Flieder the leader

Former middle school drama teacher accepts position as theater director


Braylen Garren

Theater director Bonnie Flieder guides sophomore Tyler Unger and senior Beth Dietze through their scenes during a rehearsal for “Annie.” This is Flieder’s first show as the head director of Tiger Theatre Company.

Story by Stephanie Jumper, Editor-In-Chief

The bell’s ring sounds in time as students make final decisions on where to sit, scoping the room for friends they could converse with during the school year. The door closes and a fresh face, dawning a shiny, new name tag to go with her position, begins her first high school lesson.

Former theater director Lisa Newton resigned from her position June 6, informing students of her departure over the Remind app later that day. Taking her place is former assistant director Bonnie Flieder.

“I was really excited at the chance to not only work in the high school, but also to see students that I have taught previously and get the chance to grow in a program I’m already a part of,” Flieder said.

During her time as assistant director, Flieder was also in charge of the theater department at Texas Middle School.

“One of the big things I wanted to instill in the middle schoolers is that no matter your skill level or what you’re really into, there’s a place for you in theater,” Flieder said. “I really tried to cultivate that sense of belonging because you don’t have to be this really outgoing person [who] wants to be on a stage.”

Few of Flieder’s theatrical positions have been in the spotlight, with most of her past roles in college involving stage management, props or set building. One of Flieder’s goals for her troupe is to grow its technical crew.

“I actually really love the tech side of theater. It’s such a fun part that you don’t have to show your face [for],” Flieder said. “I really would like to bolster the number in our tech department. We can have people find their strengths in set building and lights and things like that. That way people who really love acting can focus on that.”

Part of the beauty of the tech department is that it offers options for both creative and analytical personalities.

“You can be a really artistic person, and we can use you in set design and costume design,” Flieder said. “Or you can be a really linear thinker that understands coding and science and we can put you in engineering of the building or sound or lights. No matter your skill set, it can transfer into theater.” 

Flieder also wants to build more diversity in Tiger Theatre Company’s cast and crew. She believes that minority representation inspires people to chase their ambitions.

“[Representation is] important because if you don’t see yourself in a role you want, you’re not gonna pursue that role. A lot of my [middle school] students would ask, ‘Why don’t we see people that look like us? Why don’t we see people that think like we do or are the same orientation that we are?’” Flieder said. “What can you say except that they’re not offered those roles? Why can’t [my students] be the next actor? Why can’t they be the next sound engineer? It shouldn’t be about a factor they can’t change.”

Flieder’s role as director is to decide on a creative vision for productions and assist the cast and crew in taking that vision to the stage. One of her responsibilities is choreographing blocking, which Flieder takes a more straightforward approach to.

“I can create entire relationships and stories through movement,” Flieder said. “I think that’s because I’m dyslexic, so I’m really a visual person. I’m really big on hearing things. I close my eyes and listen to what the actors are saying and see it running through my mind like a movie, and I put that on stage.”

While assistant directing, Flieder watched Newton conduct the company with ease and hopes to create that same level of creativity in shows this year. 

“Some [of my best memories] have been learning under Mrs. Newton because she was so great at pulling some of those abstract ideas and incorporating them and was really good at storytelling through every single piece,” Flieder said. “That’s something I really hope I can continue on with.”

Three months ago, Flieder was not the director students expected to see orchestrating each theatre class or Tiger Theatre Company production. But that doesn’t mean she isn’t equipped to leave just as much of an impact on young thespians as she did at the middle school.

“My educational philosophy is every student has unlimited potential,” Flieder said. “As an educator, I need to give them more tools and to leave that unlimited potential intact and encourage [it], so when they go on, they still have it. If I can do that with my students, in a few years, kids will just be like, ‘That person looks like me. That person thinks like I do. That person has the same beliefs or the same viewpoints that I do.’”