Allison Underhill

facebook twitter Linkedin Email

Allison Underhill, currently teaching theatre at Bellaire High School in Houston, TX, graduated with a B.S. in Allison UnderhillTheatre and a Texas Teaching Certificate in 2013. Though Allison didn’t start her academic career as a theatre major, her heart pulled on her and she made the switch in her third year. She describes her last three years at Lamar as incredible, filled with theatre and pedagogy classes by wonderful mentors and teachers. Her time with LUTD allowed her to venture out and try everything including stage management, directing, design, and even the lead in a musical. The experience allowed her exposure to every area of the craft she loves so much and helped her to focus in on technical theatre and teaching.

Allison, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us. You stated that you’ve “been fortunate to attend workshops and classes to continue learning and growing in technical theatre so that you can be the best teacher you can for your young student artists.” With this in mind, tell us what you consider to be your greatest accomplishments (both personally and professionally)?

Since graduating from Lamar, I have traveled and taught theatre across Texas. It’s been great fun! I feel very lucky for that opportunity. I learned a lot about myself and about being a great teacher. Now I’m settled in Houston teaching at a high school that I love in an area that I’ve always wanted to live in. During my time teaching in the Houston area, my technical theatre program was nominated for five Tommy Tune awards. The Tommy Tune awards are a Houston based award for high schools and their musical theatre productions. That was a really exciting event. Tommy Tune was the host of the awards ceremony and when I saw him backstage I thought, wow... he really must be seven feet tall. Legs for days! We made eye contact and danced together as the students from my school performed “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat.” It was a magical 10 seconds that I’ll never forget. 

In what way(s) did your time at Lamar University impact your career or who you are today?

My time at Lamar really impacted who I am as a teacher. During my time, the late Jeff Wisor was the technical director, and I learned so much from him. In my classroom now I still use his idioms and teachings. But I was truly blessed to have amazing professors during my three years in Lamar Theatre. I did not do a lot of acting before joining the department. I was a technician through and through. But I did grow a wild hair and audition for a number of productions. Dr. Judith Sebesta took a chance on me and gave me the lead in her production of “Slasher.” As did Ron Zank for his production of “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” And who could forget Joel Grothe’s “MacBeth!” I learned so much from each of these professors. In ways that words can’t express. I am forever grateful to have had them in my life. The conversations and life lessons that were held in Kelly Draper’s costuming world were ones for the ages. I miss them all so much. 

The Theatre Department at Lamar really allowed me to stretch myself creatively and to try any and every avenue of theatre. You were never pigeonholed. You were always given the opportunity to explore and play. 

What is your most fond memory or favorite story of your time at Lamar University?

Well, the one I love to tell my Intro to Technical Theatre students was the time the stage flooded 20 minutes before curtain for the production of “Beauty Queen of Leenane.” Strap in, it’s a wild ride… 

“Beauty Queen” took place in the black box theatre and it was a beautiful set designed by Jeff Wisor, directed Allison Underhill by Joel Grothe and I was the stage manager. The set had a custom “stone” floor that was meticulously routed out from compressed cardboard sheets and then painted. There was a working sink on stage that was functioned by running a hose from the bottom of the nozzle and down the hallway to the scene shop sink. On the final matinee show, I went to turn the scene shop sink on so that the water would be ready for when the actors turned the set sink on. Assuming the set sink was in the OFF position, I didn’t think twice about it. After chit chatting with actors and technicians backstage for around 10 minutes or so, I return to the black box to do my final sweep of the set. 

That’s when I hear gushing water. I run to the front of the set and under the sink, coming from the cabinets was a flood. The five-gallon bucket that was placed under the sink to catch the access water was overflowing and flooding the stage. And the cardboard flooring... that’s when I started yelling for everyone to get on set. Actors came flying in with curlers in their hair and their undergarments on trying to find anything to soak up the mess and keep it from hitting the electronics behind the set. A technician somehow grabbed an arm full of towels and came running in. I still have no idea where she got them from and how she got so many, so fast. It was pandemonium trying to sop up all the water. And then I started panicking about the floor. Cardboard and water do not mix, and we still had a two and a half hour show to do on a floor that was disintegrating before us. I called Jeff Wisor in a panic, explaining the situation how some of the cardboard was destroyed and buckling at the seams. It was the section closest to the sink counter and furthest from the audience. He told me to take three deep breaths and asked how bad the floor was coming apart. And I told him it was bad, but not to where the actors couldn’t walk on it at all. They just had to be hyper aware of the buckling so they wouldn’t trip, and it may squish beneath them. Then he said, “Young lady, it’s the last show. The actors can still walk on it. Who gives a damn,” and then hung up on me. Allison UnderhillThat’s when I truly learned that no matter the obstacle, the show must go on.  

What advice would you give current students and young alumni in your field?

If you’re using water on stage, make sure the stage nozzle is off before turning on the water source. 

Haha! Allison, that is an incredible story and a true learning moment for all. Thank you again for taking the time to speak with us. Congratulations on all of your accomplishments. We look forward to seeing where you and your students go from here.