06/01/2016 - In a one-room schoolhouse in Aladdin, Wyoming, Michael P. Stedillie's love for story began. Mrs. Ripley, his second-grade teacher, supplied him with a plethora of books to read: books about Wyoming History, Western History, historic poetry such as Beowulf, and more. There he immersed himself in great writing and acted out what he read.
(click for larger version)
Mr. Stedellie brought his love for story to his first audition where Eph Ehly,his incredible ninth-grade music teacher of Scotts Bluff, Nebraska, cast him in his first play, the play Oliver. From that moment he knew what he most wanted to do.
Coupling that love for theater with the love for speech and debate,a passion instilled in him by Mrs. Connie Wagner, his Speech and Debate teacher at Flathead High School in Kalispell, Montana, Mr. Stedillie enthusiastically began teaching speech and theater in Gering, Nebraska in 1974.
In his forty-one years of teaching, thirty of them at Kelly Walsh High School, Mr. Stedillie has been a special part of over one hundred plays. (He stopped counting at one hundred.) Some of his favorite musicals have been Shrek, Les Miserables, The Music Man, Oklahoma, Anything Goes, and of course, Oliver. Some of his favorite plays have been Greater Tuna, The Good Doctor, The Man
Who Came to Dinner, The Diary of Anne Frank, You Can't Take It with You, The Crucible, and Shakespeare's Antigone.
"Every play is a story. Every story has something to say or it has no reason to exist. They help us learn a lesson so we can live our lives more beautifully," said Mr. Stedillie in his warm and thoughtful tone during a recent interview.
Mr. Stedillie has counted it a privilege to be "surrounded by youth, energy,talent, skill, and life. These students are so alive," said Mr. Stedillie. "They want to know who they are, who they are to become, and what they are to do,and I have been able to help them. If I could be twenty-two again, I'd do it all
again. I was lucky I got it the first time."
Mr. Stedillie has a collection of special memories. Summed up, they are about watching a student connect with a monologue or scene in a magical way, especially when the student did not think he could do it but finds out that he can.
One of his most touching memories was when a young lady came to an audition but told him she was not there to audition. Seeing her hesitancy mixed with the desire to perform, he asked her to read some lines for him. Quietly she obliged, reading in a whispered tone "that grew louder and louder," said Mr.
Stedillie, "Until she filled the audience with a voice so full of pure emotion that I'm sure the angels in heaven stopped singing so they could listen. She was a natural. The pull of the theater brought her. She was looking for something and found it. She came to life on stage."
With Mr. Stedillie's gentle and trusting instruction, this young lady, along with many other students, have found a home on stage and backstage. You may have seen some of them wearing t-shirts with the slogan "We are home." Having a sense of approval and belonging, Mr. Stedillie's students have been able to
discover, create, and shine. Like musicians, these actors have been able to "create magic out of black marks on white paper" and have been able to give us an opportunity "to be affected in a place where life is created."
Mr. Stedillie is thankful for all the people who have made his teaching career so amazing. He appreciates the theater ninjas (stage technicians), actors, the backstage parents providing food, support and so much more along with the supportive Kelly Walsh administration and our community who value the arts and
help make Casper "the cultural capital of the Cowboy State".
Kelly Walsh's English teacher Dustin Hebert will become the Artistic Director. He has a love for theater and is full of many great ideas. "I can hardly wait to see what he does," said Mr. Stedillie. Technical Director Lance Robinson, who for five years has helped perform technical wizardry - a spectacle of lights,
sounds, and scenery - to take place on stage", will team up with him. Together they will "scale the artistic heights".
Even though Mr. Stedillie is retiring from teaching, he will be involved in theater in Casper. Look for him.
We love and appreciate you, Mr. Stedillie! You have touched our lives.