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Washington Voices

Surgeries couldn’t keep University High’s Wirth away from stage

Thu., May 23, 2013

Tanner Wirth, right, paints Jamie Adair’s face as part of the “Every 15 Minutes” drunken-driving awareness program at University High School on May 2. (Kathy Plonka)
Tanner Wirth, right, paints Jamie Adair’s face as part of the “Every 15 Minutes” drunken-driving awareness program at University High School on May 2. (Kathy Plonka)

Had Tanner Wirth choreographed his senior year, there are several things he would have left out of the dance.

The University High School senior missed the best part of two months after surgeries to repair a hole in an eardrum and to remove a painful benign cyst growing on his tailbone.

“It’s kind of funny,” Wirth said. “It was my second surgery to repair a hole in my eardrum – I had one last summer. I went back six months later and they discovered a second hole. And while I was recovering from that surgery, we discovered the cyst.

Recuperation kept Wirth from attending classes, and perhaps more difficult to deal with, it kept him from dancing.

“This is my 14th year dancing,” he said. “I started taking dance classes when I was 5 years old and my passion for it has grown ever since. I love to dance – jazz, tap, hip-hop, I love it all. I’m a big fan of Broadway musicals, especially with tap.”

Wirth even postponed surgery so that he could finish his choreography work for the annual Stinky Sneaker basketball game with Central Valley.

As for his classwork, Wirth kept pace with the same kind of dedication. He stayed in touch with his teachers, mainly by email, and kept up with his classmates on his own.

“Lots of students get intimidated by their teachers,” he said. “I’ve always been one to keep in contact with my teachers. If you let them know you’re trying to get your grade up – show your teachers that you care – they’re almost always willing to help. But if you show them you don’t care, you can’t expect them to care either.

“Once I got back, the only thing I had to do to catch up was to take the appropriate tests, and my teachers have been great about giving me the time I need to do that. I’ve gradually taken all the tests and I’m caught up in time for graduation.”

Wirth was also able to catch up in time to fulfill his duties as dance captain for the drama department’s musical production of “Urinetown” – a satirical musical spoof of other musicals.

“For a play like that, it usually takes about three months of work to be able to pull it off,” he said. “I was able to learn it in a month and a half.”

It helps that he was dance captain and part of the ensemble for last year’s production of “Little Women” as well as in the production of “Les Miserables” as a sophomore.

Wirth has been just as dedicated to U-Hi’s ASB Leadership Program – serving as the junior class president a year ago and ASB historian this year.

“When it comes to leadership, I’ve always felt like I wanted to make a difference in the world,” he said. “My big thing is anti-bullying. I was bullied in my younger years; I don’t want people to feel the way I was made to feel. Everyone is special no matter what they do.”

Wirth will enroll at the University of Montana in the fall, where he plans to study to become a history and dramatic arts teacher.

“I figure a job teaching history might be a little easier to find, but I’m hoping it will open the door for me to teach drama,” he said.

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