¡Presentando al Jefe!
For those of you who aren’t Spanish literate (¡ay no me digas!), PRESENTING MR. ALFORD:
The trees have bloomed, the grass is green, and the cotton is swaying (somewhere, anyway). You know what that means, obviously: SPRING. And with Spring, the infamous Spring Musical!
There’s really one person who creates this wonderful production that springs forth every May, and that is the one and only Mr. Alford.
I have spent every year I’ve been at Gould in the musical production, so I thought it would be fitting to tie in this week’s production with El Jefe. To be honest, there is so much about this multifaceted man that is interesting, it was hard to decide which questions to ask. But performing arts is one of Mr. Alford’s many passions, as is mine, and so who better to ask than the Jefe himself?
We sat down in the library together, Alford in his spiffy coat, and had a little chat. To understand how long this man has been involved in drama at Gould, I asked him straight out: how long you’ve been doing this, Jefe?
With a smile, of course, he said, “I’ve directed eighteen musicals”, which is no big deal for him! Alford has been at the Academy for almost twenty-two years, which is a feat in itself, let alone his eighteen years of directing.
There’s been highs and lows in his eighteen years. With a shy glance at his shoes, he tells me about his favorite musical, The Fantastics: “My favorite play, and I would do this play every three years for the rest of my career, is The Fantastics. It’s an amazing, intimate show, and I really, really love it.” Shifting in his seat, he then goes on to talk about one of my own past productions here at the Academy, “Godspell. For the same reason: just a wonderful, intimate, cast-oriented ensemble show.”
There is one that he hasn’t particularly enjoyed, however, and it comes as no surprise: “My least favorite production was the year we did Cinderella: It’s a Rodgers and Hammerstein show, and many people don’t know that they created the show, which is probably good that way.”
Humor, of course, transcends through Mr. Alford’s demeanor: a truly personable quality that makes working with him so much fun. This humor has been shared with many people since Jefe’s arrival at Gould, including some past mentors who are no longer at the Academy. Alford immediately speaks of Gould’s Performing Arts director, Jim McLaughlin: “I’ve been fortunate to work with him for his entire time here. He’s wonderful to work with, by the way,” Jefe says with a chuckle, “but don’t tell him I said that.”
“Before him,” Alford says, “the music director here was a guy by the name of Paul Nelson: a man who taught me nearly everything I know about putting a play together from beginning to end – particularly, placing music into a show.” In a reflective glance at the floor, Alford tells me that it’s Nelson to whom he owes his knowledge of music in theater.
He’s also worked with many others at the Academy: “Mr. Penley has been instrumental in a lot of ways, in putting things together and creating choreography.” Another sly smile spreads on his face as he talks about a particular person who he’s worked with in the past, “Ask Mrs. Manning if she ever got involved in a Spring Musical before. She’ll tell you about the year when she was my assistant director.”
Anything you want to own up to, Mrs. Manning? I sure would love to hear that story in class!
But Alford has had many experiences with the performing arts before he was even on his way to Gould. “I started in the first grade,” he says, “and joined first grade chorus. I sang in choruses and performed in plays all the way through elementary school, junior high, high school, and community theater.” He didn’t stop there, “After high school, I majored in Music as a voice major for two years before I changed to Spanish.”
Last but not least, “I’ve actually performed in two Gould Academy musicals: you don’t need to look those up, trust me.”
In the last minutes of his interview, I really believe that the true spirit of Mr. Alford is embodied in his strong sentiments about the power of performing arts in one’s life. We share the same beliefs, and hopefully you’ll understand why. I leave you with this short video:
Lastly, of course, I’ll take a moment to shamelessly advertise: COME SEE THE SPRING MUSICAL PEOPLE!
“Lucky Stiff”, a heart-wrenching and gut-busting tale of murder and adventure, opens in Bingham Auditorium this Thursday at 7:30 P.M. As part of the cast, I can tell you I’ve never felt so proud of a production until this year. It’s a wonderful play that is relatable, easy to follow, and most importantly, full of laughs and hopefully some tears. Admission is free and it should be no more than an hour and a half. If you’re around, Gouldies, I hope to see you there! As would Jefe as well!
With that, I’ll see you Thursday or Saturday at 7:30 in Bingham Auditorium! Be there or be square!
Till next week,