East’s New Theatre Director


Melissa Walburn receiving the Outstanding Ensemble award for Crete at NHSTA last year

East High’s Theater has seemed to face the same problem for around seven years: a revolving door of directors.  This problem has created the difficulty of laying down a solid foundation due to the different styles of directing.  It seems this problem maybe finally going away with this year’s director Melissa Walburn.

What has the transition here been like?

The transition to East was a bit rough the first semester, but around Christmas I started to get into the swing of things. Going to a new school after a while at another is hard because you feel like a first year teacher all over again, and that is an overwhelming feeling. Every school has their own way of doing things and their own culture. East is very different from my previous school in many ways, so it just took time to get used to all of it and feel like I knew what I was doing.

Are there things you miss?

The biggest thing I miss are the students at Crete. I worked there for six years, so all of the students in the theater department were all mine. They worked so hard and really loved the program we had built. I don’t have that type of relationship with students here yet, but in a few years, I’m sure it will feel the same way. It really takes four years for that switch to happen, for all of the students to have had only you as a director. I also miss knowing how to get things done. At Crete I knew who to talk to to get something I needed. Here I feel like I run around a lot to figure all that out. Like I said, I feel like I have a lot of that figured out now, but every day is something new.

Theatre background?

My theatre background is an odd mix. I majored in Music and English as an undergraduate and did plays in the theater department and then opera with the music department. I sang with Opera Omaha for three seasons before I started to teach full time, and this gave me a lot of great experience working with nationally known artists and directors. When I started teaching, I was asked to direct the One-Act, a task I agreed to with some trepidation. I read a lot of books on directing and talking with friends of mine who are directors in the area who helped me hone my craft. I continue to perform with the Lincoln Community Playhouse and Omni-Arts and see each performance experience for, me as both fun and educational. I love to bring in other directors to work with my students and continue to learn from those who know more than I do. I see myself as a young director who still has a lot to learn, but I feel like every show I direct gets better and better.

What are your goals for East High’s Theatre for the future?

My hope for the future of East theater is that we are able to grow as a performing group. I’d like to bring more students into the theater program both on stage and in the technical area. I’d like to create a program that has a reputation for high quality and creative productions and have students that leave the program with a solid foundation in theater and a love of their craft. High school theater is as much about learning about one’s self as it is about creating a production, so I hope students who go through the program leave with more confidence, skills, and friends than they had when they went in. Theater is a family/community activity that requires a lot of people to work together for a show to be produced successfully. I want to create a program that is open and welcoming to new people and one that works to create a positive experience for everyone involved.

What do you think of East’s everchanging directors?

It’s really hard for a program to grow without consistent leadership. The first year Crete entered Class A for One-Act we were against Lincoln East, as we were for many years after, so I’ve seen the different directors pop up over the years and always felt it was unfortunate. East has such a strong speech and music program that I knew the talent was here for a dynamic theater program as well. When I saw the job pop up last year, I felt like it was a sign for me to make the switch. I’ve lived in Lincoln for 15 years, but was driving to Crete. I wanted to move to LPS sooner rather than later, so when East had the position open, it was a fairly clear decision for me.

Are you guaranteed to stay for at least more than just next year?

I don’t plan on going anywhere, as long as the school will have me! I have really enjoyed my first year at East. The students, staff, and administration are all so positive and really care about creating a great environment for student growth and learning. I really love the English department and have grown a lot as a teacher through the help and collaboration this year. The administration is very supportive and encouraging of both me as a teacher and the theater program. There is so much room here for growth and change, and I am so excited to see what we can make happen in the next few years.

Any plans or shows to reveal for next year?

I tend to research shows for the next season over the summer, so I don’t have anything chosen for sure yet. We have a great group of both male and female actors right now, so I’ll be looking for shows that will highlight those strengths. I tend to go with one serious show and one comedy each year, plus the cabaret, which is a mixed bag. The Thespians choose the cabaret theme, so who knows what that will be. I’ll do a full season reveal in August–follow us on social media for the scoop!