Bonnie Carpenter, Theatre Chair

It was 20 years ago this summer that Todd and I drove across the country to embark on our first big married adventure. We were only married 2 years at that point, living in a 400 sq. foot apartment in graduate school, and had NO idea about this little town of Idyllwild, CA. One summer turned into two and when 2 full time jobs opened up, Angelina Burnett (our housemate for those two summers) said, “Don’t stay. If you do, you will never leave.” We didn’t believe her at the time, but one year turned into two… and you know the rest.

Over the years I have held many different titles. Currently full time as the theatre department chair, I’ve been able to take time to reflect on the many students that have come through the doors of Bowman theatre over the past decades. Each fall brings new challenges, opportunities, and relationships. While I am certain I have made mistakes over the years, I too have grown up at Idyllwild Arts. Whether saying the wrong thing or failing to say anything, I have learned about the importance of this school and arts education. I’ve had the pleasure to watch kids come to understand academic subjects, gender and sexual identity, addiction, love, and most importantly for me, art. Before Idyllwild, I did not understand the incredible complexity of the role of “teacher” at a boarding school. I really thought I was hired to teach classes in theatre design, theatre history, or how to get into college. I have since learned that this job is much different.

Each and every alumni has taught me so much more. I have learned about different cultures and living away from home and family at 14 years old. I have learned about adults having to set boundaries while simultaneously trying to teach kids how to break them. I’ve learned how important and significant the words of a mentor are to young adults. And I hope I have learned how to be a better parent because of the experiences I have shared with the students who have given me that privilege.

I am grateful for every tear cried in the bowels of Bowman or the foyer of Rush. I am grateful for the hours of weekend duty in a stuffy MacNeal dormitory office. I am grateful for the “Stich and Bitch” under the awning, the curse words shared opening the tanks to prop storage, or Sunday brunch in the dining hall. Thank you to each and every one of you who has created my “Idyllwild Arts” story.

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