Maddy Lowry took the stage many times during her four years as a theatre student at Wylie High School.
In November, she was back at her alma mater, directing her first musical as an employee for Wylie High.
“Abilene has such a rich fine arts community, so to be able to be a part of the theatre community at a place like Wylie that I just love so much and that helped raise me, it’s just really humbling,” she said. “This was my long-term goal, so for this to already be a reality, I am just so grateful.”
Lowry graduated from Wylie in 2016. She was in numerous Wylie productions but her two favorite shows were the musical Footloose and the one-act play, Playboy of the Western World. She went to HSU, where she participated in any and every stage production she could.
She started out as a musical theatre major but then changed to education.
“I really saw myself in the classroom long term, and I did not want to sell my sole to the industry of performing as much as I loved it,” she said. “I also knew that I’ve always loved to tell stories. Teaching that and developing that and encouraging that in other young artists was something that I felt passionate about too.”
When she graduated from HSU in 2020, the pandemic had just begun and the country was in lockdown. She originally planned to take a job out of town, but decided to stay in town and took a teaching job in the AISD.
A year later, Wylie was looking to expand its theatre program and also had an opening for an English teacher. Lowry could do both.
Chris Shoemake, Wylie theatre director, said he could not pass up the opportunity to get Lowry back where she belonged.
“Maddy was a special student,” he said. “She’s always been fantastic with kids even when she was one of them. She was a leader. I wasn’t going to let her get away.”
The original plan was for Lowry to teach some English classes and some theatre classes, but the need in English was so great that they asked her to teach all English classes. She hopes to eventually add some theatre classes.
In the meantime, Shoemake turned over Seussical The Musical to Lowry, giving her a chance to make her directorial debut.
“The show is music,” she said. “That’s where I am more comfortable, so it’s kind of a nice show to be my first show because the show is primary music and storytelling through music.”
Lowry said coming back and working with Shoemake, who taught her so much in high school, has been amazing.
“We performed everything in the cafeteria,” she said of her high school experience. “Very low budget. All of our rehearsals were on the cafeteria stage. Our costumes came from our own closet or Goodwill. To be able to see the progress we’ve made and to see it go from Shoemake starting out and building his own program to joining him in his amazing vision is special.
“He has grown the program so much and done so much for the kids. To be the recipient of all that and to have grown under his teaching and then to come back and help in his vision is just humbling.”
The Performing Arts Center was not built until after she had graduated. She said it is an amazing facility.
“It is crazy just to think how far we’ve come,” she said. “To have our own space with all the technical elements, the lighting and the sound, it’s just remarkable. And these kids have no idea.”
She said she just really enjoys working with the students and hopefully making a difference in their lives.
“Storytelling is my favorite thing, so to be able to train and encourage and grow other storytellers and singers is amazing,” she said. “It’s been fun to coach these kids and recognize talent and teach them. My favorite things about theatre and teaching are coming together. It’s fun to dream up the show with the kids and see them get excited about it.”
She said working with Shoemake has also been a great experience. “It’s been cool to partner with Mr. Shoemake and appreciate how far she’s taken this department and how much he’s grown it. To have my teacher now be my mentor, it is just really, really special.”
By Candy Reagan