This is Paul Fleming’s 40th year as an arts teacher and his 38th year as an UPrep faculty member; he currently teaches theatre classes and is the manager of Founders Hall. We’re glad to introduce you to this amazing leader during Pride Month: Paul was the first gay person to come out to the school. He was instrumental in creating the GSA in the early 1990s, which was called “Cake with Mr. Fleming” during their first meetings.
What attracted you to UPrep?
I have always been very lucky to have a job doing what I love to do. Before I was hired in 1981, I was a professional actor and very active in the Seattle theatre community. My first professional role in Seattle was playing Charles the Wrestler in ACT’s production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It directed by the founder of ACT Greg Falls. As a member of Actor’s Equity Association, I played leading rolls at Tacoma Actors Guild, The Seattle Rep, The Empty Space, and other Seattle theatre venues. As a member of Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists in the 1980s and 1990s, I was featured in more than 200 radio and television commercials, industrial films, and feature films that were shot in Seattle. I have a strong foundation in child drama and I was a founder of and resident actor at the Seattle Children’s Theatre.
I very much enjoyed working with young persons and promoting the study of and the importance of the arts as a foundation of learning for young persons. The arts are a very important element of creating lifelong learners. As a father of four children, the security of a consistent job in the arts was very appealing to me. When the job at University Prep became available, I applied for and was hired as Fine Arts Department Chair and drama teacher.
Why are plays and play production part of the school-day curriculum at UPrep?
At many schools, the arts are often looked on as “extra-curricular” enhancement to the school’s programs. When I began teaching drama classes here, I felt it important to impress on our learning community that arts classes are a viable and necessary element of college preparation. When I instituted producing plays as an element of our school community, I insisted that plays should be part of our regular curriculum. Therefore, Play Production class was approved and established by our instructional council. Within the next year, Stagecraft class was introduced into the arts curriculum, along with Choir, several visual arts classes, and a folk dancing class. As the arts program grew, the concept of the arts as a necessary element of the college prep program became an institutional part of our school.
Because of this foundation, any student who wants to learn the artistic process by participating in a production has the opportunity to participate without any previous experience, whether it be a stagecraft-based experience or an acting experience. Plays are chosen based on a four year rotation of play style and genre, usually with one semester a musical and one semester a non-musical each academic year.
What plays are scheduled for this year?
First semester we are producing a musical version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. During the first intensive this year, we are producing a play in two and one half weeks called Winter Stock, which is patterned after the summer stock experience college acting and tech students often encounter during their college years. The play is yet to be named. And second semester an experimental theatre piece will be produced in a unique presentational format.
What are your three favorite theater productions that have been produced at UPrep during your time here?
Over the last 28 years, I have directed about 117 plays and musicals and taught more than 122 stagecraft classes, plus Intro to Acting, Humanities, Mime and Stage Combat and Film Studies classes. It is very hard to single out any specific play or any given moment as a theatre teacher as my favorite. My favorite experiences have been when I have seen a student discover a new strength in themselves, a new way to perceive or encounter the world, and how to change and expand their ability to apply their education with an enhanced “out-of-the-box” openness.
How do you relax and unwind when you are away from school?
I am joyously involved with my adult children. I enjoy my time with my partner. I love my time with Jack (the talking dog.) I enjoy directing plays away from school. I enjoy baking and cooking. I love to veg out.