficulties, Henderson feels that he will prevail due to his and Thoms’s “similar visions of the STC,” said Henderson.
“I really appreciate the way she has created and worked with it. That leads me to have a similar perspective on it-to have such a good and functional organization,” said Henderson. “I have big shoes to fill, but yes, I am ready.”