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Gala highlights 20 years of Westview theater

Show also honors department's leader, CJ (Reid) Hindman

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Westview theater director CJ Hindman, center, with her former students (from left) Colby Reade (2001), Ben Neal (2008), Ryan Royce (2000) and Ciara Pressler (1996).CJ (Reid) Hindman feels lucky to have witnessed numerous successful theater productions throughout her 20 years leading the theater department at Westview High School.

Not only has she seen hundreds of students go through her programs — some of whom have gone on to careers teaching theater arts — but she can list precisely the countless shows she’s directed with a quip or two of how they came to fruition.

Now to commemorate those two decades, Westview’s theater department is hosting a special gala celebration set for 7:30 p.m. on Saturday in the school’s auditorium where an estimated 50 former Westview alumni are expected to attend.

“I’m very excited,” Hindman said of the event. “There’s more alumni coming than I thought.”

What the event will include is a wide-ranging look at the big performances Hindman has overseen since the school opened in 1994.

“We’re doing selected songs mostly from our big spring musicals,” said Hindman. “There’s going to be 20.”

Those numbers will include everything from “Hairspray” to “Beauty and the Beast” to “Les Miserables.”

In addition, there will be reenacted performances of pieces from the past annual state Thespian Showcases, where the school has placed favorably five times.

Looking back on her tenure, Hindman said it’s been a unique and rewarding experience.

“I feel very fortunate I’ve been able to do that here,” she said.

And while the upcoming anniversary tribute will serve as a milestone for the department, alumni credit Hindman as the reason Westview theater has been an overwhelming success.

Inspiring leader

Ryan Royce, a 2000 graduate who worked the lighting board during many of Westview’s productions, credits Hindman and Westview theater with giving him a reason to push on and graduate.

“I think (theater) gives purpose for kids who don’t have other things,” he said.

Hindman has seen many of her former students go on to work in in theater-related fields or communication jobs.

“A ton of my graduates are working in public relations just because of their communications skills,” Hindman said.

Among those attending the Dec. 20 event will be alumnus Colby Reade, who works in public relations.

“I was in, I think, the majority of the shows during my tenure,” said Reade, a 2001 Westview graduate.

He said he’s looking forward to the gala presentation, something he expects to be a mini reunion of sorts.

Reade attributes much of the success of Westview’s theater department to Hindman’s leadership.

“She was incredible,” Reade said. “She’s the kind of theater teacher who gets every kid involved.”

She is also remembered for honoring her students’ work each spring during a moving awards ceremony called the A-’Cat’-emy Awards. The event would inevitably end with Hindman being moved to tears.

Lindsay Slater, a 2011 Westview graduate, remembers those awards ceremonies well, especially the 2008 presentation when Jo Lane, the theater director at Roosevelt High School, invited Hindman onto Westview’s stage.

“CJ probably thought someone was going to bring a small gift,” recalled Slater. “Little did she know a guest and a sign saying, ‘Will you marry me?’ were waiting.”

Hindman’s future husband, Jackson Hindman, than strode on stage right and proposed.

“CJ, of course, accepted and cried (as she does whenever a show closes, or students graduate),” said Slater, who is a senior at Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash., majoring in speech communication and Spanish.

“CJ is a warm, talented director,” said Slater. “She holds high standards that her students rise to meet.”Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Westview theater director CJ Hindman's office is adorned with photos and head shots of her former students from the past 20 years.

Next generation of educators

Reflecting on her teaching career, Hindman is particularly proud that five of her former students have gone on to teach theater arts in a variety of schools and two of her graduates are in college at the moment, studying to be theater educators.

“That is very special,” said Hindman. “Extraordinary.”

One of those students is Spiro G. Tzakis, a 2011 Westview graduate who is a senior at New York University studying educational theater.

“CJ was absolutely my inspiration in becoming a theater teacher,” said Tzakis. “I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, I just didn’t know what sort.”

He said Hindman’s class changed his life because she made learning enjoyable and helped him realize theater was something “engaging, powerful, and a key component to my development at that age.”

Under Hindman’s tutelage, Tzakis said his self-confidence grew and he felt he was part of a community. He also became co-president of the Westview Drama Troupe and was on the Oregon Thespian State Board.

“She is such an incredible teacher that I often feel like I’ll never be anywhere as good,” said Tzakis. “It’s a good goal, I guess.”

For Anne Kidd, who graduated in 2002, her favorite memories of Westview were the people she bonded with in the theater program.

“We were a family,” said Kidd. “We supported each other and grew up together. CJ brought out the best in us all.”

Kidd said Hindman knew what her students were capable of doing and pushed everyone to be better.

“I can still hear her in the back of my mind saying, ‘Oh my stars!’ when something wasn’t going quite right,” said Kidd. “Like the one time during a performance of ‘Charlotte’s Web’ when the barn fell down. It was definitely an ‘Oh my stars!’ moment. Theater gave me so many magical moments.”

A family, a home

A theater memory 2014 Westview graduate Annie Barker will long remember was her performance as Flounder in a production of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid Jr.”

“Going out (to meet the audience) after the show was the closest I’ll get to being a Disney princess,” she said. “Seeing all of the little kids dressed up, who truly believe you are your character is amazing. It demonstrates the magic of theater, something that is so wonderful to see in little kids.”

Barker also wore a custom-made “fat suit” to play Flounder, something that always made Hindman laugh.

However, Barker, who is studying acting in Los Angeles, said one of her fondest memories of Hindman wasn’t a funny moment, but rather the fact her teacher was incredibly supportive of her when she was going through several health issues in her junior year.

“Most teachers leave their relationships with their students at school,” said Barker. “For CJ, we were more than that. And in that moment, I realized how much she truly cared about not only me, but all of her students.”

Another student, Ciara Pressler, said she had fond memories of the drama department as well. She was a member of Westview’s first graduating class in 1996.

“The theater was our home,” she said. “We spent countless hours not only performing, but auditioning, rehearsing, building sets and socializing. I’m sure as teenagers we stayed out of a decent amount of trouble having an outlet for our creativity and energy.”

Pressler said she always viewed Hindman as more of a peer than a teacher, someone who has always been “incredibly diplomatic” and fair.

“Of course I took it for granted at the time, but now, 20 years later, she is a role model and the type of woman I strive to be in my life and work: Enthusiastic, warm, genuinely caring and bringing excellence and a sense of humor to her work every single day,” she said.

Reade summed up how students view Hindman this way: “She’s the kind of teacher who you never want to let her down — you never want to disappoint her. You always want to give her 110 percent.”

Gala Event

Westview Theatre’s 20th anniversary celebration is set for Saturday, Dec. 20, at Westview High School. The fundraiser, which benefits the school’s theater program, begins with a reception at 6:30 p.m. followed by a featured performance (mostly from 20 years of musicals) at 7:30 p.m. Visit westviewtheatre.org for ticket information.

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