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Curtain call: Theatre teacher leaves mark on school

By Madeline Pena | Published Saturday, January 19, 2013

Theatre teacher Lance Morse carefully looks at the students on the stage auditioning for the One-Act play, “The Great Gatsby.” He realizes this show may not be the best one to perform.

“Sometimes life throws things at you, and you just have to deal with the changes as they happen,” he said.

ONWARD – After 10-and-a-half years as the Decatur High School theatre arts teacher, Lance Morse has resigned to accept a position with MJM Creative, creating and producing programs for corporate clients. His last day at DHS was Jan. 18. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

As he explains this, an email notification appears on his phone saying he received a job at MJM Creative studios.

“As soon as I saw the email, I reiterated what I just said, ‘No matter what happens just keep working’,” he said.

This happened on Thursday, Dec. 20, and earlier that week, Dec. 18, Morse was called in to interview for a position at MJM Creative. The job entails producing shows primarily for the corporate world.

“I’ve always looked to see what’s out there,” he said. “MJM had a post on LinkedIn saying they were looking for someone with a theatre background in directing and stage management, but with strong communication skills; basically my r sum .”

Morse accepted the job offer and notified the district the next day.

“I can’t remember anything about how I was feeling when I first heard the news,” senior Alex Carroll said. “I remember looking around his office and picturing what it would be like without him there.”

Employed under DISD for 10-and-a-half years, Morse expanded the theatre program. He directed more than 40 shows ranging in venues from the Wise County Heritage Museum to the Texas Association of School Boards Convention Center.

“Every time I raise the bar, these kids meet expectations or exceed them,” he said. “It’s grown far beyond my expectations. I’m fully proud of the department.”

The theatre students under his earliest direction wanted to better the program.

“I look back and realize how fortunate I was to start off with a group of kids so eager to expand because I think that’s what helped broaden our department,” he said.

As the department grew, Morse created a family-based atmosphere.

“Everyone here is extremely close to each other,” Carroll said. “I think that’s why it’s hard for everyone to see him leave.”

Morse’s influence on the students extends beyond the classroom.

“Morse was the reason I continued doing theatre, because he showed me something that could be fun and take part in the world of the show,” senior Graham McCain said.

As Morse takes on new challengs, the theatre students look at the situation as bittersweet.

“I think Morse is way too talented to be a theatre teacher,” McCain said. “He deserves this new job; I don’t know why he’s in this town because his talent is beyond a 5,000-populated town.”

The One-Act Play will continue under new direction as the board hired a replacement at Thursday’s board meeting. (See related story below.)

“The students will have to take on leadership roles for the show,” he said. “We’ve got strong, smart kids; I would expect nothing less of them to carry out the tradition.”

LAST DHS PRODUCTION OF MORSE – Before leaving his post at Decatur High School, Morse threw together a production in two weeks with his students. “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” will be performed 7 p.m. tonight, Jan. 19, in the DHS theatre. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

The department will perform its final show under Morse’s direction, “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” 7 p.m., Jan. 19, at the DHS theatre.

For a look back at the more than 40 productions Morse directed at Decatur High School, visit www.decaturjournal.com.

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