Paul Sardinha, the man who has been bringing smash hit drama productions for the past two decades to Old Rochester Regional, has resigned from his position as director.
If you’ve ever been to a show put on by the ORR Drama Club, you would understand why Principal Michael Devoll often refers to the club as the “crown jewel of ORR.”
In his 26 years working at the school, Sardinha has worked with his students to put together around 60 shows, including alumni performances.
Originally working as a musical director for the club for four years in 1991, Sardinha has made many memories during his 22 years as the solo director of the club. He can distinctly remember the serendipity of the day he spoke on the phone with then principal, Jim Egan. In hopes of getting hired as the new director for the club, Sardinha was about to call Egan when he received a call from the principal himself, offering the very job.
Over these past 26 years with Old Rochester, many aspects of the school have changed – especially the size of the student body and the size of the building itself. Sardinha took it upon himself to place name tags above each teacher’s doorway, and signs at the end of every hallway declaring which direction one can find each subject.
Among his other lasting contributions, Sardinha brought to the school auditorium floor lights and the grand piano.
Mrs. Helen Blake, who worked with Sardinha for 25 years, has many memories of her time working alongside him. One particular memory that stands out to her is of the day she brought Paul a songbook that contained music from Carousel. He instantly flipped to the back of the book to get a look at the music. Blake then asked Sardinha if he would play her a song.
“I asked him to play If I Loved You, and he was playing it and I said, ‘Oh no. You have to sing it too,’” said Blake. “I kind of put him on the spot, but it was just such a favorite moment. It was like a special performance just for me, and it was just so beautiful.”
Magnificent sets have also been a trademark of the Drama Club, and that is thanks to Sardinha’s skill of learning through observation.
“When I was a little kid my father was a plumber,” said Sardinha, “and I would go with him on plumbing jobs. A lot of times we worked on houses where the walls were being stripped and the house was being constructed. I’m a visual learner and I would look at the way walls were constructed and think, well, that’s the way you build a wall. So, I put a house together [on stage] the way I saw it happen.”
“Just when you think you’ve seen it all, he creates something else that you think can’t happen, and he makes it happen,” said Blake. “He just amazes me.”
It was thanks to these same skills that he was able to become so competent in relation to working the lights, sound booth, and supervising the backstage activities. After years of watching others perform the various aspects of running a show, he was able to emulate their actions easily. Although many believe that the actors are all you need for a show, Sardinha is adamant that they always remember that this thought is wholly incorrect.
“Never, ever, ever disrespect anybody offstage,” said Sardinha. “Without the offstage people, actors have no right being on the stage.”
As for his ability to direct, that was all from his own talent.
“I was told years ago that my instincts were pretty natural.” said Sardinha.
If you were to ask Sardinha what his favorite show was, he probably couldn’t tell you. For him, every single show was special and wonderful in its own way.
“I have moments from every show that I remember fondly,” he said. “I always loved the show that I was working on at the time.”
What he will miss most about the Drama Club, without a doubt, will be, “watching the success,” he said.
“Watching kids coming in who are so unsure of themselves, watching the kids find their security, find themselves, and become more secure with themselves,” said Sardinha.
To the teachers, he urged, “Stay the course. Keep supporting the kids the way we always have.” To the students, he reminded, “Don’t be afraid to try. Don’t be afraid, and thoroughly enjoy the work you guys do.”
About the drama club members, he said, “The kids will always fall in love with the show that they create. It’s up to the director to make it the best it can be, and the kids will never, ever, ever let the director down. They will never let themselves down because they know how much they put in for the show.”
And some advice for everybody: “Never, ever, ever forget the names of the custodians and the secretaries,” said Sardinha. “They are people just like everybody else. They have families: they have highs and they have lows: they have bills. They have happy times. Never forget the custodians. They are the unsung heroes of the building. And the secretaries.”
As for his time spent with the club, Sardinha stated, “I had a fantastic, brilliant time with the Drama Club. Nobody can take away the twenty-six years that Helen and I worked to get there together doing the Drama Club.”
Fondly, he said, “I am extremely pleased that ORR trusted me. I am grateful to the school system for trusting me when they did, and I am also so proud of all the productions we have been able to put together.”
Ninety-nine thousand two hundred – Approximately the number of people who have come to see the productions directed by Paul Sardinha; the number of people who would gladly congratulate him on his 26 years of wonderful work; the number of people who wish him the best.
By Grace Mastroianni