Brad Golden believes a teacher’s job is to challenge his or her students.
The three-year theatre instructor at La Costa Canyon High School recalled a parent informing him that he was "emotionally challenging" his performers, whose most recent feat was tackling the musical and heart-wrenching show "Les Misérables" in early May. The show's last three of eight performances earned sold-out crowds well ahead of open box office hours. This was a strong difference from the previous theatre program, which was once described as a "ghost town," prior to Golden's arrival, as the school had been more known for its sports and academics.
Now, the arts are finding their place in the school, too, Golden said. Forty-eight kids created the cast of "Les Misérables." Half were first-timers in a play at LCC.
"Presenting the idea of doing Les Mis, I got a lot of people rolling their eyes or scoffing at how we would pull it off with a school that's primarily known for academics and for sports," Golden said in a recent interview. "How do you find enough voices? It's interesting what's happening now. The opportunity is presented and students are rising to that. It wasn't that we didn't have voices here at LCC; it's just that their opportunity was perhaps not present. The talent was there. Students at this age just need the encouragement to come out of their shell."
On May 27, Golden was awarded the Best Local Theatre Teacher distinction at the fifth annual Broadway San Diego Awards.
The award, presented by San Diego County Credit union, is based off nominations and voted on in an online poll. A total of 37 local teachers were nominated and more than 2,000 votes were cast in the category, according to Broadway San Diego.
“The students competing in the Broadway San Diego Awards could never reach their full potential without these theatre teachers," said SDCCU President and CEO Teresa Halleck Campbell in a statement. "We are thrilled to recognize the hard work, dedication and talent of teachers throughout San Diego County.”
Other award categories included Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Musical Production. Rocco Polanco, an LCC junior, was among 10 teens who competed in the Best Actor category.
Golden, who is studying to get his master’s degree in Theatre Education from New York University, said he feels "humbled" regarding his recognition as Best Local Theatre Teacher. He credited inspirations from his family, friends and his own theatre teachers.
"To be honored as Best Local Theatre Teacher is a testament that LCC Theatre is alive and well," he said. "Part of the story of what's happening here right now is this theatre renaissance. The students and I are doing wonderful work right now. Theatre is alive, people are enjoying it and the community is coming to see it."
Other performances at LCC since Golden stepped in have included West Side Story and the slapstick comedy, "The Love of Three Oranges," which required students to wear masks and silly costumes. Golden understood his performers' reluctance for the comedy show, in fear of ridicule, but still pushed them to do their best. In the end, the performance garnered laughs from the entire audience.
"I want our shows to be challenging for performers and challenging for the audiences in some capacity. It's gotta be," Golden said. "Sometimes students will be with me for four years. I'm trying not to repeat tone with them, and I also see theatre as being a total art. It encompasses everything."
Note: Just as this newspaper was going to press, it was announced that “Les Misérables” won 11 awards and eight additional nominations at the 13th Annual National Youth Arts Awards for the 2017-2018 season. Golden won Best Director and “Les Miserables” won Outstanding Production. Several LCC students also won awards. For a full list of winners visit, www.bit.ly/2J1Hmae.