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The Student News Site of Buena High School

Buena Speaks

The Student News Site of Buena High School

Buena Speaks

Curtains close on Karen Rodrigues’ magical career

Taylor Duchai

After being part of the Ventura Unified community for 31 years, Drama Director Karen Rodrigues  “K Rod” is ready to give one final performance before moving onto the next chapter of her life, and hopes that her retirement will give her more time to spend with the people she loves; namely her husband and her dogs, and traveling the country in their Class A Motorhome.

Rodrigues’ passion for drama is something that she has carried with her since she was a little girl. She recalls times when she would make skits with her friends to perform for her family over dinners and holidays. It was in those moments that Rodrigues knew that theater was her calling. 

Rodrigues first began her teaching journey at Buena in the 1992-1993 school year as an English teacher, though she moved to Foothill  from 2004-2015 where she became the Theater Director out of chance due to a teacher trade of classes. She made the decision to return to Buena after learning that the previous Drama Director Frank Davis was leaving. Though she experienced some uncertainty that she would get the job, she applied anyway. 

“I was excited to be able to come back to the place where I learned how to be a teacher and that I felt was my teaching home,” Rodrigues said.

Learning the ropes of directing drama has been a series of trial and error. There was a lot of unfamiliar technology that Rodrigues had to grow accustomed to, describing her first year as the “highest learning curve of [her] entire career”  and says that she “cried a little bit” her first year.

“I wanted to know everything, do everything, and be everything,” Rodrigues said. “I had to learn to be patient with myself and ask for help.” 

Fortunately, she had the helping hand of colleagues who worked with her and helped her adjust to the new environment. Choir director, Kevin Downey describes Rodrigues as a “life-long learner” and has been a witness to the work that she has put into expanding the drama program ever since the first production they worked on together, “Legally Blonde”. 

It has been an honor and a privilege to see the growth of the theater program under Rodrigues’ direction,” Downey said. “I’m amazed at how her shows have consistently improved over time, she has done an amazing job.”

— Kevin Downey

“It has been an honor and a privilege to see the growth of the theater program under Rodrigues’s direction,” Downey said. “I’m amazed at how her shows have consistently improved over time, she has done an amazing job.”

Being a director, despite its challenges, has proved to be rewarding, and year after year, Rodrigues has been successful in putting on a number of productions. Her first production at Buena was “Steel Magnolias” and later went on to put on numerous more including, “She Loves Me”, the “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”, and “The Somewhat True Tale of Robin Hood”, to name a few, and her final and most recent production, “All Shook Up”.

Senior Adam Karluk, lead role in the musical, is grateful to have had the privilege of working with Rodrigues, ever since he met her his sophomore year when she “took [him] under her wing”. 

“Rodrigues is the greatest teacher I’ve ever had, she is like a second mother to me,” Karluk said. 

Senior Spencer Paredes, a student in Rodrigues’s stagecraft class and stage manager, like many, admires her dedication and passion for the drama program, and acknowledges the impact that she has had on others. 

“She is amazing, she has made me have more confidence in myself that I never knew I had,” Paredes said. “I will forever be grateful that [she] has changed my life.”

Putting on her final performance Rodrigues reminisces on the skills and growth that she has made since her arrival to Buena. From the day she started her journey to present there is one thing that has remained constant, the fulfillment she feels working with her students which she describes as “family”.

“I love watching a performance go from the page to the stage,” Rodrigues said. “Watching [students] mature and grow in the craft makes me super happy.”

As Rodrigues prepares to direct her final show, plans are in the works for next year, where English teacher, and assistant director, Molly Ensminger will take over as Drama Director and will have the assistance of Downey when rehearsing for musicals in the Spring. 

“The two of them will be quite a dynamic duo for musicals,” Rodrigues said. “I feel confident leaving it in such caring, trained, professional, excellent hands.”

Ensminger describes feeling excited for the year ahead and is ready to immerse herself in the world of theater. 

“My vision for next year is to maintain what she has created, but also add my own personality to it,” Ensminger said. 

In true theater director fashion, KRod cited a quote from Shakesepare in Love, to explain the mystery that happens in the drama department when a show goes from letters on a page to a production.  The line goes “How will it happen” and the response is “I don’t know, it is a mystery”. The unfolding of Karen Rodrigues Career has been a blend of mystery and beauty and her legacy will remain.

“I hope that my influence has been compassionate,”Rodrigues said. “Teaching kids how to work together and see the best in each other and really put their all into something.”

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About the Contributor
Viviana Avila
Viviana Avila, Staff Writer
Viviana Isabel is a senior at BHS and is a third year journalist for Buena Speaks. She's passionate about all forms of art, her favorite being performing arts, such as dance, but enjoys art in the form of writing, painting, and doing makeup as well.

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    Linda KapalaMay 26, 2024 at 7:07 pm

    Such a sweet woman and a wonderful motivator wishing you a stellar retirement