What I’ve Learned From Laura Kraybill or A Poor Attempt at a Loving Tribute
Drama Town Play Services 2015
A small private Mennonite college in the middle of Kansas
Laura: a long limbed, elegant woman with theatrical experience
Rachel: a short limbed woman lacking elegance with theatrical experience
Others: those of shows past
Laura (with dramatic flair): Well, my time here has come to an end.
Laura (continuing with flair): I must move on and go where I feel led. I only hope great theatre will continue to be the standard once I’ve gone.
Others: How will we go on without you?
Laura: That’s not up to me to answer, dear ones. The recently swamped search committee will leave you in good hands…I have no doubt.
Rachel (swinging in from a well-supported vine): Never fear, Rachel’s here!
Others: Wha?? Your talent is an unknown factor and our fear is compounded by the fact that you wear jeans and a ponytail…a lot. No one that casual can be fully trusted.
Rachel: I can assure you, I am legit. But to further ease your troubled minds, I’d like to tell you what I’ve learned from Laura. I will not let her be forgotten. Her presence will still be felt, much like Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars trilogy…minus the “having to die at the hands of Darth” thing.
Others: That seemed like an odd analogy…but, proceed.
Laura: Well this is awkward. Do I sit and listen or should I go? These things are always so tricky…
Rachel: Stay, and take this to heart. (Rachel then launches into a moving monologue withholding all cheese and sap) Laura, I could talk about the side of you that is a teacher and artist or I could focus on the friend and colleague you are, but you are all things to me: teacher, artist, colleague and, most importantly, friend. Thank you. Your kindness, patience and creative spirit are inspiring. You have always been available to me as a designer, an actor, and as a pal who needs reassurance and prayer. Your faith and peace with God is so very evident and it carries through, beautifully, into your artistry. God has blessed you with so many gifts. Never were your gifts so apparent than in the last two shows. Our Town and Little Women were touching, well-executed and the audiences loved them. They were directed with intention and care to detail, without becoming so heavy-handed that the actors felt stifled. That is a hard line to walk and you handled it well. What the audience didn’t see, however, was the sense of belonging you gave these students and the community you built within those shows. The productions leading up to this year have been quality, but I really do feel, my friend, that you mastered the art of generating something truly powerful both during rehearsals AND the performance. I told you, at the end of both shows, that I have rarely come across a cast who have formed such bonds. You created that. Not only did you create conceptions, rehearsal schedules, production meetings, cast lists, read-throughs, work calls, load-ins, blocking, prop lists, program notes, strikes and curtain calls…you created a loving family and community. I have learned that this is more valuable than any standing ovation. I applaud you, Laura Kraybill. Bravo…and take your bow. Much love to you and blessings. Thank you for sharing YOUR story.
by Taylor Zehr – Sophomore
In the four semesters of time I’ve spent at Hesston College, much of it has been spent under the direction of Laura Kraybill—spunky, fun, and full of ideas. As we often do from Hesston College faculty, being around Laura, I’ve learned a few things that I’d like to share.
It is possible to be incredibly talented at singing and acting and to be able to do every accent in the book…and still be stuck in Hesston, Kansas. This is perhaps one of the biggest conundrums in existence for the theater world. One might be less confused, however, if they got to know Laura. Laura Kraybill is an incredibly talented individual, one who clearly chose to be “stuck” at Hesston College. Indeed, she was never stuck, but has enthusiastically offered her abilities and insights to both her students and to the community of Hesston, always excited to hear new perspectives. For someone who likely could have chosen from any number of more showy jobs than this one (a professor and theatre director at a small Mennonite college in Kansas), Laura has joined the ranks of Jessie J to show the world “it’s not about the money, money, money”—there’s more to a life where you can give back, teach, and learn all along the way.
You can assert authority with a smile. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. As someone who has talked to many theater people in her short lifetime, I’ve heard of plenty of horror stories about directors who really enjoy yelling. They don’t seem to think that they can assert themselves without pushing their lungs to capacity. When faced with a chaotic cast, though, Laura Kraybill has always remained calm and collected. During the three shows that I have worked with Laura, she never once raised her voice. When havoc broke out, though, sometimes we needed a reminder—“I am the director.” Smile, assert, carry on.
Care about your cast. It’s easy to see the people who work for you as just that—people who work for you. You go on with your life and they go on with theirs, and as long as the job is done well, the goal is accomplished, right? But Laura has gone above and beyond that—she is always concerned about her cast members. In each show that I’ve done with Laura, she has consistently and intentionally checked in with me to see how I am doing, offering support and tea as she makes sure that my workload is manageable. Even as she leads, Laura is everyone’s cheerleader.
For sharing your talents and abilities, for being the strong, smiling type, and for the support and encouragement you’ve been to everyone around you…Thank you, Laura. I pray blessings and support over you as you begin your new journey.
Editor’s note: After directing the theatre program at Hesston for the past five years, Laura Kraybill has been accepted into the Master of Divinity program at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, beginning the fall of 2105.