JOSH STEPHENSON/Durango Herald
JOSH STEPHENSON/Durango Herald
Mona Wood-Patterson has a simple bit of advice for anyone embarking on a career in theater.
“If you find a good tech director, you should marry that person,” she told a crowd Dec. 10 at the Denver Convention Center.
She was referring to her husband, Charles Ford, who was in the audience as Wood-Patterson shared the credit for a career-capping honor.
Wood-Patterson was inducted into the Colorado Thespians Hall of Fame at the organization’s annual conference. The Thespians are a subgroup of the national Educational Theater Association. The Hall of Fame was founded in 2002 to recognize theater educators with at least 20 years of experience.
Wood-Patterson, who taught theater classes and directed productions at Durango High School for 27 years, was one of three inductees: Others were Nancy Vogel of Wasson High School in Colorado Springs and Allen Jimenez of Aurora Central High School.
Jill Tjardes-Garcia, a state board member of the Colorado Thespians and the Hall of Fame coordinator, said Wood-Patterson not only exceeded any criteria for induction, she embodied the award.
“We try to piece together a three-dimensional picture of them, and what struck me most looking at Mona’s was that she is just beloved by your community,” said Tjardes-Garcia, who teaches theater at Thompson Valley High School in Loveland. “I spoke with a friend of mine who moved (to Durango), and she heard so much about her and how her students loved her so much. It was very clear she must be incredibly powerful in and out of the classroom.”
Wood-Patterson said she’s most proud of the Hall of Fame honor because it represents the thousands of students’ lives she and Ford have touched. (The two are an inseparable pair, personally and professionally.)
Two of Wood-Patterson’s former students are two of her greatest success stories. Karina Wolfe, DHS Class of 2002, now works as a professional actress in San Francisco and came back for a few weeks to star in a series of short plays directed by Wood-Patterson on Wednesday at the Durango Arts Center.
“She’s incredible, and I’ve been lucky enough that she’s stayed as a mentor and a great friend,” Wolfe said. “It’s amazing how many kids she affects deeply and personally, even those who don’t keep acting. The professionalism and the love and support she teaches to push yourself – those are important life lessons no matter what field you go into.”
Dallas Padoven, who is in his first year at the prestigious University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory, was in elementary school when he first started working with Wood-Patterson and Ford in a production of “Les Misérables.” His final year in high school also was theirs because the couple took an early retirement last year.
“We’re in a similar situation because we’re both doing new things now,” said Padoven, who is hoping for a career on Broadway after school. “She taught me everything I know, and without her, I wouldn’t have gotten into this school. She taught me the real world of theater, to prepare for the hardships and pushed me to work harder like they do here (in Cincinnati). I don’t think anyone could deserve it more than she does.”
Wood-Patterson and Ford may be finished teaching in schools, but she said that was only the close of Act II in her career (Act I was her own education). She and Ford literally began Act III right after finishing at the high school. Act 3 Studio is where she gives private lessons and workshops, and the couple is the driving force behind Merely Players, a local professional theater group with several productions already played out.
She said the Hall of Fame honor came as surprise, but it also has re-energized her.
“I thought it was a wrap, but to have that kind of peak honor come at the end of that part of our career was very touching,” Wood-Patterson said. “We’re calling it another graduation, not retirement, and now I’m inspired even more to keep doing good theater.”