The Endless Hours Of Work From Director, Coach and Daughter Rebecca Knowles


Written by: Lane Barrette, Co-Editor

The light of the sun engulfs the walls of the high school just as theater director, debate and forensics coach Rebecca Knowles drives up to the teacher parking lot in ‘Little Blue’, the light blue 2004 Saturn Ion. After taking the key out of the ignition and walking inside the side doors next to her room, Knowles is greeted with an entourage of theater, debate and speech students alike to which she responds with a sincere ‘Howdy’. 

After the first two blocks, Knowles expects her entourage to march into her room. On the off chance she finds time to leave her room during the day, she will often slide into Kelly Brungardt-Neil’s classroom to catch up. The conversations the two have are classified to the student body, but they are often interrupted which results in a kind but firm, “I’ll get right on that once I’m back in my room.”

As the week comes to a close, Knowles still finds herself at the high school, even on Saturdays, waiting for debaters and speech competitors before the morning sun even peaks over the horizon. The weekends she takes students out to debate, she arrives always fifteen minutes before the bus takes off to make sure every debater has their necessarily materials. Knowles has been a debate and speech coach for over ten years, and along the way, she has formed many connections through these weekend outings.

“All of my friendships stem from work. Either my friends work here at BLHS or I have worked with them in the past. I’m friends with coaches from other schools or students’ parents that I’ve gotten to know all stem from around school in one way, shape or form,” said Knowles.

Going on 18 years, Knowles has put her heart, sweat and occasionally tears into each of the theatrical productions she has directed. She has put in countless hours of painting, drilling, light queue planning, ironing and the list goes on; luckily, she doesn’t do it all alone. 

During the past two decades, she’s become close friends with the parents of students. Senior Zoie Borders’s mother has been with the program for around seven years. These parents then become encapsulated in the program, such as spending five hours ironing costumes before the first dress rehearsal.

With everything that Knowles needs to do for each show, Knowles’s schedule is packed from dawn to dusk.

“After school, [my schedule] depends on what needs to be done for the musical. [I start] right after school until rehearsal at 5 [p.m.] and rehearsals are running to 9 p.m.. Then, I go home and start the whole thing over again,” said Knowles. 

It is somewhat of a mystery how Knowles is not frozen solid because she is void of any warm sunlight for months on end during musical season. However, she still wakes up every morning with the vigor to support the students she is with for the day. 

For most people, the weekend is a time of rest and rejuvenation. Waking up fully energized with only the calm wind breeze and occasion bird’s chirp outside of the window as the source of arisal is the ideal weekend waking up ritual. For Knowles, this is solely a dream. 

With her lack of free time, it is quite a mystery why Knowles finds herself enjoying debate so much that losing her weekends is worth the sacrifice. The answer to that mystery is quite simple: Knowles has always enjoyed the concept of public speaking since she first got to high school.

“I always liked giving speeches [in high school]. I was involved in FCCLA, so I did most of my speeches through that. In college, I wanted to be a journalism and communications major, but they didn’t work out. I realized I liked giving speeches and I decided to get into that,” said Knowles.

Even though Knowles has 18 years of experience under her belt, she is still eager to learn and improve. For every show before Mary Poppins, Knowles not only directed, but also choreographed, organized lighting and sound plots, dictated costumes and even made props and sets. This year, Knowles became more open to the idea of student leadership like student created choreography and student led tech groups.

“Every show is different and impactful and meaningful. The first one was special but even now, years later, I get just as much joy as I did then and not once did I ever feel as though I do not at least learn something from my students,” said Knowles.

Tucked away in the far most corner of the English hallway, most people who pass by Knowles’s room may never know how deeply involved Knowles’s family is with her career as a director and coach or that she hung up her first family picture at the theater underneath her desk.

Referred to as ‘Mama and Papa Knowles’, Knowles’s parents are connected to every theatrical production, debate and speech function. From supplying handsewn, tailored costumes for shows, to homemade pulled pork and soup for home tournaments, Mama and Papa Knowles have always supported their daughter, and it is no wonder why as the family has shared the same love of theater since Knowles was a child. Since her first time in the theater, Knowles has always wondered how a production is put on.

“My family went to the theater a lot together, and anytime I went with them, I always wanted to see what makes a show and see how it works,” said Knowles.

The Knowles family has stayed tight knit even though Knowles’s schedule leaves only time for work-related interactions. However, Knowles knows how to make time for the people that matter.

“My mom, my dad and my brother are by far the most important people in my life. No question, because they are really the only family that I have around here,” said Knowles. “They aren’t just my family, but my best friends. I can’t imagine my life without my mom and dad around. They are such pivotal people in my life. It’s going to be hard when they’re gone.”

Knowles may work from sunrise to sunset, but the unapologetic enjoyment she experiences from the roar of applause after the show she directed and the support her debate and speech team show for one another makes every hour worth it.

“I am a busy person,” said Knowles. “But, I love what I do.”