The Right Direction: Fallon’s ex-students enjoy big stage


Jonah Hinebaugh

Maureen Fallon directs the school plays and the school orchestra.

Jonah Hinebaugh, Entertainment Editor

Maureen Fallon, a director of high-school and community theater for the past 13 years, has seen it all. She has helmed every school musical since arriving here despite not having any formal training and dedicates seven days a week to her craft.

“My degree is in vocal performance,” Fallon said. “I did a lot of theater in elementary school, high-school and college. I was just really lucky to work with really good directors. I think it’s like being a teacher. Either you’re born to be it or you’re not. [Directing] to me is like therapy. I don’t feel like it’s a chore. Also, my daughters are grown up. There’s nobody waiting for me at home, so I don’t feel guilty dedicating [my] time.”

Fallon didn’t always plan on becoming a theater teacher.

“I think everyone is put here on Earth for a reason,” Fallon said. “When I was in high school, my wish was either to be a high-school band director or be on Broadway, and I didn’t have a family that was very supportive of either one of those ideas. Sometimes you get to a place where you just know that’s where you’re meant to be. I think that’s what happen[ed] here.”

When Fallon moved here from Philadelphia in 2003, the school’s auditorium had not yet been built, and performances were sparse.

“They only wanted to do one show every four years,” Fallon said, “The theater director Bob Mclaren said it was too much work to do more than that. That’s not high school theater. You should get to do everything.”

The program has grown to include more than one-tenth of the student body, making it one of the largest organizations on campus.

“I’ve always wanted to do ‘1776,’ a musical focused on the events surrounding the signing of the declaration, and ‘Into The Woods’ which intertwines Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault fairy tales,” Fallon said, “but they’re too small for the amount of people we have involved.”

New York University theater major Evelio Sotolongo, who graduated West Shore in 2015, attributes the program’s success to Fallon’s dedication to her students and to the inclusivity of the club.

“If a student auditions, no matter their level of experience, they are guaranteed a role,” Sotolongo said. “The small stage is often overflowing with young actors, singers and dancers because Fallon doesn’t make cuts. The theater program is highly inclusive, and its influence is far-reaching. It’s remarkable to me just how many students walk in and out of that auditorium every day because of Fallon.”

Throughout the years, Fallon has guided a handful of students — including Olivia Murphy, Noelle Mabry, Alexis Cruz, Joey Swift, Justin Mehlich, Kristina Manning and Jacob Vine along with Sotolongo — to careers in professional theater.

“All of those people went off to be theater majors or teachers,” she said. “As a theater teacher, it makes you feel good when you see your students succeed no matter what they do, but it kind of makes it closer to your heart when it’s exactly what you’re involved in.”

Sotolongo credits Fallon with influencing his decisions to continue studying theater.

“If it hadn’t been for her, I really couldn’t say where I’d be,” Sotolongo said. “Theater was my priority for the entirety of my high school career, largely due to Fallon’s charismatic and witty personality.”

Stephanie Delgado, a 2013 graduate of West Shore and graduate of The American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City, said Fallon taught her an important lesson about show business early on.

“I was cast as Mrs. Mayor in ‘Seussical,’” Delgado said. “It wasn’t a good part for me at all. I spent a lot of my time at West Shore watching my peers getting roles that I felt I was right for and extremely more right for in some cases be it physically, vocally, etc. It was frustrating. The other seniors sat me down and convinced me to do the show. Fallon and West Shore theater was certainly a smaller scale testament to this: In the industry you can be extremely talented, hard-working, and exactly like the character you are auditioning for is perceived. That doesn’t mean you will get the job.”

Both Sotolongo and Delgado have experienced success in New York. Sotolongo recently was cast as Sonny in an off-broadway production of the musical “In The Heights” and Delgado has multiple projects she is working on including reviving her role off-broadway as Margaret in an original musical “Molasses in January.”

“When I see kids perform and I see people at the end of their six years and see how far they’ve grown, it’s pretty rewarding,” Fallon said. “I kind of get emotional about the children that are here because you feel like they’re yours, but you know when they leave and walk out that door you’ll never see them again that’s just the way it works. ”

Someday Fallon herself will walk out that door. She has told her students she plans to retire from West Shore theater in five years.

“I had to say it out loud so it becomes real to me,” Fallon said. “I would like to do more stuff at the Henegar Center and get to do some main stages, [as well as] get more involved with education over there, but you know we’ll see what happens.”

Sotolongo’s advice to the current crop of thespians is to take advantage of the opportunity Fallon provides: “I defy [Principal] Rick Fleming to find a teacher who will ever be able to match Fallon’s unequalled dedication and passion for what she does.”