Honoring longtime drama teacher

August 12, 2008 3:28:59 PM PDT
An emotional tribute to a Connecticut drama teacher who's helped stars rise. Students from past and present converged on Staples High School in Westport to honor a man who brought out the best in them, year after year.

Eyewitness News reporter Jamie Roth was one of his students and she went back to pay tribute, too.

Inside a room, Staples players transformed into their roles for one night as they performed Les Miserables, the school edition of the demanding operetta.

The students apply the make up and fit the wigs, they build the sets and light each show. They handle nearly every detail of the production, that's the tradition laid down by a man whose long been revered on this stage. Al Pia, a beloved director and theater teacher for 27 years. He retired not long ago, and now he's fighting leukemia. The players met one night to honor him.

David Roth is the current theater director and one of Pia's former students.

"You had to do it great and i think that need and that expectation that he had was sometimes hard to fulfill and sometimes frustrating, but the results were so terrific," said Roth.

Megan Watt adds, "He always strives to make you bigger and better than just what people expect high school students to be."

As soon as Al Pia arrived, back in his old auditorium, those very players were all around him hugging him and thanking him and telling him how much he mattered, years and years later.

"I loved you all. You were so talented, so literate, so full of artistry and enthusiasm and spirit. When i saw this, i was inspired," Pia said as he recognized the group.

The students and staff gave Pia a standing ovation, for the man who packed ths house for nearly 3 decades.

Now a plaque will hang outside the theater reminding all of Al Pia, his expectations and his encouragement.

"When you achieve excellence, you strive for another level," adds Pia.

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STORY BY: Eyewitness News reporter Jamie Roth
WEB PRODUCED BY: Scott Curkin

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