San Dieguito Academy alum puts on play to benefit school

Paul Coates is a firm believer that the theater program at San Dieguito High School Academy shaped his life.

After all, the 1976 graduate of the school has held various careers in the entertainment industry, including talent managing, agent work and roles in television production.

“Sometimes the drama department is kind of meant, not for the misfits, but the people who don’t really fit in in other places,” he said. “Those people wind up being more successful than anybody else.”

Now, the 58-year-old Los Angeles man is giving back to the high school program he remembers dearly by putting on a series of self-written plays to benefit the theater.

The casts of the plays, which were first put on a few years ago by Coates, are primarily made up of alumni and current San Dieguito students.

“I started this tradition of trying to cast these shows with as many alumni and current students as possible so that you could see it and get a sense of how this theater department has been around for decades and continues to be, if we help,” Coates said.

Coates will present the second installation in the "Living Plays" series, called "The Middle of It" on Feb. 25 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. in the Clayton E. Liggett Theater, which was named for his drama teacher in high school.

“The End of It,” the first production in the series, was shown four years ago. Coates plans to premiere “The Beginning of It” next year.

The three-part series follows a couple’s progress from falling in love to building families to divorce, in reverse order. “The Middle of It” covers the time between blissful new beginnings of relationships and sad endings.

Jewels Weinberg, 19, a 2016 San Dieguito graduate who has been cast in “The Middle of It,” said he decided to participate in the play to help the school.

“When I first read the play, I immediately fell in love with it and was so excited for the opportunity to perform with so many talented alumni and others from SDA,” said the actor who performed as the leading role in a school production of Hamlet last year. “Working with the alumni has been an amazing learning experience. It’s been so cool working with all these incredibly talented performers. Knowing they graduated from the high school I used to go to makes me inspired.”

April Audia, a guest performer who has been in movies and TV shows such as “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “Melrose Place,” said she has been in several of Coate’s plays.

She said the arts gave her her life’s purpose, and she enjoys being a part of a production that gives back to young actors.

“I have known since I was a child that I wanted to be an actor,” she said. “Not only did this decision give me a direction at all times in my life, but it made me a better human being. I became the full idea of who I would have wanted to be if I wasn’t an actor. I continue to become the best sides of my humanity through the art of storytelling.”

Coates said the idea of the fundraiser was not just to raise money for the school, but to also keep the tradition of professional actors working alongside students alive.

“To watch these young kids working with these professionals is so exciting and so rewarding for them to be a part of that,” he said.

For more information, visit www.sdafoundation.com/middle-paul-coates-76/

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