Author Michael Sokolove's DRAMA HIGH Now Available in Paperback

Author Michael Sokolove's DRAMA HIGH Now Available in Paperback

By Jason Cocovinis on October 09, 2014
The following piece was written by Drama High author Michael Sokolove in celebration of the book's paperback editions.

A book is not a living thing in quite the same way a theater piece is. But after a story is written and bound between hard covers, it is not inert. The book has an afterlife, which it is given by readers. Over time, an author comes to know how his work was received – who its most ardent audience is -- and what parts of it really connect.

Sometimes, as a writer, you can be surprised. (Darn, that 10,000-word chapter that I thought was so brilliant . . . and no reviewer or reader has ever even mentioned it!)

Drama High: The Incredible True Story of a Brilliant Teacher, a Struggling Town, and the Magic of Theater, has several strands. It is, in some measure, a memoir. It’s the story of the blue-collar town where I grew up and the ever-widening gap between rich and poor in America. Wrapped within the narrative is a tragic love story.

But the beating heart of the book, and its central character, is Lou Volpe, who directed and taught theater for more than four decades -- all of them at the same high school where he started out as a 21-year-old English teacher.

It has come as no surprise to me that the largest and most enthusiastic readership for Drama High has been teachers –many of them, drama teachers and directors. In a school district without a great deal of money -- and in a community hardly known for its devotion to the arts – Lou elevated the theater program at Harry S Truman High in Levittown, Pa., to such a level that MTI came to rely on it to stage high school pilots of some of its most challenging material. First Les Miserables, followed by Rent and Spring Awakening.

In his 44 years as a teacher, he changed the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of students. (I was among them.) When Lou finally retired, MTI made him the first recipient of its Lifetime Achievement Award for Theater Education. Stephen Sondheim sent a note of congratulations. Many other accolades followed. Lou was recently honored at a White House reception.

Lots of high school theater directors have wondered: How the heck did he do all that? And how, particularly, did he win the trust that allowed him to put those productions on a high school stage?

It is not just theater teachers who have responded to Drama High. I am honored that educators across subject areas have viewed my book as a clarion call – an urgent call for offering a full-blooded curriculum, and letting teachers be creative forces in their own classrooms – at a time when those values are under siege.

A year after its initial publication, Drama High has just been issued in paperback. My hope is that for years into the future, it will serve as strong reminder that the essential ingredient in any classroom is passion – for students, for the subject, and for the art of teaching.

Check out the paperback edition!