Pardeeville Schools on cusp of hiring new theater director

September 25, 2018

PARDEEVILLE – Theater students in Pardeeville won’t be leaderless for long.

The Pardeeville School Board is expected to hire a replacement for deceased theater director Lorrie Fundingsland when it meets at 7 p.m., Oct. 1, in the high school’s library, Pardeeville Area School District Superintendent Gus Knitt reported.

Fundingsland died in an automobile crash in June with her husband, Frank, after leading the theater department in Pardeeville for the past 19 years.

Fundingsland typically directed two plays each school year — one in the spring and one in the fall, productions that very often included all grade levels. She also led the high school’s Drama Club, which would take field trips to theater performances, among other activities like building sets.

“We were fortunate to have a theater tradition in this area that Lorrie built from the ground up,” Knitt said. “We want to continue it, to find someone qualified and willing to do it for these students who have an interest in theater.

“We also want someone who is familiar with the school district.”

Until the hiring is made official, Knitt and new Pardeeville High School Principal Paul Weber could only say that their top candidate has past experience with the school’s theater program. The theater director position is a part-time role in Pardeeville, on the same level as a coach or activity adviser.

Kryzdy Martinez of Portage is among those who helped the school district’s theater programming recently. The U.S. Air Force veteran in the spring directed the Pardeeville Theatrical Society’s production of “The Lion, the Witch and Wardrobe” when Fundingsland needed some time away because of her husband’s health issues.

About 20 high school students recently attended Pardeeville Theatrical Society’s first and only meeting of the 2018-19 school year, said Weber, who arrived in Pardeeville this summer to replace Jack Hammer as principal. Weber during the meeting put things in motion for the next director, signing up students for the various roles they hope to fill this school year and for the spring production.

“We expect a smooth transition with the new director,” Weber said.

Only one production will be staged this school year due to the transition in leadership.

The school district is currently building a 500-seat performing arts center as part of its $11.9 million construction referendum and the facility remains on track for completion next spring. The district has discussed staging its play in the new auditorium soon after it officially opens in early May, but an already packed schedule would likely make that difficult, administrators said. The high school’s most recent play was performed at the elementary school.

“In future years this won’t be an issue at all,” Knitt said of holding theater performances in the new auditorium. “The issue right now is squeezing it in the schedule and that students wouldn’t get a lot of practice time in there before their production.”

High school, middle school and elementary band concerts as well as an awards night for seniors are among the first events planned for the new facility in the spring. The district’s opening dedication ceremony for the auditorium is May 4.

The new auditorium has led to conversations among district staff and the community regarding events that might be held there, including the possibility of launching a children’s theater program for the summer months.

“We’re still working out our long-range goals,” Knitt said, noting that as far as school-related activities are concerned, the hiring of the new theater director next month should provide more clarity for the district soon.

Dance recitals mark one example of non-school-related functions that might be held in the new facility.

“Right now we’re taking names and letting people know what our reserved dates are for school activities,” Knitt said. “We’re open to such discussions.”

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