By Jen Bakken
For more than 20 years, she has been fostering the love of theatre in the hearts of students at Delano Public Schools.
Though her cast has changed many times over the years, one thing has remained the same Barb Roy has kept the drama department going strong.
“I think I became interested in drama in first grade,” Roy remembered. “I was cast as the cat in a class play, and the rest of the grade played the mice. I got the part because I talked louder than anyone else.”
After acting in plays throughout high school and college, Roy soon discovered the joys of directing, and decided this was what she enjoyed most.
In 1985, Roy moved to Delano, and began teaching ninth grade English. Since then, she has taught English in grades seven and eight, various electives, and advanced ninth and 10th grade English.
“The advanced English classes were my idea because I saw a need in one of my classes for something more challenging,” she said. “The classes were implemented with the wonderful support of then-principal, Ted May. After the ninth and 10th grade advanced classes were a success, advanced 11th and college in the schools English were added.”
Along with teaching, Roy has been the drama department director, continuing to do so after her retirement from the classroom in 2006.
“The Delano drama department has always been a strong program, thanks to my predecessors, Richard Whaley and Ross Alford,” she said. “The kids have high standards and do a top-notch job. My goal over the years has been to maintain that high standard.”
Roy hopes her students share the respect she has for them, and is proud that many have gone on to work in theatre in college and professionally.
“She’s amazing at what she does,” said senior Tyler Kyrola. “She gets really involved and brings her experience and insight to us. She will get up on stage and show us what to do. I’ve been involved in theater with her since fifth grade, and I’ll definitely continue in theater beyond high school because of her.”
In the late 1980s, Delano Community Education approached Roy about using its new youth development funds on a project that would involve older students helping younger students.
Using high school students as directors, Roy began having a middle school play each year.
“I have enjoyed seeing them learn a lot about drama by being on the other side of the stage,” she said. “We started the elementary-age play two years ago because I saw these short Disney adaptations, which looked perfect for that age. It’s been wonderful to work with the younger kids, too. I think Delano kids and parents are the best.”
Roy’s husband, Ric Roy, runs his own business as a guardian conservator and guardian ad litem. The couple has two sons Sean and Andy, both graduates of Delano High School; and two grandsons Aidan and Brendan.
Time with her grandsons is a favorite pasttime for Roy. She is an avid reader, enjoys movies, and also likes to write. She always has a few play scripts she is kicking around, and some articles she’s written have been featured in magazines.
Working with the PACER Center, a parent training and information center for families of children and youth with all disabilities from birth through 21 years old, located in Minneapolis, has also become a passion of hers.
“I’ve been working on their bullying web sites,” she said. “Last summer some drama kids and I went to the Ted Mann Symposium to perform one of the skits, (“The Fixer Dude”), and be on a panel to discuss bullying in schools. In November, PACER filmed two more of the skits the kids and I worked up.”
The Delano drama department just finished the one-act play for grades seven through nine, they performed at the Holdingford Junior High Play Festival Dec. 6.
The high school one-act play is next on the schedule, and goes to competition in late January.
“A Year With Frog and Toad,” based on the Arnold Lobel books, will be this year’s play for students in grades three through six. The last play of the school year will be the spring musical, “Godspell,” featuring Delano Schools music teacher Sharon Dake as the vocal director.
Currently, Roy is working with Delano Community Education director Diane Johnson to write a matching funds grant to purchase new lighting equipment and masking curtains.
For her, the most challenging part of being the drama department director is that she can’t use every student in every play as she wishes were possible.
“I believe that theater is for everyone. I love to see a lot of kids involved,” she said. “I wish everyone could see how much the students grow during each production.”
As each show comes to an end, Roy feels confident that each and every student, either on or off stage, will take something new with them from the experience. It could be new friends, expanding their knowledge of literature and great language and authors, learning how to work together as a team, increasing their confidence, or exercising their creative spirit.
Former students remember their time with Roy fondly.
“I was in drama for eight years. What I remember about Mrs. Roy is how hard she worked to make sure that each show was the best it could be,” aaid Shannon Sinkel, a 1998 Delano High School graduate. “I am greatful for Mrs. Roy and the experiences I had in drama because they helped to build my self-confidence, and left me with lifelong memories and friends.”
Sinkel’s thoughts are shared by many students who appreciate learning the different pieces that go into theater productions from Roy.
Previous co-worker Ross Alford worked with Roy approximately 20 years, and said has always worked hard and given her students a solid base in language arts, preparing them for the upper levels of language education.
“Barb has been consistent in her efforts to provide a dramatic experience for many students, many ability levels and a multitude of numbers in her productions,” Alford said. “She has given so many students an opportunity to belong to a group and also to perform, sing, dance and act. Her dedication to the drama department is commendable.”
Roy has helped students to develop a life-long love of theater over the years, and continues to do so.
“I hope I can keep directing for a long, long time,” said Roy, “because I still love it.”