THS drama teacher embraces new role
by Glenn Moore
Oct 25, 2013 | 5192 views | 0 0 comments | 113 113 recommendations | email to a friend | print
New drama teacher at Tracy High
Tracy High School drama teacher Jose Ortiz (left) shows Bella Lord how to pose on a bed for a scene from “Dracula” while Anthony Tucker and Rebecca Fuller look on at the Emma Baumgardner Theater on Wednesday, Oct. 16.  Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
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Tracy High School drama teacher Jose Ortiz watched as senior Anthony Tucker tried to lift sophomore Bella Lord from a bed as the pair rehearsed a scene from an upcoming production “Dracula” on Oct. 16.

Ortiz showed Tucker, playing the role of Arthur Holmwood, an easier way to lift and carry away Lord, cast as Lucy Westenra. Later, he turned his attention to junior Carmela DeGuzman as she rehearsed her dialogue in the role of Mrs. Westenra, encouraging her to show more feeling in her delivery.

The acting coaching was one of many tips Ortiz, a theater veteran, passed on to his students at the rehearsal as the new head of the drama department at Tracy High.

Ortiz, 38, was hired a week before school started in August to take over two classes of beginning drama students, two classes of advanced drama students and a technical theater class that designs and builds sets for school productions.

“For me as a teacher, my best moment is opening night at the end of the show when the cast takes their bows and they get the applause for all the work they’ve done,” Ortiz said. “As an artist myself, I miss being on the stage and performing.”

He began his theatrical career 34 years ago, performing in elementary school pageants and plays. Through the years, he has taken the roles of actor, director and set designer, but he had always wanted to teach drama.

“Oftentimes, people who teach theater have a little experience in theater,” Ortiz said. “I majored in theater in college and had the intention of being a theater teacher.”

For his first year at Tracy High, Ortiz has planned three productions. “Dracula” opens Nov. 7, and he plans to present a comedy in the new year and a musical collaboration with the other performing arts magnet teachers and departments to conclude the school year.

“The plan is the choir teacher will handle vocal work, I will handle all the acting and the instrumental teachers will handle all the music and conducting,” Ortiz said. “We will have a true collaboration.”

For now, Ortiz’s students are hard at work preparing for “Dracula.”

The thriller has 25 cast and crew members, in addition to the technical theater students who are building sets.

“I pick shows based on what the students like to do and what will push their skills as an actor,” Ortiz said. “We picked a version of ‘Dracula’ that wasn’t heavy on special effects but was heavy on suspense and characterization.”

Beau Mantor, a Tracy High senior in his fourth year in the drama program, said Ortiz has made an impact early in the year.

“It’s been a big change — Mr. Ortiz has brought up pointers for my monologues I never thought of before,” Mantor said. “He has given me some help on my improv, what’s good and what’s bad and how I can keep it going.”

Mantor said he might pursue a drama career in college.

The performing arts magnet is bracing for changes in the second semester, when the Emma Baumgardner Theater will close for renovation to the lobby, audience seating and classroom areas.

Ortiz said the students will move into portable classrooms and rehearse and perform in the music building, working around the music teachers’ schedules.

But the renovations will be far from a hardship, Ortiz said. Instead, it will be an opportunity for his students to become comfortable rehearsing in one space and performing in another — a valuable lesson.

“I feel the students respect my experience,” Ortiz said. “In the advanced classes, we don’t do a lot of work out of the textbooks. In performance, it is sometimes not the formal education — it’s the experience or the eye for the aesthetic. There is credibility that way.”

The Tracy High drama department’s production of “Dracula” will be performed Nov. 7, 8 and 9. Doors to the theater open at 6:30 p.m., and the play begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are sold at the door, $7 for general admission and $5 for Tracy High students and staff.

• Contact Glenn Moore at 830-4252 or

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