Before joining the PHS community as the drama teacher in 2000, Patricia Wray led a career as a dancer, actress, and performer in New York City. Her achievements include working in productions on Broadway and acting in films alongside Robin Williams. After leaving the stage to raise a family, she moved to New Jersey and began teaching drama at local high schools. For the past 15 years, she has directed the four annual shows and supervised the student-directed plays that are performed in both the PAC and the Black Box Theater.
What is your background in the performing arts?
I started dancing when I was four … I danced all my life, I would also write plays and direct plays and star in plays when I was little. It was just something I always did, I always watched movie musicals. In high school, I choreographed and performed in the plays, [I would also] teach [children] dance in my basement because I hated babysitting. In college, I majored in theatre and minored in dance … when I graduated from college, I first opened a dance studio and also choreographed and directed shows … I did a couple of Broadway shows that opened and closed.
What made you want to become a teacher?
I always knew I wanted to become a teacher and I knew that a life of a dancer [was] limited. But I felt like I wanted to work first before [I started] teaching. We [my husband and I] decided to move out of New York … and move to the suburbs. I was home [with the kids] for about ten years … I thought I couldn’t go back to what I did because I needed to keep the kids in school. I also did a few films here and there. I wanted to do it all before I got out of the business. I did a few movies with Robin Williams and John Lithgow … I wanted to [experience] all of it, especially because I’m teaching it. I just want my students to know that [actors] are just real people and they have amazing jobs, but they are just like us.
How do you choose the shows every year?
I try to figure out who is in the classes … and what they might like to do and what would be different from the year before. I try to put together a season of shows [which I really like] that we do. Everyone last year wanted to do Sherlock, so I read a lot of Sherlock plays this summer and I think I found the best one to do. Then for the musical, I just try to change it up [from] last year. I really like musicals from the 1920’s and that’s what we are doing this year.
Why did you choose to teach at PHS?
I called [Princeton High School] and the secretary said, “Well, in fact we do need a drama teacher here.”