Human resources director enables cultural resource

-A A +A
By Roger Snodgrass

Even in this age of multitasking it seems a little out of character that the human resources director at Los Alamos Public Schools is also organizing a new school program in theater arts.

But that’s what James Telles is doing.

Along with his administrative responsibilities, he is coordinating and developing Atomic City Children’s Theater, a drama program for the elementary schools.

It’s an arts-enrichment program, meant to be fun and also provide a lot of important educational vitamins.

Educational studies suggest that children who are involved at an early age in the arts do better in school. They are more likely to graduate and more likely to participate in community service, among other boosts.

Drama particularly teaches courage and presentation skills and helps connect the heart and the head in a developing personality, educators have determined.

“In the past, the elementary students have worked with music and art teachers, so last spring we decided to build a drama component into the program,” Telles said in a recent interview.

A piece of this year’s grant from the state Public Education Department will be used to purchase lights and sound systems for elementary schools.

The first production, featuring fifth and sixth graders in the townsite, will be Meredith Willson’s “The Music Man,” a perennial crowd pleaser with a large cast and roles for a variety of talents.

A flyer last month that called for auditions for the first production invited students to join “a fun-filled, after school musical experience.”

Telles said rehearsals begin this week and will run through December, with actual production dates to be announced for January in Duane W. Smith Auditorium.

Julia Sharp-Fair and Daren Savage of Barranca are co-directors for the first play, assisted by Melissa Balice.

Atomic City Childrens Theater plans to announce a casting call later for a spring production with the White Rocks schools.

Telles said he had no formal training in theater, but when he was a superintendent of a school system in Skagway, Alaska, he always found himself answering the call to help with the school plays.

From Skagway, Telles went to Las Cruces, for a time.

“We wanted to come back to New Mexico and saw the opening,” he said.

From there, it was a relatively small step to LAPS, where Telles became Principal of Piñon from 2001-2005 and had a chance to begin a theater program that he continued to support even after he took over the job at human resources in 2005.

“Last spring, we started discussing -- wouldn’t it be cool to do it with all the elementary schools,” he said.

He’s determined to get lights and sound equipment for all the elementary schools, but the program will start with the Chamisa School in White Rock and Barranca in the townsite.

“Since Piñon already has a system, we went with Barranca up here, because the gyms at Aspen and Mountain have been refurbished and have some of the equipment built in,” he said.

We’ve created drama clubs at each school,” Telles said. “It provides incredible experience for these kids to participate in full length production. They learn how plays are put together and about the sound and lighting.”

He said the object was to provide a feeder program of experienced kids to middle school and high school.

“The essential goal is to have each school put on their productions at their own site and have everything necessary to do this.” Telles said.

During the Elizabethan Age in England, children’s theaters were rivals to Shakespeare’s own production company at the Globe. A famous scene in Hamlet, involves a troupe of traveling actors complaining to the prince about the popularity of children’s theater.

For more information: http://www.AtomicCityChildrensTheater.com.