ELLSWORTH — Broadway had its Barrymores and Redgraves, now Ellsworth High School will have its own theater dynasty.
Jasmine Ireland, daughter of longtime drama teacher and Show Choir director Rebecca Wright, will be joining the faculty full time and heading up the school’s Visual and Performing Arts Academy.
“My mom has created such a legendary and thriving program,” says Ireland. “I want to make sure those theater doors are open to everyone.”
Wright, who has taught at Ellsworth High School for 32 years and founded the school’s theater program, will continue on as the high school’s assistant principal, a position she has held since February.
“The Show Choir will continue!” says Wright. “It’s a relief to know that it’s going to be kept intact, and the kids already know Jasmine and love her and work with her, and it’s not going to fall apart because I’m walking away from it.”
Ireland is herself a graduate of Ellsworth High School’s drama program. She completed her undergrad studies at the University of Maine and has long been a director and choreographer of drama and show choir productions.
“It’s sort of built over the years. It started out with choreography for show choir, then I started directing the fall musical, the one-act, and it evolved over time,” says Ireland.
In between, she received her Master of Fine Arts from The New School in New York, and worked most recently as the education director at The Grand theater. That’s a position she plans to retain, and says she hopes to expand the relationship between the two organizations.
“We’ve been working really hard to build the relationship with The Grand and the high school because that kind of went away for a while. So I want to see how we can work together and it can be beneficial to everyone and the best of both worlds,” says Ireland.
The Visual and Performing Arts Academy at Ellsworth High School offers specialized curriculum in a diverse set of subjects including costuming, stagecraft, set building, vocal classes, dance, music, design and dramatic literature. This spring, the school performed Mary Zimmerman’s “The Secret in the Wings” at the New England Drama Festival. The program draws students from all over the area to the school, and Ireland hopes to continue expanding and building it.
“I do bring a slightly different skill set than my mom. I have some thoughts on things I’d like to expand in the program,” she said.
That includes some practical knowledge, such as how to build a personal website, as well as ideas on expanding the program so that students learn early on how to be creators themselves.
“Like with choreography,” says Ireland, “I want the students to learn how they actually go about creating these dances and not just learning the steps and styles.”
Ireland also hopes to open up what is offered by the Visual and Performing Arts Academy to more students at Ellsworth High School.
“One insight I gained from my mom when she became assistant principal, she said ‘I’m meeting all these kids I never really had contact with.’ So it got me thinking that I want to make contact with as many students as possible and really open up the theater to be a place for everyone,” Ireland says.
A lifelong performer and choreographer, Ireland says her biggest adjustment won’t be the work, but the schedule.
“I’m terrified to work normal-people hours! I’m so used to my day constantly changing, so I’ll have to keep it interesting!”