By: Alexia Angel- Musical Theatre Major at Ball State University and Graduate of Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida
Melody Herzfeld’s classroom has always been a place I call home. I remember the first time I set foot into that classroom. At first it was intimidating, with so many students running around at work, trying to create their next wonderful production. But it soon became a place I could always be myself; a place I grew into, where I could learn, experience, laugh, cry, love. It was my home. For four years it was the first classroom I went into and the last classroom I left. “My Fiona! My Carrie! My girl!” I can always hear Herzfeld’s voice when I think back on the years I spent in that beloved room with my mentor.
Room 710 was a family. There were doors slammed, silly senior pranks, and lots and lots of yelling. However, there was much more laughing, singing, cheering, and creative thinking. When production class came along and the bell rang, we went into focus mode. The tables were pushed to the edge of the walls to create an open rehearsal space. The four huge mirrors were rolled in to practice choreography. The stage managers set up their scripts while the director began to work. The sound and lighting designers disappeared into our theatre to begin their part of the journey of creating the next story Douglas Drama was going to tell. All the while, Herzfeld was there – managing, guiding, and inspiring us all. She wore many hats, overseeing all the madness that we students created. She always allowed us to do things the way we wanted because she believed it was an opportunity to let her students put on a production for which they could have ownership and would be proud to present.
After spending an entire year at Ball State University, I have realized my time in high school gave me the foundation to be successful, not just as a student in theatre, but also as a citizen of the world. My first year as a musical theatre major has been one of the most exploratory years of my life. I have grown in ways I didn’t even know possible. First semester came with a heavy workload. I wanted to be my best self for my university and represent my department well. But once I got past the inevitable period of adjustment that comes with entering college, I realized how incredibly knowledgeable I already was in certain areas, thanks to my time with Douglas Drama and with my beloved mentor, Herzfeld. This gave me the courage to open up to people.
Looking back on my freshman year, I think what I appreciate most is the fact that Ball State has given me a family who’ve allowed me to express my true self. They have guided me to expand and grow, both as an artist, but even more so as a person.
When a mass shooting at my former high school occurred about one hundred feet from the classroom I once called home, both families… my Stoneman Douglas family, and the new one I had joined at Ball State… became one in my heart. My Ball State family went above and beyond to comfort me by being a shoulder to cry on while I was struggling to process and mourn the losses within my Stoneman Douglas family. While the only thought in my mind was wanting to hug the kids I called my peers only nine months prior, my Ball State faculty and fellow students’ only thought was ensuring that I was never alone and felt supported from that point on.
I’m now enjoying my summer break before returning to my sophomore year as a Musical Theatre major at Ball State University, and I’m finally having a chance to be home to be an in-person support to my Stoneman Douglas friends who continue to reel from the tragedy they endured. I can’t help but to feel thankful for the opportunities and feeling of family I had both in Herzfeld’s classroom and now in the classrooms of the Arts and Communications Building at Ball State. I am grateful for my good fortune, and I feel the responsibility to carry on the legacy of both these hallowed places.
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