High School Theater: Adam Faw Sets the Stage
By Andrew Soboeiro
Almost everyone has at some point uttered the phrase "I don't know what I want to do when I grow up."
While such an attitude is often stigmatized as -indicative of sloth and -dispassion, it is in fact a key characteristic of the so-called "Renaissance Man": an -intelligent, creative individual with a myriad of talents and interests. In -general, the longer it takes someone to make up his or her mind about a career, the more unique and socially valuable that career will be.
"I still have no idea what I want to do when I grow up," says Adam Faw, the 31-year-old theater teacher at Pinecrest High School. Having taught at Pinecrest for the better part of the past decade, Faw has worked long and hard to increase public appreciation of the arts.
Faw became involved in theater "late in the game," he says, "at least compared with some people. I hung out with some of the theater kids through high school, even though I was a jock; they dragged me to my first audition the summer before college, which was for 'West Side Story,' and I fell in love."
Faw attended Appalachian State University with a scholarship from the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program.
With his affinity for theater quickly becoming apparent, he decided to major in theater education, setting the stage to become a theater teacher.
"The Teaching Fellows scholarship was a way to put myself through -college, and I figured I could do -anything for four years, so I got an -education degree," he says. "It was something I wanted to try, and it wasn't until I actually got into the classroom that I realized how much I enjoyed it."
The theater troupe at Pinecrest is known as the Pinecrest Players. Made up of students of all years in Faw's various theater classes, the Players regularly tackle advanced theater material, from Shakespearean monologues to Stanislavsky-esque acting methods to dinner theater.
Perhaps their most -important event is the North Carolina Theater Conference (NCTC), a -festival involving more than a hundred schools across the state. Each school goes to a regional competition with a dozen or so others; the schools that win the regional competitions go on to statewide competitions.
The Pinecrest Players attend the regional NCTC every fall, and frequently move on to states.
"I would have to say that NCTC is my favorite event," says Faw. "There's just something about the festival atmosphere and the competitive aspect - yeah, that's probably my personal favorite."
The Pinecrest Players achieved notoriety during the 2009-2010 NCTC. They performed "At the Bottom of Lake Missoula," a drama about a girl whose parents are killed in a tornado. A far more serious play than its predecessors, "Missoula" gave Faw and his cast a chance to experiment with more abstract and intense acting methods, notably -theater of cruelty.
In October 2009, the cast competed in the regional NCTC at Grimsley High School in Greensboro. They won the competition and moved on to the state-level conference at Greensboro College.
Against all odds, the Pinecrest Players won the state NCTC; along with one other school, they had proven themselves the best of more than 116 competitors statewide. They were now set to move on to the Southeastern Theater Conference (SETC), to be held in Kentucky in March of the following year.
Cast members, not having considered that they might manage to win the conference, were left in a state of shocked excitement.
"I was speechless most of the time," says Nic Smith, then a senior at Pinecrest and the lead in the play. "It still doesn't quite make sense to me that we actually won."
Then-junior Evan Sherwood describes his reaction as somewhat more vocal: "Holy crap! ... I was shaking, and I was as red as a strawberry. ... I was -excited to perform our piece again, because it was an awesome piece, and we were really excited to keep working on it and bond some more in Kentucky."
"My first thought," says Paige Harrelson, then a -senior, "was that this was going to be really exciting, and I couldn't wait to go to Kentucky and perform nationally. My second thought was that we would have to continue rehearsing until March."
The Pinecrest Players then traveled to Kentucky to compete in the SETC. While not winning the overall -competition, they did obtain several awards for acting and for light and sound design. The cast spent its time participating in acting workshops and watching performances, getting a taste of the higher echelons of American theater.
"It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience," says Smith. "It was great to see so many other theater kids, not just in the state but in the nation, doing what I did and loving it just as much."
In addition to plays for theater festivals, Faw puts together a musical every spring semester, co-directing with the chorus teacher. The show brings together actors, singers, dancers and anyone else interested in performance, showcasing the school's abundant talent.
Faw is currently directing "Sweet Charity," to be -performed this February. Past musicals include "Seussical" (2011), "Once Upon a Mattress" (2010), "Crazy for You" (2009) and "Beauty and the Beast" (2008).
"I was involved in 'Crazy for You,'" says Smith. "That show opened my eyes to the world of musical theater. I [also] had a wonderful time with 'Once Upon a Mattress.'"
"'Crazy for You' was my favorite -musical," says Harrelson, "just because of the amount of talent we had performing the lead roles and the high-energy comedy aspect of the play itself, and my role as a man. I was a man the entire time, and it was fantastic; I had a beard and everything."
"I had the most fun on Seussical," says Faw, "and I think our audience probably had more fun watching it than they did with any show. Not that it was best or anything, but there was something about the group of people who did that show that was just amazing."
Faw twice attempted another project, "Copacabana," with his upper-level classes.
"Copacabana" was dinner theater. The school's culinary students would cook and serve the audience while the Pinecrest Players performed a series of skits and songs.
"Copacabana" was held at the beginning of 2009 and again at the beginning of 2010. Despite its popularity among students and -audiences alike, it was not financially viable, and Faw suspended it indefinitely. He is currently considering ways to cut costs and increase revenues, hoping to bring it back.
Faw has been careful to maintain close relationships with other directors in the area, most importantly with Judy Osborne, director of the theater program at Union Pines High School.
Faw has worked -closely with Osborne, -coordinating their theater programs to support each other, and has even considered jointly directing a show with her.
"Mr. Faw keeps me on my toes. He has energy that I don't, so it keeps me going," says Osborne. "It was important to me when he started at Pinecrest that we be colleagues and not adversaries, that the two programs not be in -competition with each other but rather be -supportive of each other. He completely bought into that and made it happen."
In addition to his work at the high school, Adam Faw is actively involved in -promoting the arts -throughout the state. He is a board member of NCTC, and is often involved in -planning and judging -festivals.
Every spring, he travels to Raleigh to petition the state legislature, demanding that arts classes be required for high school graduation.
At least once a year, he either travels to middle schools or invites middle school students to Pinecrest. He and his students put together a workshop for the middle-schoolers, -encouraging them to become involved in the arts upon entering high school.
"He really wants the -community to know how important the arts are," says Sherwood. "He wants -everyone to value what we have going on, to get involved and see what -awesome things happen behind the scenes."
"He really works with the actual theater itself, the building," says Harrelson, "so whenever there are any community events that -happen in the Pinecrest auditorium, he's always in the background, making sure everything is in its proper order. Especially when the North Carolina Symphony comes."
"Theater is a great tool; it relieves stress and gives people a creative distraction," says Smith. "We need more people like Mr. Faw who are enthusiastic about it."
"I still have no idea what I want to do when I grow up," says Faw. "If I get to do a job like this for the next 30 years, I could see myself being very happy. I don't know if this is what I want to do for the rest of my life, but I'm not actively seeking something else right now."
Andrew Soboeiro served as a newsroom intern at The Pilot. He is a student at UNC-Chapel Hill.
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