Performances of ‘All Together Now’ marked the 50th show directed by Shawn Miller
at Loveland Schools November 12-13.
By Chuck Gibson
LOVELAND, OH (November 17, 2021) – When the curtain opened and the footlights lit the stage for “All Together Now” last Friday, November 12, it was the culmination of more than 20 years directing Loveland School students for Mr. Shawn Miller – it was his 50th show as director.
It was not an achievement that went unnoticed by the producers, students, past and present, whose lives he has touched along the way or Loveland School administrators. His current producer, Theresa Kovacs (9 shows) and his past producer, Ginger Kroncke (41 shows) were first to think about just how many shows Miller has directed over the years. They had a conversation during a recent vacation visit at Ginger’s home in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.
“Theresa asked how many shows did you do with Shawn, and I started counting,” said Kroncke. “Ooh, 41! Hard to believe.”
Ginger and her husband Bill moved out to Virginia to be closer to their grown children and their families. She and Shawn produced and directed 41 shows together over 20-plus years working together. She expressed sadness over not being able to attend his 50th, but shared some thoughts and memories for this tribute story.
“Fifty shows, hard to believe, Wow,” Kroncke exclaimed. “All the shows were so awesome. I can’t imagine, and sometimes I don’t know, how he does it all. I’m glad they recognized him. The Superintendent, the school district is lucky to have him.”
It should also be said the Loveland School District was lucky to have the team of Shawn Miller and Ginger Kroncke for so many shows. Not just for the quality of the performances, but for the lessons they passed on to the students who made up the cast and crew for all those shows. It’s hard for Kroncke to pick out any one show. She recalled the first show she worked with Shawn though.
“My knee buckled during set construction,” said Kroncke. “I’m sure Shawn thought: Oh my gosh who have I taken on with me? But the show went on and ‘The Ransom of Red Chief’ was awesome.”
Two shows that stand out in Kroncke’s memory are “Anne of Green Gables” and “M.A.S.H.” She went to the National Guard and told them they were putting on the show. The National Guard responded by donating cots, and footlockers. They even brought out two big trucks to sit outside the Middle School theater for kids to climb on before the show.
“M.A.S.H.’ touched my heart,” she said. “It touched my heart from the standpoint that my son was deployed at the time. One of the parents ordered dog-tags for the kids and they all put Brian’s name on it. That touched my heart.”
It all started for him at Loveland Middle School with the philosophy of Sue Lundy and Doris Osborne to offer kids a place where they could have fun and an extension of the school day. Having the opportunity to direct both his daughter Paige and son Gavin in the same show certainly touched the heart of Shawn Miller. It happened during the production of “Into the Woods” – a special show for the whole family.
“Most memorable is probably ‘Into the Woods’ because both my kids were in it,” said Miller. “Even before then, they had cameos in other shows. Gavin and Paige in ‘Charlotte’s Web’ – they were in that as animals.”
Kroncke also remembered Brandon Huber playing Hawkeye, inviting a veteran up on stage at the end of the show, calling members of the cast to attention and saluting the gentleman. Another show that came to her mind was “Beverly Hillbillies” which she is sure “all the guys were cursing” her when they were there until two in the morning building the round circular staircase part of the set.
“Awesome, awesome memories,” Kroncke said. “Shawn and I were a good team. He was the smarts and I was the balance. He’d say I think we need to tweak this. He was a great person to work with and learn from. I always like to think he was my younger brother, but he was more like my younger son. It was very hard to leave the friends we made over the years.”
“We did so many productions together,” Miller said. “I was at the Middle School for 18 years, but even the first few years up here Ginger and I were still working together. She was fun; just a firecracker. We had some really good times.”
Miller asked her to recommend someone who might replace her. That someone was Theresa Kovacs. She was a good choice and now has been his producer for the nine shows since Kroncke left for Virginia. Kovacs is the one who spread the word to current students and the current school administration. So, Friday night, when the last number finished, Kovacs had planned a little celebration for Shawn Miller.
“We did, it was last Friday,” said Kovacs. “It was a surprise. I thought the school district should recognize that. It’s a big achievement. It’s a lot of time; a whole lot of time.”
Not to mention the number of student lives he impacted while directing 50 shows. Kovacs and Kroncke came up with an estimate of about 1,500 students, but they were uncertain of how to count the students who did multiple shows.
“If you get to count them again, it’s more like 5,000,” Kovacs said. “On top of that, Shawn is directing Show Choir. He’s here at school a lot.”
Both Superintendent Mike Broadwater and Board of Education President Kathy Lorenz attended the Friday evening performance. She says the kids knew the plan. Of course, in true Shawn fashion, that afternoon he suggested maybe the students should leave the stage and go up the aisles among the audience. Thankfully, that was nixed due to a potential student safety issue. So, as they say in the showbiz, the show went on . . . as planned. Kovacs arranged for Broadwater and Lorenz to meet her at the back door at the end of the show.
“When the last song started, they got up, went around the side, and we waited,” Kovacs explained. “I stepped out when the audience was standing and applauding.”
Kovacs took the microphone, introduced herself as the producer and told the audience it was not just a special night for the kids, but also special for the director Shawn Miller. She called him up to the stage and then introduced Superintendent Mike Broadwater as the special guest to offer a few words about Miller’s accomplishments. He was joined by School Board President Kathy Lorenz and they presented him with a special made trophy which was inscribed with congratulations on 25 years of productions.
“He went to talk, but he got a little choked up,” said Kovacs. “I thought he knew we were doing it because he had on his sport coat and he doesn’t usually do that. I made sure his wife and his mom were going to be there.”
His two producers, Ginger Kroncke and Theresa Kovacs shared some of the facts and information about Miller’s 50 show history for Superintendent Broadwater to use in his comments. He understands and recognizes the value of someone like Shawn Miller for the kids, and for the school district as a whole.
“He’s obviously very gifted at what he does in terms of the craft,” said Broadwater. “He’s obviously very passionate about the craft, but more importantly, he is passionate about getting every possible student involved in one way or the other and making sure that he takes care of our kids and makes them feel like they are part of the program.”
Broadwater recognized the effort Miller makes to get every single student who might be interested involved. During the performance Friday night, Miller had different students come out and give a sort of testimonial about how they have progressed over the years from maybe working behind the scenes their first year, to gaining confidence and ultimately performing on stage – even in a lead role.
“It was really kind of a neat performance to show how Shawn brings the kids along,” Broadwater said. “That’s the biggest tribute; the fact he is so well regarded by his students and by parents.”
Just read the comments of some of the students who have been part of this 50th show and for good measure his 51st show coming up this weekend.
One junior who is working lighting and sound for these shows and has already been involved with three other shows before this year said Mr. Miller is good at what he does. He supported that observation noting the length of time he’s been doing it; that he’s made it this far. Millie Terselic is a part of Show Choir, but is also helped out with the choreography and sound on “All Together Now”. This is only her second show.
“He’s pretty impressive,” said Terselic. “He handles it pretty well. Fifty shows is impressive.”
There is one that stands out for the director himself.
“For me one of the most memorable is certainly ‘Hunchback’; my kids were involved in that as well,” Miller said. “It was just a great cast that came together so well.”
Miller was quick to credit Jim Cronin for putting the set and idea together. He says it just worked so well with the story and the music. He doesn’t believe people think of it as one of Disney’s best animated movies, but feels like it really comes across well on stage. Recalling their performance on the stage of Music Hall during the “Cappies” awards, Miller called it “One of the most chilling moments.”.
“The amount of kids we had in the show and they had us perform first ahead of all the other groups that had excerpts,” he recalled. “After we sang, and just filled that place with music and sound, there was no way anybody could even come close to what those kids did on that stage. It was just such a memorable moment.”
Kaitlyn Naylor is a senior who has been a part of every show during her four years of high school. She has focused on being stage director and plans to continue that in college and professionally. Working on shows directed by Mr. Miller has influenced her well beyond the high school stage.
“Thank you for having done so many shows for us,” said Naylor in recognizing what Shawn Miller has done for not just her, but for all the students over the years. “They’ve all been so good. I remember seeing them when I was younger. That’s why I wanted to do theater. He has been a very integral part of me doing it and continuing to do it now. Just thank you!”
Dean Parker is a student from the past one would have to say Shawn Miller influenced well beyond the Middle School and High School stage. Dean appeared in shows directed by Mr. Miller for all six years of his middle school and high school years. He is currently living in Los Angeles, California working as a filmmaker and has earned awards for his work in the short film genre. He took time out to share some memories after learning Miller had just directed his 50th show with Loveland students.
“It’s no surprise because he’s been doing it for so long,” said Parker. “I didn’t even know where our shows fell into the order of his shows.”
Parker wondered aloud who figured it out and happened to do in time to celebrate and recognize his 50th show.
“Can you imagine if it had been any later,” he said. “They’d have been like uh-oh, we’re at 51, we missed it.”
They didn’t miss it, and neither did Parker staying right on the theme of what Shawn Miller has done for not just him, but so many. He recalled how Mr. Miller could be so focused on the smallest detail of a character during rehearsals. It is something Parker understands more now than when he was a student.
“I did stuff with him for six years,” Parker said. “The first thing that comes to mind is when we did ’13’ at the Middle School. It’s nothing really that has to do with me; it’s just me observing him. Mr. Miller is very detailed with his blocking. I had one particular memory of Brighton Hummer saying a line in ‘13’ he had his hands more down and Mr. Miller was asking why are your hands down there, you need to raise them up higher.”
Parker recalled another time when a line needed to be louder and Mr. Miller was calling out to the student “You gotta go bigger, bigger!” He did those kinds of things regularly going beyond just observing the students.
“You could tell he was trying to bring the show to another level,” said Parker. “I don’t know if we appreciated much at the time, but he knew it was for the better of the show and he wanted to make us better actors. That’s what I remember.”
Senior Amy Laufersweiler is playing a lead role in “Leading Ladies” coming up this weekend, but has been performing in shows with Mr. Miller throughout her high school years at Loveland. Here’s what she had to say to Mr. Miller about his achievement of directing 50 shows.
“Wow, that’s just really cool you put so much time and effort into these programs,” said Laufersweiler. “To think, this is your 50th show. That is really awesome you’ve been creating this program for these students. It’s lasted for so long and you’ve been doing it for so many years.”
Then there is Hannah Dietz, math teacher and assistant director working with Shawn since 2019. Miller credits her as director for “Leading Ladies” saying she has done the “lion’s share of the work” for the show which opens this Friday, November 19 as the second of two different shows in two consecutive weekends and now his 51st show as director for Loveland Schools.
“I know it’s his 50th show,” said Dietz. “It’s amazing. The time and effort put into each show is so much more than you could even expect. The fact he is not only directing, but the musical directing, making sure the kids are learning the lights which is a whole big thing and sound which is another whole big thing and foreign to a lot of people when they walk in.”
Foreign, even to others who use the auditorium, but end up going to Shawn Miller to find out how to work sound and lights. He has multiple roles.
“I can’t believe he does all of that on top of Show Choir,” Dietz said. “He’s still doing it and it’s amazing. He’s great to work with. I enjoy it. I come to work at school and it’s something fun for me to do at the end of the day.”
Miller’s current producer Theresa Kovacs also played the lead role in organizing the tribute following his 50th show last Friday night. It is no surprise to hear her echo some of the same memorable show moments as Shawn.
“Hunchback, for sure, I think was a favorite memory of his; we tried to incorporate so many students in that show,” Kovacs said. “I’ve seen other places do it and nobody has 115 kids like we had.”
As producer, Kovacs does a lot, but one thing she has noted about working with Shawn is he never stops working on a show until the minute the doors open for the audience to fill the auditorium.
“He directs the kids. That’s what he does,” Kovacs explained. “When we get to the last two weeks, it seems like every day there’s a new idea.”
She cited the dinner scene in “Addams Family” when, at the last minute, he decided it would be great to put dry ice in the chalice to make it smoke. The student holding the chalice did not expect it to get as cold as it did. They had never done it before. He was always thinking about the show and what they could do to be better.
“I think Shawn has great confidence in the kids,” said Kovacs. “He always asks them to give more of themselves. He’s always thinking how things could be better; what they could add. It’s magic. It’s like he’s the Pied Piper and they just follow him. He just brings out the good in them.”
Dean Parker echoes those words from the perspective of a former student now applying the lessons learned from Shawn Miller as a professional member of the entertainment industry.
“He tried to bring out any kind of passion anyone had in them,” Parker said. “He wanted us to enjoy what we were doing. He wanted us to become the best version of our self. I look back on the shows I did with him, I’m still pretty shy, but I was way more shy when I was doing those shows. I think he helped me break out of my bubble, helped me be able to talk to people better. Him helping us express ourselves was very beneficial to me.”
LOVELAND HIGH SCHOOL DRAMA PRESENTS: Show #51 with Shawn Miller
“Leading Ladies” on Nov. 19 and 20
The Curtain rises for all shows at 7:00 pm.
Tickets are available now at the drama web site as always (Box Office | lhsdrama (wixsite.com) ): $12.50 adults and $10.50 students and seniors. Tickets will also be available at the door.