January 20, 2021

Don May celebrates 50 Clarke Drama productions

Don May, with the completion of Clarke’s rendition of Mamma Mia!, now has 50 drama performances under his belt as director.

“Growing up all of our siblings were involved in productions with Ray Russell. We would be out with the high school kids helping paint, etc… So, it just seemed natural to do it when we became 9th graders. We is referring to my twin brother, Doug. I went to college to become a computer programmer and changed my mind to go in to theater and then theater education,” said May. “I got the opportunity after teaching elsewhere for 2 years to come back to Clarke and the rest is history.”

This year’s fall musical Mamma Mia! originally would not have been May’s 50th production. Due to COVID-19 and the schools ending their year early during the spring of 2020 the spring play that would have been May’s 50th production and the show Radium Girls had to be canceled.

“We rehearsed through Zoom until about the end of May thinking maybe we could even do it during the summer, but it never got to happen. So, when we came back to school to start this school year, we had to take down the set for Radium Girls that had been up since March just waiting. We tried to keep it going but finally realized it wasn’t going to happen,” said May. “It would have been my 50th production while I was 50.”

The production that never was hasn’t dampened May’s spirits. He is passionate about his cast and crew putting on entertaining performances and working hard to do so. And May leads by example. Just time at school working on the production during rehearsal time is 200 hours. Then there is purchasing of props and materials, reading of scripts, preparing of director’s book, designing (costume, makeup, lights, set, sound, etc…) that often is done away from school would easily be another 100 or more hours.

With all of the time and effort May puts in to these productions it is nearly impossible for him to chose a favorite.

“It is like telling someone who your favorite child is.  This is really hard to say which is my favorite.  I answered the question the other day by saying probably one that my own kids were involved with. This is the 26th show that I have had one of my kids involved with the show. At times, I had 2 kids involved at the same time.  We have done The Wizard of Oz three times – so by the numbers, it could be that, but….”

There is no clear cut winner.

After each production the cast and crew try to surprise May with a gift of some kind. With 49 previous shows under his belt it’s surprising that he didn’t expect something big from his cast and crew this year.

“This was interesting how they did things for me this year. I was oblivious to the planning,” said May.

The students and fellow directors had a cast member “fake” a situation so that May had to go back to the choir room and speak to the individual so they could address everything with the rest of the cast. The next day May was told by his daughter that he couldn’t be at the building and his wife was taking him on a date to Des Moines.

“I evidently was pushing that time and they kicked me out of the building, still oblivious,” said May.

Not being able to stay away totally that night, May and his wife Carla went back to the building to do some work and walked in to the building by the band room. The students, other directors and some parents had been there to decorate the building with posters from all of the 50 productions, balloons, other posters and more.

“It was so cool to see and very humbling knowing that so many people were involved and wanting to do this for me,” said May.