Role Reversal - When an Administrator Becomes a Pupil - Kingswood Oxford

Creative Arts News

January 11, 2024

Role Reversal – When an Administrator Becomes a Pupil

It’s not often when a teacher becomes a pupil, but when it does, it’s inspiring. Form 3 Dean and College Counselor Matt Waldman sashayed out of his comfort zone by receiving dance lessons from Matthew Habeeb ’27 to take on his role as the imperious director Zach in KO’s upcoming production of A Chorus Line. Kyle Reynolds, chair of the arts department at KO, tapped Habeeb to be dance captain for the musical, so Habeeb’s task was to ensure that all of his performers were on point.


Selecting \Waldman for the pivotal role of “Zach” in A Chorus Line was an important decision for the success of our production and the authenticity of how our production is produced and perceived. Mr. Waldman’s role at KO requires him to be an expert at authentically asking students to reflect on their past experiences, curiously and creatively investigating their future plans and conducting a deep dive into each student’s “story”, aligning perfectly with the demands of Zach’s character. “Although Zach is mostly offstage during 99% of the show, his presence carries a mature weight yet appears visibly light, allowing a student to earn more stage time or understudy a role with greater exposure,” said Kyle Reynolds, chair of the arts department. “A faculty member playing a role in the musical provides an opportunity to showcase the essence of lifelong learning. Mr. Waldman’s involvement adds a valuable dimension to our collaborative experience, emphasizing the ongoing journey of personal growth, becoming involved, and taking risks. In fact, I’ve even noticed our students upholding a new level of ownership over the material – they want him to succeed and are working hard to support him; they are learning with passion and perseverance while nourishing their talents in a collaborative way.”


Spirits were high and lighthearted in the dance studio where Habeeb ran Waldman through the steps of one number. Waldman had difficulty with a particularly tricky move that required him to pirouette twice. Habeeb gently guided Waldman, offering advice and encouragement, and told Waldman that with steady practice, he would be able to accomplish the move.


Waldman is no neophyte when it comes to acting. Beginning theater in third and fourth grade, Waldman performed in a local Youngstown, Ohio theater by the time he was in middle school and continued through his high school years, taking on the role of Judas in Godspell and a bad guy in a courtroom drama.


Waldman said the director role in A Chorus Line is a “sizable” one, although he does not appear on stage often. His character is either in the booth or the front of the house, asking questions of the 17 actors auditioning for the roles. “He’s demanding,” Waldman said of his character. “He’s thoughtful and wants to know who these aspiring actors are. It’s what makes the play work. It tells the story of all these actors, and the director holds it together.”


In preparing for the role, Waldman researched the play and watched a “meta” documentary about casting the casting of A Chorus Line. If time permits, he reads lines with his co-workers during his lunch break.


“I don’t let it interrupt my work day,” he said. “I do everything on the margins.” Waldman understands that there will be late-night rehearsals as the performance draws closer.


As for having Habeeb, a student, teach him the dance routine, Waldman was grateful that he and Matthew knew one another, and he trusted him.

“We talk about being vulnerable in front of kids, but we are rarely vulnerable,” he said. “We are vulnerable in the ways we are okay with being vulnerable. I feel pretty humble that this [dance] is really hard for me. I think an adult body isn’t going to catch the moves the way that young bodies quickly program themselves. I don’t think I will pick it up as fast as them, so I’m self-conscious, sure.”


Waldman always admired the plays and musical productions at KO, but he has a deeper appreciation for the process after witnessing the commitment of the young actors. He wants to meet their energy, recognizing that he may fall short. 


“It’s cool to be part of their world,” he said. “I’m not one of them one hundred percent, but to be in their space and trying to do what they do, I respect the heck out of what they are doing. When you are trying to do it right, it’s really hard.”



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