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George's Blog: A Turning Point

Submitted by George Randolph on 10/17/2013


While it’s often said that the Randolph Academy started with a kiss – Kiss of the Spider Woman, to be exact – my own personal first foray in the arts started with a King, or rather, a production of The King and I.

I was reminded of this last weekend when I returned to my hometown of Red Bank, NJ, for my 40-year high school reunion. Even though I was part of the planning committee – on account of being class president four years running –I was still surprised when I saw, in and among the various memorabilia on display, production photos from the show that started it all for me: The King and I.

I had never done any theatre before but it was my senior year and I thought, “Why not?” I was cast as Lun Tha, the secret love of Tuptim. I look back at that experience and realize it was a real turning point for me. I had never considered a career in the arts. My parents’ plans for me involved a military career. One high school production set the groundwork for a change that was further cemented by taking a dance class and seeing a performance of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, both while I was in university.

At the reunion, I saw my high school drama teacher, Renee Maxwell, now approaching 80 and still as feisty as ever. Ms. Maxwell said, “You know, in high school, you couldn’t sing well; did you ever learn?” to which I responded, “No, and I still can’t sing well, but I did learn to dance a little.” We chatted some more and I told her about my life since high school, and she responded, “George, you’ve done everything I wish I could have done.” (Back then, like today, mindsets and budgets limited the progress of arts education in high schools.)

The experience was a reminder of so many things. Particularly how one seemingly inconsequential event can change your whole life. And how a single person, a teacher, can point you in a direction that you never anticipated going. But once you’re there, you find there is no turning back, no looking back, and no regrets.

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Renee Maxwell and George Randolph

The King and I program