Teacher brings excitement back to La Costa Canyon theatre

As La Costa Canyon High School’s production of “The Crucible” finishes a successful two-week run with its final show Nov. 18 at 7 p.m., it’s clear the program is on the right track.

That recent success is due in large part to the leadership of acting teacher Brad Golden, who also serves as director for shows like “The Crucible,” which are put on by the school’s drama club, LCC Thespians.

Though Golden is just in his second year guiding LCC drama, his previous experience as an actor and in film production in Hollywood, as well as a longtime babysitter to pay the bills during that time, makes him the perfect person for the position.

“(This job) is a marriage of my passion for acting and theatre, and my experience working with young people. I’m so lucky and I love my job,” the 36-year-old Torrey Pines graduate told The Encinitas Advocate.

While he was pursuing acting and screenwriting in L.A. — Golden graduated from UCLA’s Theatre, Film and Television school in 2002 and then was heavy on the audition circuit with a little success, including a line in the 2004 movie “The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement” — he also worked with nearly 30 different kids of all ages and backgrounds, from a 14-month-old baby to older kids who were dealing with issues such as divorce and drug abuse.

“I was a ‘manny’ before that was a popular phrase,” Golden said. “I had this exposure to a wide spectrum of kids. I saw so many families, so many kids, I call those my daddy training years.”

While that job was the perfect training for his new career as a teacher, Golden also has the necessary technical experience to guide a drama department. In addition to acting and writing — he sold an animation pilot and had a TV show optioned though neither broke out — he began working on the film production side. Golden did production work well enough to emerge as a candidate for the Director Guild of America’s prestigious training program.

He traveled to New York and was just about to interview for the huge opportunity. But before the interview was a personality test and it was that test that caused Golden to re-think his life’s goals, eventually leading to him back to San Diego, where he got his teaching credential in 2013.

He started as a long-term substitute for English at his alma mater Torrey Pines High School for 2014-15 and that year he also took over ASB and the cheerleading team after the tragic death of another teacher. Following that school year, Golden came to LCC to teach acting and run the drama club.

“I love theatre and I’m really inspired by students and I really enjoy inspiring them,” Golden said. “So there’s this give and take of inspiration that lifts me up and lifts them up. High school is a tough time in a person’s life, there is a lot of guidance and support needed, and I genuinely embrace that role.

His LCC career got off to a strong start last fall when the student production of “Almost Main” was a huge success, something the LCC Theatre crew really needed.

“This is a wonderful school, it’s like a college campus and there’s a lot of pride put in the academics and the athletics of La Costa Canyon High School,” Golden said. “And now we are just trying to boost the perception, which is reality, that the drama department is right there too. I think the work we are creating here has been beautiful so far.”

The run of “Almost Main,” which included several sellout shows, seems to have made theatre cool again at LCC.

“Now I have football players in my acting classes,” Golden said. “I genuinely believe that everyone is creative. Theater is a place where we embrace our differences and we become a family. That welcoming atmosphere is really important to me.

“I’m really proud of the shows we are doing, but I’m exceptionally proud of the fact that our club is growing and we are pulling in a diverse (cross-section) of the student body.”

Following “Almost Main,” Golden directed the students in a musical called “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” last spring.

Golden teaches eight theater classes — from Acting 1 to Intermediate Acting and Musical Theatre to Advanced Acting Honors — but there are also classes on stage production. A collection of kids from all of those classes make up the LCC Thespians drama club, which puts on the big shows. Golden is the club adviser and directs the shows.

“The club is totally paid for by the students … it is essentially a production company,” he explained. “And all of the decisions that go into it — which show should we do, what it will cost, what can we do safely … are a collaboration between us. If it were a real theatre company, I would be the artistic director and the students would be the board.”

For “The Crucible,” the costumes were designed and sewed by a student, students were in on the directing, students did the makeup, worked on the lightning and sound, built the stage and are the stage hands, in addition to the actors. It takes around 40 students to put on the show.

While Golden guides the actors, technical director Fernando Robles leads the production side, an area where Golden sees the potential for a lot of expansion because of Robles’ expertise.

“He’s just awesome,” Golden said of Robles. “He teaches them how to build sets, lights and sound, everything.”

For “The Crucible,” Robles guided student construction of a rotating set with four different set pieces covering all 360 degrees. A few student backstage technicians can rotate the stage and change the scene location in a matter of seconds.

“It’s really cool and it was really fun for us to build,” Golden said in a statement that could apply to the entirety of LCC theatre.

Tickets for the final showing of “The Crucible” — Nov. 18 at 7 p.m. — can be purchased at lacostacanyontheatre.com or at the door.

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