A family full of drama
Story and photo by Holly Davis
This could be a Romeo and Juliet story that has a good ending. Shawn and Jennifer are not Shakespearean characters, but their lives revolve around the curtain and the stage that brought them together 10 years ago. Throughout those 10 years they have been apart for a mere 14 days.
Shawn Beuchat is a teacher and theater director at Jefferson West and JenniferMorgan-Beuchat is a teacher and theater director at Jefferson County North.
Shawn stumbled upon theater in an attempt to save his father’s farm and become a good school teacher. When Shawn was younger, he received news that his father had terminal cancer. He then had to decide whether to keep his family farm going or sell it.
Because a school teacher gets summers off, he decided that it would be the best career for his newly acquired farm. While on his tractor one summer, he was listening to the radio and came across an advertisement for a Topeka Civic Theater’s “A Christmas Carol” audition. With no intentions of going into acting, he decided to audition and pick up much needed public speaking skills for his teaching career.
After his first play there, he decided to audition for the next play in line. A love for theater was found.
“To me, theater is . . . everything. It is math. It is history. It is art. Theater is what has an impact because it gives kids responsibility and self-confidence,” Shawn said.
Jennifer took forensics classes in high school and majored in theater during college. She always had a talent and love for theater and has three degrees in it as well.
Her professional theater career required extensive travel, which was not conducive to raising a family. After her first daughter was born, she chose to stay home and become a teacher with hopes she could incorporate her love for theater in that profession.
Jennifer has taught debate and speech, forensics and theater, as well as radio and commercial classes. With such a busy life, she never expected someone like Shawn would come into her life.
Shawn and Jennifer met on a blind date set up by mutual friends. At the time, both were rushing around with finalizing their plays.
Shawn met Jennifer at her JCN middle school play, “Thriller.” Knowing his background in theater, she immediately asked him to help with the monster makeup and he agreed. Those were the first words said to each other. After the show, he helped break down the set, clean up, and they both went out for dinner.
After a week, they knew they were meant to be together and began to further help each other with shows.
“We both understand what we’re going through during tech week when we’re getting ready for a big show. We both have a passion for theater and can help each other out. I do the stage and lights, while she does the makeup and costumes,” Shawn said.
Shawn, Jennifer, and her daughter, Britany Morgan, attended the 33rd annual Kansas Thespian Conference Jan. 5-7. They have been attending this conference for 14 years.
Shawn taught two temporary tattoo workshops, titled “Tattoo U,” a process that involves a Ziploc baggie, sharpie markers, nail polish remover, and alcohol. The idea of a temporary tattoo is to make it look realistic for on stage or camera, while also being removable. Over 300 participants attended the workshop.
Jennifer taught three makeup workshops and choreographed the opening theme dance for the Friday night production. The fantasy makeup workshops included multiple “designs” such as scars, fairies, and animals. She also held a beginner’s workshop that focused on the basic stage makeup routine.
Britany taught five dance workshops to about 300 students. The workshops included learning the basics of salsa, mambo, meringue, and bachata. She is a junior at Stephens College and is majoring in theater performance with voice and dance emphasis. Aside from that, she teaches salsa several times a week at a swing dance club in Missouri.
With four grown children all having theater experience in high school, it isn’t surprising that they all have careers based in theater and acting. The Valley Falls couple also has two dogs in show business as well. Belize, their Shih-Tzu, and Hannah, their bloodhound, have appeared in a number of productions.
“Everyone can benefit from having a passion in fine arts. Just because you’re from a small town, doesn’t mean you’re not talented. You can find a spot for any student, or dog,” Jennifer laughs, “They have the opportunity to find out what others are like.”
With a house full of hats, costumes, and mismatched furniture, there is no doubt that this family has a lot of love for drama and the theater kids they teach.
“You can really do some amazing things when kids have the opportunity to be themselves. I love to see a collage of kids who never would have been together and have a great adventure because they are focused so much on the show,” she said.
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