Tracey Vaughan has surrounded herself with the lights, sights and sounds of theaters and productions for much of her life. From being the woman behind the curtain, performing in front of it and, even, to cleaning a theater’s toilets, it has been a lifelong calling for the Coeur d’Alene resident.
“It is one of those passion jobs,” Vaughan laughed, referring to the lengths she and other employees and volunteers have gone to in the past to keep a theater’s doors open. “We are all just committed to theater and (we) do whatever we can to further that goal in the community.”
Now Vaughan, a 33-year-old Coeur d’Alene native, wants to share her passion, and stir it in others, through the creation of a new production company, Stage Directions, for youths in her hometown and in Post Falls. This fall the stage company offers three separate classes for kids ages 6 through 18 to hone their acting skills while exploring the many other areas the world of live theater has to offer.
The classes, Vaughan said, will “take the student’s skill level, and where they are at, to their highest potential.”
Vaughan’s personal path to where she is now has been robust with plays, productions and detours. After getting her master’s degree in fine arts from the University of Idaho, Vaughan had planned on furthering her script-writing and directing career in the more opportunistic theater and show business climate in Florida. However, after a few years of directing some commercials and other productions, she decided that that lifestyle and environment weren’t for her.
Upon her return to North Idaho, Vaughan soon became the artistic executive director for the Lake City Playhouse, where she directed plays for three years, including “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” However, while still working with the playhouse as a director, the nonprofit theater company was recently forced to make some budget cuts, including cutting Vaughan’s former position.
But, that hasn’t stopped the theater enthusiast from doing what she loves. In fact, her work with children while at the Lake City Playhouse is what helped guide Vaughan’s decision to start this fall’s live theater classes.
“It was like it clicked, like this is what I’m supposed to do,” she said.
It was what some of Vaughan’s students and their parents at the playhouse wanted as well, as they encouraged her to keep teaching in the community. Erin Anders, a junior at Coeur d’Alene High School, was one of those students and is now enrolled in Vaughan’s most advanced of the three courses, the Encore class.
“I love working with Tracey,” Anders said, adding that it was through Vaughan that she learned what she wants to do in the future – to become a theater-acting teacher. “She is a higher-level teacher.”
Vaughan’s dedication is something that goes back to her high school years, said Pat Caloca, the theater instructor at Coeur d’Alene High School for 35 years and Vaughan’s former teacher.
“Tracey is very talented,” Caloca said. “She was one of the driving forces of the group at the time. She was always very serious about what she did.”
The classes Vaughan offers will be different in that they will allow students who actually want to be there more one-on-one time with the teacher, Caloca said, as opposed to the 40-plus students in her high school classes who don’t always want to be there.
“I think that part of my job is to listen to what the students want,” Vaughan said.
The first two classes Vaughan teaches – the $40 per student, five-week long Premiere and Bravo Classes – are for children ages 6 through 12 and will focus primarily on acting, while also being introduced to some backstage aspects of theater. The third class, for kids ages 13 through 18 for $12 per class or $100 for the full 10 weeks, explores acting as well as stage management, lighting, costumes, playwriting and directing. There will be a showcase show for the students at the end of the three courses.
Besides acting, the other backstage aspects of theater are something many theater students aren’t exposed to, Anders said. “I think it’s really cool that she’s teaching that along with acting.”