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Managing Editor Emeritus reflects on South and Denebola

By Jason Agress
Published: June 2009

A friend of mine recently told me something that I found very interesting. He said that, among his friends at college, he is the only one that enjoyed high school. The others, I was surprised to hear, had displeasing high school experiences and anxiously awaited college as an escape.

I told him this surprised me because, for the most part, I really liked high school. Playing devil’s advocate, he asked me why.

This got me thinking. What about Newton South made me happy? Why did I – to some extent – look forward to coming to school for four years? The answer I came to had nothing to do with the rigorous curriculum or how much I learned; instead, I realized that, at heart, I’m a theatre kid.

Those of you that know me might find that conclusion confusing. I don’t act, sing, or dance, and I never participated in a South Stage production. What I mean is that, like how theatre kids are passionate about their work and look forward to rehearsals and performing after school, I am passionate about my own interests and activities, and that is what I looked forward to each day – that is what got me through those painful long blocks with third lunch, or a weekend dedicated to studying for a test.

To make a seemingly bold statement, I’ll assert that Denebola is my South Stage, and that doing theatre is much like making a paper.

While South Stage puts on nine productions, Denebola makes nine newspapers. South Stage has its big annual musical, while Denebola has its enormous graduation issue. And like how South Stage has student directors, Denebola has senior editors.

Yes, these comparisons are superficial and probably don’t mean anything to many of you reading this. But, in my final contribution to this newspaper, I’ll take a moment to explain why these comparisons are important, and what lessons are ultimately learned.

1 – Nine productions, nine issues. Though quality is better than quantity, nine of these time-consuming accomplishments are clearly impressive. Whether participating in nine shows or nine papers, there are certain skills that are improved through repetition, and various mistakes that are later corrected.

For my purposes, let’s take skill in acting and skill in editing. During the first production of the year, an actor may be inexperienced or out of practice. But through rehearsals, one’s skill improves. The same goes with editing; in the first issue of a volume, an editor may not catch mistakes or know the paper’s style, but through the course of nine issues they eventually figure it out.

Put simply, the lesson learned here is the cliché “practice makes perfect.

2 – Big musical, big grad issue. We all hear that size doesn’t matter, but these two are pretty big. Though there are many things to learn from participating in such sizable accomplishments, there is one key value that stands out: teamwork.

With a large group of people – even though everyone is working toward the same goal – it is often difficult to communicate and cooperate successfully. By having to work closely with many people on such a large project, teamwork is not only helpful, but also imperative.

3 – Student directors, senior editors. In any organization there are leaders. In theatre they’re called directors and on the newspaper they’re called senior editors. In both cases, these students are the ones ultimately responsible for the work of their organization – for better or worse.

There is no end to the role of a leader, whether settling disputes, uniting others, or making difficult decisions. Both in South Stage and on Denebola, these students work tirelessly to support their organizations. Through being leaders they learn a number of important skills and lessons, but among the most significant is responsibility.

It seems that South Stage and Denebola really aren’t that different after all. In the end, a group of students have worked together to produce an amazing product (like this 72-page graduation issue you’re reading now) and, along the way, learned about themselves, each other, and the world.

High school is only what you make of it. It is the choices you make and the experiences you have that determine your happiness and success.

And so I leave future South graduates with an important message: No matter what you like to do or what you are interested in, there is a place for you and things for you to do in this school. And if you just give it a chance, you may end up having a great time – it’s quite possible that you, too, are a theatre kid.

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