PARDEEVILLE — Pardeeville Area School District’s new theater director didn’t know Lorrie Fundingsland for very long or all that well.
She says she didn’t need to.
“I know we’d be building from nothing if she hadn’t been as involved as she was,” Kryzdy Martinez said after the Pardeeville School Board hired her Oct. 1 to succeed Fundingsland. Fundingsland died in an automobile accident in June along with her husband, Frank, and had led the theater department for 19 years.
Martinez said she has learned about Lorrie Fundingsland’s dedication to the program from talking to parents and students as she begins the long process of transition for the Pardeeville Theatrical Society and Drama Club. Rumors of an unknown play Fundingsland had purchased the rights to before her death is only one example of what picking up the pieces means for the new leader.
“Right now, everything is in dusty corners, so to speak, and needs to be gone through,” Martinez said. She met with about 15 students in September and learned the roles they’d like to hold in the Drama Club or Theatrical Society. The Theatrical Society typically puts on two plays per school year, while Drama Club students take field trips to area theater performances, among other activities.
Martinez learned how Lorrie and Frank Fundingsland used to make all of a play’s props by hand — the school’s plays becoming “very much a family affair,” she said — and Lorrie Fundingsland had at one point even provided her own wedding dress for a production, an item Martinez says she’ll give back to her family.
“Theater was obviously very important to her,” Martinez said.
First-year Principal Paul Weber said he wanted Martinez to meet with students as early as possible to get things rolling for the 2018-19 school year, since there’s never time to waste in an academic calendar. Now that Martinez is hired, Weber is seeing a program that’s ready to move forward.
“I know (Martinez) has great ideas for what she wants to do in this role, and I’m very confident she’ll do a good job,” Weber said. He pointed out how Martinez already is brainstorming the possibility of developing children’s theater programming for the Pardeeville community as the district nears the spring completion of its 35,000-square-foot performing arts center.
Chief among Weber’s first impressions of Martinez is how “she wants to pick productions that excite the children,” and do whatever it takes to encourage high engagement.
“She wants them involved in all aspects of theater, and that’s exciting,” Weber said. “She wants them involved in makeup, the costumes, all of the work behind the scenes, taking a very well-rounded approach.”
Martinez is a Portage resident and U.S. Air Force veteran whose theater background includes work on several productions while a student of Rogue Community College in Oregon. Her first production — “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” — was staged in the spring when she’d filled in for Fundingsland, who took some time off from the program due to health issues of her husband.
Martinez’s past experience in Pardeeville aids her transition, but right now she sees an opportunity for a fresh start.
“There will be a lot of things I’m inheriting, but with the new building — and new everything — the students and I are very excited about the possibilities that come with that,” she said.
Martinez would like to do more musical theater in Pardeeville, which should be “a smooth handover” since so many of her students also are in choir, she said. She wants her Drama Club students to learn all aspects of a production’s budget, “learning the skills that can be applied for the rest of their lives” and she also hopes to see more parent involvement in theater.
“Theater teaches you how to cope with stress — it teaches courage in public speaking and provides students leadership opportunities,” Martinez said. Drama Club students had told her that every year at Christmastime, they sing carols in the community, which she expects to continue.
“They already have this attitude of service, and that’s what I’d like to see continue,” Martinez said. “It’s a good foundation.”