Retirement! It’s a loaded word, generally creating a couple of responses in those facing it – abject terror or huge relief. Soon to be retirees worry that they will become nobodies in the world they have served, forgotten, like that outdated pair of shoes in the closet that you haven’t worn for twenty years or, if they hated their life’s work, they stand poised to race away at the crack of the starting pistol, never to think about it again.
There doesn’t seem to be a lot of in between, but our major theorist in the field of Theatre for Young Audiences has demonstrated another way to retire. Roger Bedard, who recently left his longtime post at ASU, where he shepherded MFA grad students for 22 years, has once again developed his own template, a prescription for a happy retirement.
Roger has found a new passion, one that he has embraced as completely as his dedication to TYA. Free form ceramics is not a new interest of Roger’s; he dabbled in it some years ago, but now he has the time to dive in with new energy. Roger is currently possessed with a new vigor for life, not that he doesn’t miss his students, to whom he has always been devoted, but he is giving himself the gift of space and time to explore a new passion that is both creative and satisfying. Makes sense that if you retire from one creative endeavor you might devote yourself to another one. Roger’s face lights up when sharing his time in the studio. Part self-critic and part wild experimenter, he does it all with the joy of adventure.
We should all be so lucky. Or maybe so smart.
For those of you fortunate enough to have attended the “love fest” (my moniker for the event in April ) that was Roger’s retirement bash, you know what I’m talking about. Talk about a template! Great food, stimulating conversation and an outpouring of love (for Roger, certainly, but also among the attendees) and Roger in high heels. From Scot Copland’s hilarious take on TYA in the South to the students’ musical banter to Roger’s heartfelt response, it was a week-end to remember and hold dear. Disregarding the notes he had shredded during the roast/tribute, Roger shared with us his most authentic self, no cliches, no safe, ordered responses, just his feelings. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
If Roger misses the classes, meetings and performances, he’s not talking about it, although I’m sure he has sentimental moments. He is, after all, in the theatre. Roger kids around these days, referring to himself as a nobody, but he’s wrong. He’s not a nobody, he’s somebody else. Bravo, Roger.