Wylie theater teachers Hanna Hayes, Cameron McClellan and Maddie Lowry wasted no time before going from the classroom to the stage. In May, they joined the cast of Paramount Theater’s production of the beloved musical Hello Dolly. Returning to the stage to perform for the Abilene community and surrounding area renewed their passion for the subject they teach and the perspective for the student actors they adore.
All three feel their time stepping back into the spotlight will impact them as teachers. Hayes and McClellan teach theater at Wylie West Junior High. Lowry teaches theater at Wylie High School.
Hayes said acting is very different from the teaching and directing roles she fills within the classroom. “It always helps as a director to know how actors are going to grow and understand best,” she said. “It helped remind me of the actor’s process, and how I could better aid it as a director and teacher.”
For McClellan, “directing and performing are two completely different jobs that come with completely different tasks.” She said outside performances help her keep a “fresh understanding” of the demands performing and studying theater can have on a student.
McClellan, who performed at the Paramount several times as a student, said this performance was marked with “firsts” for her. “Stepping out on stage for the first time as an educator and allowing my students to see firsthand what it means to thrive in your craft,” was special she said. This was also the first time for her to perform with her sister, which she’ll always remember fondly.
Lowery has performed in several theater venues including Paramount’s junior musicals, Wylie High School’s theater program, and the theater program at Hardin-Simmons University. “After spending a full year directing shows, it was so valuable for me to get back in the mindset of an actor,” said Lowry. “Moving into the school year, I feel like this experience will help me better empathize with my student actors when I am teaching and giving direction.”
While Lowry has many performances under her belt, she said she auditioned with mentorship in mind and was eager to work under a new set of directors. Lowry found herself making notes on musical warm-ups and coaching tips she plans to apply this year.
All three teachers have experience in directing at Wylie and at times worked together on high school productions. This past year Hayes directed Singing in the Rain, Jr. and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, both Wylie West Junior High productions, which McClellan worked on as music director and assistant director, respectively. McClellan also directed, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee: The Musical, in 2021 for the high school. Last fall, Lowry directed Seussical the Musical. She also has directed the high school’s past two, 24-hour musicals – Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid. Hayes and McClellan also assisted with the 24-hour musicals.
By Kristen Johnson
Photos provided by Hannah Hayes, Cameron McClellan and Maddie Lowry.