It’s tough for Brandon Bill to separate teaching and performing.
That makes sense. Both disciplines take up central part of Bill’s life; both are arenas where Bill finds direction, inspiration and purpose. By day, he’s a music teacher at Meadow Point Elementary School, the latest in several teaching gigs in his home district. He’s taught a wide variety of drama and theater tech classes at Eaglecrest and at his own alma mater, Grandview High School.
Off the clock, Bill is an accomplished actor with a résumé that includes roles on local stages as well as a stint as a performer at Walt Disney World. His current gig is a starring role in the Inspire Creative Theatre Company’s production of the musical “Shrek,” the 2008 musical based on the popular film and children’s book running at the Parker Arts, Culture and Event (PACE) Center from Sept. 18 to 28.
Bill insists his creative and professional duties are far from conflicting.
“They both benefit from each other,” Bill said, pausing to contemplate the two different spheres of his daily life. “I can use the things that I do professionally as examples for my students. I can say, ‘The things that I’m teaching you now are definitely used in the real world. I just did this last night.’”
Bill spoke before an evening rehearsal at the PACE Center less than a week before opening night for “Shrek.” He was headed to the makeup chair, where he’d undergo a grueling, two-hour process to transform into the lovably grumpy and obstinate ogre from the fairy-tale kingdom of Far, Far Away. That metamorphosis would come thanks to a fake nose, a foam latex headpiece and plenty of green makeup.
“The more you teach things, the more familiar you become with things,” Bill added. “That’s also allowed me to expand my knowledge in a lot of the areas I’ve taught. My passion is performing arts, so the fact that both my day job and my night job revolve around the thing I love the most is pretty cool.”
It’s not hard to see the close links between Bill’s two worlds – he’s never far away from teaching or performing. That much was clear at the PACE Center as Bill prepped for his big transformation. He chatted amiably with the dozens of cast and crew members as they arrived for rehearsal; among that crowd were five former students, Cherry Creek School District alums who’d found inspiration and guidance in Bill’s classrooms.
Maelynn Smith was one of those former students. A makeup and prop handler for the “Shrek” production, Smith was in charge of turning Bill from an elementary school teacher into an imposing green monster.
“It’s cool to see him in another light,” said Smith, who took classes with Bill at Eaglecrest, “as a performer and not just a teacher.”
His role as a teacher was influential for Smith, who’s currently taking business classes at the Community College of Aurora with ultimate goals of opening her own makeup and costume shop.
“I wasn’t really a people person. I didn’t have a lot of social skills,” Smith recalled. “I went to his theater class and he taught me that it didn’t really matter. He taught me that theater is a way to get out of the normal realm and being who you always are. He helped me get into this.”
Inspire Creative’s complex and detailed production of “Shrek” certainly includes all the best elements of escapism and fantasy that good theater has to offer. Bill appears in a cast of characters that includes talking donkeys, fairy tale characters and a massive dragon (that character comes in the form of an intricate puppet that requires four operators). Settings of the show include enchanted forests and faraway castles.
It doesn’t get much more imaginative than that. Bill’s happy to take part in that kind of fantastical storytelling, and he’s just as happy to include former students in the adventure.
“It’s really cool to see them have the same ridiculous passion for it that I do,” he said with a hearty laugh.
-- Published Sept. 19, 2014