Augie Praley – Class of 2005
Written for The Key Review - Fall 2011 Issue
What did you do after graduating from Key School?
After graduating from Key in 2005, I attended the University of Chicago. While I spent the first several semesters bouncing from major to major (I honestly think at one point I was ecological science with a minor in comparative religion), I finally landed on theatre and performance studies. An academic nomad for the first of my semesters there, I always filled my evenings with theatre. Directing, writing and acting in plays was a release for me—both more challenging and more rewarding than any major I had ever settled upon. It was there that my real love and appreciation for writing and directing began. After graduating, I moved to Washington, DC, and worked with Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in their Literary Department.
Since then, I have acted in Washington with Forum Theatre, No Rules Theatre Company, Dog & Pony DC, and the New Musical Foundation. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to spend three months in New York, assistant directing a production at La Mama, ETC and associate producing/assistant directing Company with the New York Philharmonic at the Lincoln Center, with Neil Patrick Harris, Stephen Colbert and Christina Hendricks. In the spring, I traveled abroad to Tbilisi, Georgia, where the US State Department and the American Embassy, in conjunction with the Rustaveli State Theatre, produced a limited engagement of a play I wrote called euphoria: something better is coming. It’s been a whirlwind year.
What are you doing now?
I am currently in graduate school at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in the Dramatic Writing Program.
What do you remember most about your experience at Key School?
The thing that I always go back to about Key is the way the faculty and community taught us to be lifelong learners and insatiable wonderers. I know that many of the papers I turned in may have been only tangentially related to the material or the question at hand (I think I still owe apologies to Mrs. Hill, Dr. Bob and countless other teachers for some of my further-reaching papers), but exploring questions was always more important than finding succinct answers. There was an incredible freedom in our learning paths that I can only really appreciate now. Are you interested in reading all of Dante’s The Divine Comedy? Sure thing, do an independent study. Do you disagree with the prompt we’re offering on this paper? Good, prove us wrong. Tell us why. Have a discussion.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a school ask big questions of their students and hope for an echo of even bigger questions. From observing silk worms in Mrs. Haas’s fourth grade class to discussions of existential philosophy with Dr. Bob, we were always encouraged and, more importantly, inspired by the faculty to ask questions and develop a genuine thirst for knowledge.
Having had the opportunity to return to Key as a substitute teacher last year, it’s encouraging to see that spirit alive and thriving.
Which faculty members do you remember most?
There really are too many to name specifically. I remember struggling with the question of who to ask to speak for me at graduation. I think by the end of fifth grade I had whittled it down to a list of twenty-five. By the time I had gotten to Upper School, my list easily could have included nearly every faculty member at the School. Finally I went with Mrs. Clevenger, the first grade teacher who welcomed me in to “big kid” school after Pre-School, and first encouraged me to ask questions I still struggle with, such as “what will I be when I exit my cocoon?”
I remember playing Dungeons and Dragons with Dr. Bob, Brian Boyd and Derek Lieske on weekends or Friday afternoons in the physics lab. They had a way of making us feel cool by playing the game ordinarily played by the dorkiest kids in high schools. In retrospect, we may still have been the dorkiest kids at our high school, but at least we were in a guild together!
I guess the teacher who had the biggest impact on what I do now was Chip Lamb. I’ll never forget coming to auditions as a freshman and seeing the captains of the lacrosse team walk from the locker room in the gym, some of them still in cleats, right over to the music room to sign up for an audition slot for Once Upon A Mattress. The appeal of the stage aside, I think Chip added a certain draw to the productions. The way he could take shoestring budgets and create striking sets was nothing short of awe-inspiring. He is still one of the only directors I know who’s as good at directing as he is with a nail gun.
As a graduate, how do you feel the program at Key School prepared you for college and beyond?
When we were gearing up to leave Key, during college nights with Paul Stoneham so many graduates would say things like, “Key really set me up to succeed in writing papers in college” or “In college, I was the best in my class when it came to writing essays.” While that’s certainly true for many, when I got to college, the thing I found myself best “set up” for were science labs. I think it has to do with that innate curiosity they ingrained in us coupled with a focus on the scientific method—beginning in first grade and continuing through Upper School labs.
Also, I think the close-knit community left me better suited to navigate the sometimes-terrifying social world of college. What graduates can look forward to when they leave Key is an authentic interest in and care for people and their ideas. It’s a school that encourages debate and the free flow of ideas. By the time you get to your senior year that has evolved into a full-blown addiction to discourse which leads one to need interaction and conversation.
Do you keep in contact with any other Key School alumni?
Sure do! I lived with Scott Waymouth ’05 in Washington, DC, after college. I’m still very close with Brendan Colgan ’05, Jamey McCulloch-Faber ’05, Matt Bowers ’05, Sam Wetterau ’05, Charlotte Smith ’05, and a whole bunch from my grade. I see Brad Fowler ’04 in New York as much as I can and I still keep in touch with many alums from my brother’s grade, including Alex Rast ’03 and Dave Teitelbaum ’03. I tend to find Key alums pretty much anywhere I go. At my show in DC, Phil Brennan ‘99 came up afterwards to say hello, and he must have been six years my senior. It’s a close-knit group of alums.