She became one of the first teaching artists in San Francisco public schools.
When did you first get involved with the Workshop?
It was 1971, fresh out of college at UC Davis with a degree in Dramatic Art, as they called it then. I came to San Francisco to go to San Francisco State University to get a teacher's credential.
I went to the job office to get a part-time job and the clerk offered the student before me a piece of paper with a listing for a registrar's job at Performing Arts Workshop. I heard the word "performing" and went up and literally grabbed it out of her hand. Luckily the woman before me wasn't too interested in the job.
If I could get in the door with a theatre group in San Francisco, I would be in heaven. Well, it was a 20 hours a week job, at $2.50/hour, registering people for classes—at that time Performing Arts Workshop offered about a dozen classes a week at its home at the Buchanan Street YMCA. I basically badgered them into giving me the job and the rest is history.
I even remember the first day of work—September 15, 1971. From there, I worked my way through the organization teaching acting and movement classes and then more of the administration and financial aspects. I worked until 1986 when my family moved to Wales for 15 months and I felt my life needed to take a different turn.
Tell us about your favorite Workshop memory.
When Performing Arts Workshop moved from the Buchanan Y to a studio at 340 Presidio, we knew we were losing our base—at-risk youth who needed a new form of expression. Of course we didn't use the term "at risk" in those days.
Sukey Lilienthal and Gloria Unti developed a program called "Community Outreach" and got a sizable grant from the San Francisco Foundation as seed money. I was one of four or five founding teachers and we taught one class a week in twenty schools. At the time, this was pioneering. It was exciting to be a part of something new.
We also performed skits and dances under the direction of Gloria and took them to the schools where we taught. I remember lugging this big reel-to reel tape machine for the music for the classes.
This program has metamorphosed into the Artists-in-Schools program.
Why did you want to join the Gloria Unti Legacy Society?
I worked at Performing Arts Workshop during my most formative years. I watched Gloria Unti infuse children and teachers-to-be with inspiration. I would listen to her so beautifully articulate her desires for Performing Arts Workshop. I sat with her and developed lesson plans. I watched her fight for Performing Arts Workshop and for its mission. She was the founder of what is now a long-standing and very vigorous organization.
I am so proud to have been a part of its early days and so happy to see it in the strong position it is now, with its mission still being fulfilled.
Its longevity is amazing to me—from Gloria, Gary, then Tom DeCaigny and now Jessica Mele—and Performing Arts Workshop is still thriving. And I am a personal friend of Gloria's...this is a lovely way to honor her and to secure Performing Arts Workshop's perpetuity.
Diane included Performing Arts Workshop in her will. Learn how you can join the Gloria Unti Legacy Society.