Show business is a tough world. It is a truism that actor Reed Meschefske has learned quite well during his extensive time in the field. However, it is that fact that has him so thrilled to take over as the Head of Theatre at Falls Church High School.
Since arriving this fall, Meschefske has been wowed by the school’s commitment, particularly with funding, to the Falls Church theater program.
“It’s not just the football team,” he says. “The football team gets a lot of support, and rightly so, I love watching the football team, but it also extends into the theater department and the chorus department, and the field hockey team and all of these different groups that are not only supported but encouraged. I think that’s such a great thing. Nothing can go wrong by trying new things. You can’t go wrong if you chose something new.”
That may be true, but there is nothing new with Meschefske’s love of theater. He performed his first shows at age six in Neenah, Wisconsin. Those began a career that ultimately brought him to the renowned graduate program at the National Theater Conservatory in Denver, Colo., the only congressionally chartered acting school in the country. There he was one of eight students admitted from a pool of roughly 900 applicants.
He was also fortunate to go on and work with Denver’s Center Theater and the Utah Shakespeare Theater; both of which are Tony Award winning companies. Just last year he spent time in Chicago, performing, as well doing voice-overs and commercials on a part time basis.
Like his deep background in acting, Meschefske is no stranger to teaching. In Denver, where he did his graduate work, Meschefske taught beginner acting classes to potential actors ages five to 65. Nowadays at Falls Church High School, the age range of his students is more confined. Presently he teaches four Theater classes, as well as a journalism course, which he thinks is not that different from teaching theater because it’s also about language construction.
“It’s a lot of fun. I get to deal with acting and I get to deal with theater — which is a wonderful thing,” Meschefske says of his teaching career. “Unless you’re Tom Cruise or George Clooney, or those most professional actors, you teach to supplement your income.”
Despite his accomplished career, Meschefske does not see his new position as just a means to an end, or something that he has surpassed. Nor is he in a hurry to leave.
“I think that art is art and whether young artists or old artists, it’s all important. And it’s all discovering something. It’s all about creating something. And I think that’s a beautiful thing,” he says. “I’ll be here as long as I can smile. You can’t get faulted for being happy.”
Meschefske passes his enthusiasm on to his students and has high, though tempered, expectations for them.
“If you want something to be done well, then you should have high expectations,” he says. “You want the football team to win the entire season. That’s what you would like. It doesn’t always happen. And when that doesn’t happen, you just step back and say, ‘You know, there’s always next time!’”
The theater students at Falls Church High have already put on their first show for this school year, a series of one-acts by “Anton Chekhov,” performed under Director Janet Napoliello. Next up is the winter performance, which Napoliello will also be directing. The show is based on Shakespeare’s “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” and will be performed January 18 – 20. Currently auditions are now open to anyone in the school for “Two Gents.”
“Any student can try out, which is one of the things I absolutely adore about high school theater,” Meschefske says. “The majority of the people … who walk up the stage are not going to grow up to be professional actors, but they can say that they did it. Or they can indulge themselves in something that they’ve always wanted to try.”
While teaching itself is not a new experience for Meschefske, the high school schedule will provide him with something he has never experienced in the academic field.
“I’ve never had a summer off,” he says reflectively. “As an actor I think I should go to Greece [the home of western Theater], or maybe I could just buy myself a new big screen TV. Maybe I’ll just play golf.”
More than anything else, Meschefske’s new position at Falls Church High School has given him the opportunity to be paid for his passion, something for which he is extremely grateful even if it won’t earn him fame, fortune or a golden statue.
“If I could pay my rent, have some food, be able to go out a couple of nights with some friends, see a movie or whatever, and have enough money to buy a book or two and rent movies … then I’m fine,” he says. “All I want to do is go to work, whatever I’m doing, and I want it to be something with the theater. I don’t mind flying into the radar. I can give my best actor speech for the Oscar in the shower.”