My Roeper Story is about how Roeper saved me. That is all.
Although I only came in the 9th grade and graduated a year early, Roeper gave me a place where education was enlightening and everyone appreciated one another for their differences. I had grown up in Bloomfield Hills Public Schools with all the rich kids who wore all the right clothes, had all the right toys, and said all the right things. My folks ran a theatre and trade school on the last four acres of old family land, so we were not rich. We were artistic farmers. I wore hand-me-downs, dressed as a Shakespearean Clown for the first-grade Halloween parade (a lifelong regret), and went home each night to rehearsals rather than homework. Needless to say, I didn’t quite fit into the Bloomfield Hills sense of normalcy.
I hated school so much I figured out a way to get the information, study it on my own, ace the tests, and be absent the rest of the time. On the last day of 8th grade at Bloomfield Hills Junior High, Mom picked me up from school. I got in the car, turned to her and said, “We have to find an alternative way to educate me.”
My mother taught theatre for George Roeper in the early 1960’s and thought it might be a good place for me. I scheduled an interview with George and Annemarie. I offered to teach Drama in the Lower School for my tuition in the Upper School. They went for it, and I was off and running on a work scholarship.
Roeper was a whole new world, where creativity, leadership, and just plain uniqueness counted as much as intellect or academic success. My first day of school I remember being approached by Caroline Graham, a senior at the time, and her saying how much she was looking forward to learning things from me. That was one of the nicest things anyone had ever said to me – and it came from a senior!
I worked hard at Roeper, teaching Stage IV Theatre Games and Improv, being in the dance company and all the plays and musicals, surreptitiously fulfilling Phys Ed credits with Barb Blamey taking me to ride her horse because only a fool would try to get me to kick a soccer ball – how sensible these people were! I discovered if I could pass Algebra II, I would have enough credits to graduate from High School early, so I went for it. Unfortunately I was not much of a math star. When I passed the final, the very nice math teacher who got me through it took out a bottle of champagne and two glasses. Yes, it was the ‘70’s☺
There are so many great stories from those years, but I think my favorite was when for some reason a friend named Ted and I had a strange bit of downtime and we decided to steal the piano from the great room and see how far we could get with it. We would push it a little way down the hall, and as we passed an office or classroom, would stop and lean on it, whistling nonchalantly.
We rounded the corner to the music and drama room’s twisted hallway area, blocked the way for passersby just as classes were about to change, grabbed another friend who played the piano and let the music rip. Joanne wouldn’t mind – after all we were making music right by the music room! People changing classes stopped and joined our singing. Then there was dancing (possibly on the piano – there wasn’t much room), and about 40 kids were all crammed into this one little area singing and dancing and decidedly NOT heading for any classes.
George Roeper appeared at the end of the hall. The crowd grew silent, expecting chastisement. Ted and I were center stage – there would be no doubt of whom to blame. He looked around silently for a moment – unsmiling – then in his heavy German accent said, “Vell, go on – finish da zong – itz beautiful!”
Yes, Roeper saved me. Now I teach theatre and help create programming at a public school for the Gifted and Talented in Milwaukee, named after Golda Meir who attended 1st – 8th grade in the original building. I remind my students every day that we are walking in the footsteps of an amazing world leader. Yes, I mean Golda Meir for their benefit – but in my mind, it’s George Roeper – who thought a pack of silly kids disrupting classes by singing and dancing in a hallway with a stolen piano was beautiful.
Tyne Turner, Class of 1980, played Antigone in “Antigone,” Rosalie in “Carnival,” El Danza in “Man of La Mancha,” Beatrice in “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds,” directed “Diary of Anne Frank,” played the violin in Chamber Ensemble, was in the Dance Company and on the Varsity Fencing team.