by Taylor Woods, Performing Arts Fort Worth
Theater, dance and music play integral roles in the artistic programs offered each CEP season. To further incorporate dance into the CEP repertoire, PAFW – in partnership with the Fort Worth ISD – announced the creation of a new award this season called Broadway at the Bass Chair for Teaching Excellence in Performing Arts in Theater and/or Dance.
The first recipient of the award is Cheryl Penland, who, 23 years ago, launched the theatre program at Trimble Tech High.
Over the years, the program has grown considerably. Some 200 students take part in the program each year, taking on roles both in front of the curtain and behind it. Impressively, these students help mount between six and eight theater productions throughout the school year.
In addition to directing shows, Cheryl teaches theater production classes, acting classes and a playwriting class. Cheryl’s love for her pupils, school and craft is apparent.
“As a theatre educator, I have been blessed with hundreds of wonderful people in my life every year,” she says. “Some make an impression in a single year, others make lifelong impressions on me. They become like family members, friends, sometimes even like my own children.”
After graduating, many of her students continue to chase their love of theater, landing jobs in the performing arts industry.
One such student is Trimble Tech graduate Neha Mahajan, who has starred in several Marathi films, including Ajoba and One Way Ticket.
Neha credits Cheryl with giving her the courage to pursue acting as a career. “I distinctly remember how comforting it was to hear her laugh in class,” Neha says. “I remember the steady confidence she showed in me while I was still adjusting to the basic difference of life in this part of the world.”
Cheryl’s hard work is not only recognized by students but by the industry that she dearly loves. Over the years, many organizations have honored her with accolades: She was named Theater Arts Educator of the Year in 2007-2008 by the Theater League of Tarrant County; Drama Teacher of the Year by the Texas Film Institute in 2009; and Broadway at the Bass Teaching Chair of Excellence in Theater and Dance in 2016, to name a few.
The priority for Cheryl remains her students and their continual growth. After receiving the Broadway at the Bass Chair for Excellence in Theater award, Cheryl used the award money to purchase tickets for her class to see The Phantom of the Opera at Bass Hall last year.
More recently, Performing Arts Fort Worth nominated Cheryl for a Tony Award for Excellence in Theatre Education; the winner will be announced at the Tony Awards ceremony this spring.
Cheryl’s passion for teaching and theatre knows no bounds, as she continues coaching students and inspiring them to follow their dreams.