One hundred and fifty plays in 28 years: 39 musical productions, 47 non-musical plays, and 64 one-act plays and contest plays. It is an accomplishment that can’t be considered anything less than extraordinary. But to Emery High School’s Neal Peacock, the truly extraordinary part of his work has been being able to educate his student’s hearts.
Sitting in the auditorium that has hosted his 39 musicals, many of his other plays, and was the site of his first production, “My Turn on Earth”, Peacock said, “We’ve gotten pretty good at educating minds, but we’re not very good at educating hearts, and that’s why we need theater. We need to educate hearts, and I think that may be the best thing that theater does.”
He explained his view this way, “Most things in school are about [the] mind. In math and in science, we’re trying to improve the mind, and help how they think. We forget about their hearts, except in a few places. I think music– choir and band– don’t forget about it, and a few others. Theater is one of those. Every week in theater class, kids should cry a little bit, and they should laugh a little bit– maybe a lot.”
One would assume after 150 productions, Peacock might have some difficulty remembering certain plays, but he does not. In fact, he remembers each one. It is something he says “amazed” him for a long time. He spoke to head sports coaches about it, and heard the same thing from them. “I thought, ‘How can they do that,'” he related. “And then I started thinking back, and I can remember every single play. I think it’s because it’s so important to you, and you spend so much time on it.”
That importance comes from the relationships the plays allow him to form with his students. He explained this in responding to which of his plays were most memorable, saying “What to me are some of my favorite plays, are to our audience maybe not always their favorite play, because it’s more the relationships you build with students that ‘make’ those plays. It’s why I keep doing them. I think there are certain plays, that if nobody came to see, it was still worth it to do the rehearsing because of the relationships we developed here.”
Those relationships, coupled with the skills Peacock instilled have had their effect. Peacock admitted that many of his students have come back to him and expressed gratitude for the time they spent in theater. Even engineers, as Peacock related, must speak in front of groups of people, and their experiences in theater give them the courage to do so with much less fear. “The reach of drama and theater is far beyond the theater itself, “he said. “I [was] not making actors here. I was here to build people who could feel things deeply, and express themselves well.”
It is something he strives to help his students learn. “I have resolved in my career to make sure that there’s not a kid that comes through the drama department that doesn’t have a chance to stand in front of a crowd and do their best,” he revealed. “When they have to overcome those fears, when they face those fears, they come away better people, and I think happier people in the long run.”
Peacock’s current production, “101 Dalmatians” wraps tonight. The play begins at 7 p.m., and refreshments will be served afterward by the Emery County School District in honor of Peacock’s achievement.
To view more of the interview with Peacock, please watch ETV 10, your local channel.