After 20 years teaching performance classes at Indian Hills Middle School, Cheryl Hodges-Thrutchley will retire next month.
But ask her what she has planned for her post-teaching life, and she’ll need a second to process.
“People keep asking me that, and the answer this week is that the plan is just to get through Aladdin,” she jokes.
Indeed, Hodges-Thrutchley and more than 100 Indian Hills students are in the final days of preparing for the debut of this year’s Indian Hills musical, which will be her last at the school.
A native of Kansas City, Kan., Hodges-Thrutchley went to college at KU before moving on to Oklahoma City University to study performing arts. A director there encouraged her to head to New York, and there she landed roles on Broadway, performing in Pirates of Penzance and Merlin before taking up with the national touring companies of shows like Annie and The Music Man.
On a trip back to the area for her 20th high school reunion, she reconnected with her high school boyfriend.
“We were both divorced and we got back together,” she said. “I did Starlight that summer, and then I decided to stay in Kansas City so we could raise a family here.”
When she decided to go into teaching, she was quickly attracted to the idea of bringing musical theatre to the school — despite the challenges inherent in working with adolescents who have little stage experience.
“The reason we wanted to start it was because we didn’t have anything like this at the time,” she said. “Musical theatre can be the most challenging. You have to be a good actor, you have to be a good singer, you have to be a good dancer.”
She said that over the years she developed a host of techniques to get the dozens of tween-aged cast and crew organized.
“It’s just like coaching — a lot of the kids call me coach,” she said. “You just run the drill. We have little tricks.”
Aladdin will have three performances open to the general public Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m.
And once it’s over, she says, she’ll start thinking more seriously about her retirement plans.
“I want to go around and see theatre,” she said. “And I’ll keep performing myself. But I also like to go and see my former students perform.”