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Spotlight - Jeanne Wood Kern

1. How did you know that drama and speech would be your teaching career focus?
I acted all my life...from the kindergarten play for which I refused to tell my parents or teacher my lines, saying, “It’s a secret.” My mother wisely decided they may remain a secret even during the performance, so I was given the hook from that cast....through grade school and high school plays. I worked semi-professionally in Cripple Creek and Durango, Colorado, doing melodrama, and majored in drama in college. So what else would I do? I must confess, I’m probably the only teacher BCHS ever had who never had an undergraduate course in one of the subjects she taught. Speech was rather a mystery to me when I began to teach. I decided that my focus would be to help students get past panic, and to give them tools to organize thoughts and experience to express them—whatever challenges they might meet later. And, of course, to have lots of fun.

2. Was BCHS your first teaching assignment?
BCHS was my first teaching assignment—and my last. I never even applied for the job. I just happened to be sitting outside in the car while Jim applied—and was asked if he knew anyone who could teach Senior English.

3. What were your most memorable moments while at BCHS?
In a list of memorable moments, I would have to include the missing coral snake –that turned out to be a practical joke gone bad, but not before it paralyzed the school system, the chicken in the locker, throwing snowballs in the hallway, the bus that broke down stranding us in San Antonio or somewhere, the Faculty Frumps at pep rallies, and Charles Swift’s amazing field trip that resulted in a letter from the President to Arthur Turner of Bridge City High School. Winning drama competitions, taking two Academic Teams to NATIONALS and coming in 16th and then 13th in the Nation against all sizes of schools!
Linc’s website put me in touch with tons of students kind enough to email. Loved that! Loved teaching at BC.

4. Before leaving BC, you were involved in several community and civic arts organizations. What were they?
In Texas I was on the board of the Orange Community Players, the Golden Triangle Writers Guild, and the Southeast Texas Arts Council. I was president of the last two for two terms each.

5. Where has your life taken you since BCHS?
Since I retired, I have maintained a teacher’s interest in making As. I’ve been to Africa, Antarctica, and the altar. (Of course, I’ve also been to Zambia, Zimbabwe, and on the Zambezi...so what that means, I couldn’t say.).
Met my husband over the internet. Visited back and forth. He proposed on my birthday. We were on our way to San Diego to the Final Four (women’s volleyball—see www.richkern.com--we’re volleyball people!!!), and on the day with no match we eloped to Las Vegas and got married and were back in San Diego in time for lunch. Living in Lincoln since April 1, 3 years ago. And love it! Learned a big lesson in the move: never share a motel room with a cat that’s been medicated all day!!!!!

With the marriage, I became a mother at over 60 years of age! She’s a vet in England and a complete doll! Kristin Kern!

Here in Lincoln I can indulge my passion for acting. I’ve made several student films, two video series for the University, and a promo High Definition video for a local production company. I reprised my role in NOISES OFF for the Lincoln Community Playhouse, and I act for the Law Department in their Client Counseling Program.

6. You’re soon to be a published author. Tells us about the book.
Before I left B.C. I wrote a romance novel with a writing partner. Harlequin considered it for an unprecedented 8 months before rejecting it. Before that I had short stories and poems published, but I really wanted a book. So this year I determined to haul it out, dust it off, revise it (endlessly), and have iUniverse publish it. They will list it with Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. Bearing in mind that it was written for Harlequin’s strict guidelines, so some of it might seem to border on the pornographic, I will tell you the title is TRIPS AND WHALES AND PUPPY DOG TALES, by Jeanne Bruce. You’ll have to order it; I’m rather sure it will not be showing up in your local bookstores. It should be ready this fall
7. Are you still acting and teaching?
Not only am I no longer teaching (which I really enjoyed), I can’t say the word “retired” without grinning hugely. But I am acting. Here in Lincoln I can indulge my passion for acting. I’ve made several student films, two video series for the University, and a promo High Definition video for a local production company. I reprised my role in NOISES OFF for the Lincoln Community Playhouse, and I act for the Law Department in their Client Counseling Program.

8. How has technology affected your craft.
Technology. Well. Depends on what you’re considering “my craft.” For the book, my publisher is print-on-demand . Technology has totally changed the old Vanity Press, Self-publishing scene. No longer do you pay thousands and end up storing books in a warehouse. You may order one or two hundred at a whack. And the cost is fractions of what it once was. In acting, I just finished a promo for a local production firm who just invested in High Definition equipment. Video and editing advances now offer an actress far more work—at least here in Lincoln. Student films can be shot in video, so the expense is minimized and the chances for retakes are maximized. (This was important when I made a video of a trial for the Psych Department last month and my mouth couldn’t seem to stop saying “stimulant substitutions” instead of “substances.”) It has changed my life, since I met my husband on the Internet. He is a guru in the volleyball community because of his web site (www.richkern.com ) which was cited by Sports Illustrated as THE comprehensive site for the sport (over professional sites and university ones) and the American Volleyball Coaches’ Association presented him the prestigious Grant Burger Award for media. I always know where Rich is—glued to the computer. And he can fix mine.

9. What stage or screen actor do you most admire? Why?
Good grief. You know, I’ve NEVER been able to name a favorite actress---I used to say Harry Andrews was my favorite actor (because I never recognized him and always had to ask who it was). I recently realized I have never seen a Denzel Washington picture I didn’t think he was wonderful in. But I’m not good at naming favorite anythings.

10. Any advice for aspiring actors or writers?
Advice: Both acting and writing are things you can do life-long, regardless of success. If you love it, DO it. Keep doing it. Take classes. Work with different people. Find your own voice and do not be discouraged. Mainly my advice for aspiring anythings is –Stay Curious! Curiosity is one of the greatest life skills!

11. (Bonus Question 1) What does an actor do for entertainment?
Now, Frank—you’ve seen the tabloids. We all KNOW what lots of actors do for entertainment. And, as we used to say, “Ain’t no Bridge City kid needin’ to do any of that!”

12. (Bonus Question 2) How would you describe success?
Ye Gods! OK. Success is having what you need and being happy with what you have—as long as there’s curiosity and joy in your life, you’re successful.
And I’m sure the perfect definition will occur to me as soon as it’s too late.

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