By JEROD CLAPP
NEW ALBANY —
His students are busy sculpting and painting puppets, as well as designing costumes, rehearsing and getting the stage in order.
But some of his students qualify for senior citizen discounts now.
Tom Weatherston, the theater teacher who is regarded as the man who started the theater programs at New Albany and Floyd Central high schools, will direct a play at Central Christian Church with the help of former students — some who had him in class back as far as 60 years ago.
Their production of “Carnival!” doesn’t begin until June, but Weatherston, 83, is looking for more cast members to fill the show’s ranks.
Even though he retired in 1991, Weatherston said his job was one he never wanted to quit.
“I guess I’m wanting to prove something to myself, as well as get the pleasure of providing good theater on the stage, for people behind the stage and the audience,” Weatherston said.
He said he approached the church about directing a show after seeing some of their other productions. Carol White, a member of the Performing Arts Ministry committee for the church, graduated from New Albany High School in 1970 and had Weatherston for class. She said while working on costumes and trying out for the chorus in the show, she keeps thinking about how great it is to work with her former teacher again.
“It is wonderful,” White said. “Where I am in my life, I just want to soak in what he says and his knowledge. I was a kid in theater, but now I just want to learn, to talk about the creative process out loud. That collaboration is there.”
She said she also made the puppets used by some of the characters and another former student of Weatherston’s, Larry Dalhover, painted the faces on them.
Weatherston said “Carnival!” has several themes, including a classic coming-of- age story and overcoming post traumatic stress disorder, though the condition didn’t have that name when the play was released.
He said a teenage girl, Lili, falls in love with a magician, Marco the Magnificent. Meanwhile, a crippled puppeteer, Paul Berthalet, vies for her affection. As she tries unsuccessfully to perform various circus acts, Lili eventually joins Paul’s puppet act.
Weatherston said while stage resources are limited in the church’s sanctuary, he’s not worried about bringing the show to life, since he’s done theater in unconventional venues such as hangars, tents, garages and barns.
“That’s not new to us at all and that’s part of the fun for me, the challenge,” Weatherston said. “This will be a production of ‘Carnival!’ like no one has ever seen before. That, and I’m convinced it will work.”
He said it also brings back good memories for him to work with people who were his students decades ago.
“It’s very rewarding, but it kind of overwhelms you sometimes because they’ll say, ‘you did such and such,’ but I’ll have no recollection because it was just a part of my job,” Weatherston said. “I think that’s every teacher, but more so in the arts because you’re dealing with emotions.
“It’s like scattering the seeds, you don’t know what's going to happen.”
• If you’re interested in joining Tom Weatherston’s cast, attend the auditions at Central Christian Church at 2 p.m. March 3. Parts are available for males and females, high school age and older. They’re especially looking for singing male leads between the ages of 30-40. For more information, call 812-944-1736.