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Shalhevet news online: When we know it, you'll know it

The Boiling Point

Shalhevet news online: When we know it, you'll know it

The Boiling Point

Shalhevet news online: When we know it, you'll know it

The Boiling Point

Emily Chase, who led drama department for 20-plus years, is leaving for Crossroads

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Geoffrey Wade photography
CENTERSTAGE: Ms. Chase, top right, founded Shalhevet’s drama program, directing main stage performances, musicals, and student-written one-acts.

Ms. Emily Chase, who founded and developed the drama department while encouraging students to write and direct their own plays, announced this morning that she will be leaving for Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences in Santa Monica after more than two decades at Shalhevet.

The news was unexpected. In an interview yesterday after announcing her departure in a post on the Drama Schoology page, Ms. Chase apologized for the timing.

“I am sorry I had to give notice at the end of summer,” Ms. Chase said. “A teacher left for a college position, and so there was an opening for me. And I just couldn’t pass it up because it was such a perfect fit for me.” 

In her Schoology post, Ms. Chase described her new role at Crossroads as “full-time drama teacher,” saying that she would both be teaching acting and directing plays there. At Shalhevet, she directed two plays per year but had taught no classes in at least 10 years.

“A fulltime position is perfect for this stage of my life,” Ms. Chase wrote. “It’s five minutes from my house; I can get home in time for dinner; I have wonderful Drama teacher colleagues; and a lovely theater to work in with a big Performing Arts Center on the way.”

Ms. Chase founded the drama program at Shalhevet and was closely involved in the building of the current theater and the previous one, in the school’s original building – a renovated convalescent hospital and medical office building where space was found that could be used.

 She started working at Shalhevet in its first years – “more than 20 years ago,” she said – and was proud to have formed a program that allowed students to write their own original plays.

Ms. Chase directed a known play every fall, sometimes modern and sometimes Shakespeare, and a staging of student-written one-acts in the spring. The one-acts were written with coaching from outside playwrights. The program was entirely co-curricular, with auditions, rehearsals and tech work done after school and on Sundays.

She also directed three musicals, including last year’s You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. The others were a set of student-written scenes about immigrants that used songs from other plays, and another student-written play with original student-composed music, set in a country music community in Nashville.

“I tried to keep it very student-centered, totally inclusive, meaning anyone who wanted to come could come in,” Ms. Chase said in the interview. “By student-centered, I mean – especially with a one-act festival – really taking cues from the kids on what we’d be creating, [and] challeng[ing]ed them to be really creative and inventive. And they did. It was wonderful.”

She also brought in professional staging, lighting and sound designers.

She said that although she was proud of many accomplishments from her time at Shalhevet, one achievement that came to mind was the one-act production in spring 2022, called the Jewish Century Cycle.

“I’m proud of many things,” Ms. Chase said, “But I’ll highlight the Jewish century cycle that we did the year before last, where students wrote 10-minute plays that took place in different 20th century decades of America, about the Jewish experience, based on August Wilson’s great century cycle about the African American experience in the US in the 20th century.”

“Honestly,” she said, “every experience has had its thrills. And I’ve always really loved the students. And seen my work is collaborative and ensemble based and student centered.”

In her Schoology post she invited students to stay in touch with her via Drama’s WhatsApp group.

“I’ll truly miss you all,” she wrote in her Schoology post, “and am grateful for the hours we spent together making art. I will cherish those memories.

“Even though I love my Shalhevet students, and it’s always hard to say goodbye, I know they’ll understand that it’s the best thing for me. And I know that they’ll all be okay.”

This is a developing story and will be updated with student and alumni reflections and details.

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About the Contributor
Sonya Katzin, Arts & Culture Editor
Sonya Katzin, 10th grade, joined the Boiling Point as a staff writer in her freshman year, and this year as a sophomore is the Arts and Culture Editor. Outside of Boiling Point, Sonya is on the Shalhevet tennis team and swim team, and outside of school, she volunteers as a tutor with Reading Partners at LAUSD's Carthay Elementary School. She also enjoys reading, watching movies, and hanging out with her friends.

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