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The curtain closes on WHS' Seashores

Karen and Jon Seashore retired from directing the Woodbury High School musical this fall after 35 years with the theater program. The Seashores will continue to direct the spring play, however. (Staff photo by Amber Kispert-Smith)

It was an interesting fall for Woodbury residents Karen and Jon Seashore.

For the first time since 1979, the Seashores weren’t busying themselves at the school getting ready for the fall musical.

Karen and Jon Seashore opted to retire from the fall musical this year.

“It’s a combination of a lot of different things,” Jon said.

The Seashores said they felt like this was the year to retire from the school musical because their daughter’s wedding was this fall, Jon’s mother had died recently and Jon was dealing with some health issues earlier in the year.

“It’s not like we don’t enjoy it – we do – or that we feel that we don’t have the energy,” Jon said. “It’s not like we’re too old, but we’ve never actually had a fall.

“This is the first fall where I was able to rake the leaves in my lawn.”

Additionally, last year’s spring play, “Our Town,” got the Seashores thinking about what’s next for them.

“There were people in the story who didn’t live to do the things they wanted to do,” Karen said.

“The show is all about time passing and taking advantage of time,” Jon said, “and we want some more adventure too.”

A storied career

Karen and Jon Seashore were both heavily involved in theater when they were in high school and college, so when the opportunity presented itself to direct their first high school play they jumped at the chance.

The Seashores’ first production, “Arsenic and Old Lace,” premiered in the spring of 1977.

“Those kids are 53 years old now,” Jon said.

To date, the Seashores have directed 76 plays – including the musical, the spring play and the one act play. 

“I think we’ve directed over 10,000 kids,” Jon said.

The Seashores directed their first musical, “Godspell,” in the fall of 1979.

Over the past 35 years, the husband and wife have lived by the philosophy that acting is just as important as technical theater, the process is as important as the production and the primary goal of any production is to engage and connect with the audience.

When it comes to picking a favorite show, Jon said it’s almost impossible.

“Each one has their memorable moments and their challenges,” he said.

However, Jon does pick out “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” as the musical that they are best known for.

Even though every show has unique elements that make it special, Karen said she always finds enjoyment in the students, no matter the show.

“The one thing for me that is always a joy is being able to watch the kids grow into their characters and amaze that audience in ways they never thought they could,” she said.

“Plus, it’s great watching some of the parents who never realized that theater would have such an impact on their child.”

Jon agreed.

“It’s a thrill seeing kids accomplish things they never thought they were capable of,” he said.

Over the years, Karen and Jon Seashore said they have seen numerous changes to WHS theater, the majority for the better.

Karen said the biggest changes have come in the form of technical aspects.

When the Seashores first started directing, students weren’t able to be amplified by microphones, so whoever was in the show had to be able to project their voices.

“You had to cast the loudest singers,” she said, “but the technical advances have brought about a whole new quality.”

The second act

This fall when WHS put on “Guys & Dolls,” directed by Marcie Berglund, Karen said it was a surreal experience since it was the first production at the school she had seen that she didn’t have a hand in.

“It felt very strange because this is a place that has been my home for so long,” she said.

The Seashores aren’t completely giving up their theater roots just yet though. They will continue to direct the spring play.

Additionally, the Seashores will continue to coach the school’s speech team.

“It’s really hard to give up something you love so much,” Karen said, “so, we decided we’d go a little at a time.”

Now that the Seashores have passed off the musical reins, they hope the theater continues to do challenging shows and that the school continues to work at a high level.

“I feel pretty blessed that I’ve been able to make a living doing what I love,” Karen said, “but, I’m going to miss being a part of something that makes a difference in kids’ lives.”

Don’t expect the Seashores to lose their love of theater, though.

“Since (we started) we’ve gained some gray hair and some grown children of our own, but we still have the same enthusiasm for working with kids in this wonderful and challenging world called theatre,” the Seashores said in the program for last spring’s “Our Town.”

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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