fThe Austin Chronicle photo
In 1987, I had the good fortune to student-teach under the late, great Jerry Worsham. (For those of you new to the game or who might not have heard the name, Jeremiah Pleasant Worsham was the theatre teacher/director at Snyder High School for more than three decades. He was wildly successful in the UIL One-Act Play competition; his students made 27 appearances at the State Meet and won 13 State Championships!) Although he encouraged me to call him Jerry, I found that difficult. He was deserving of a title. So Mr. Worsham it was.
One day, as he prepared his company for the year's first contest, I noticed that the school bus windows were shoe-polished with the phrase "Austin is Beautiful in the Spring!" I recall asking, "Mr. Worsham, what's the meaning of the saying on your bus?" His response was, "Well, if we decorate with 'State or Bust' then we're really sending an awful message to our kids. Why should they feel like their work was a 'bust' just because they didn't advance to State? By putting 'Austin is Beautiful in the Spring,' we still have a true statement that is independent of their work. We're going to State, whether it's to compete or to watch, and I want them to look forward to either possibility."
I have always remembered that wonderful philosophy, and it the basis of the speech I give each year on the first day of our UIL One-Act Play rehearsal. I am not the only person to ever hear these words; Jerry often told the tale during his numerous workshops. And still today, I hear the phrase -- or some variation of it --spoken all over the state. If it's new to you, I highly recommend you adopt it.
For far too long, too many directors and schools have considered winning to be the measuring stick for what they have accomplished. I urge you to free yourself of that pressure. Do your play to the best of your ability. If you're lucky and advance, then I'll see your show at State. And if you're not lucky and don't advance, then I hope to see you at State anyway, fully satisfied with the beauty of Austin.