Drama teacher at Cactus Shadows changes lives, one student at a time
SCOTTSDALE – His classroom is the one without the desks. His students are some of the boldest teenagers on campus, seldom afraid to express themselves. Andrew Cupo is a former Cactus Shadows High School Falcon who returned to the nest eight years ago as the drama teacher. He empowers, inspires, and encourages creative bravery among his students.
Cupo teaches drama classes, oversees the Jokers Improve Troupe, and the CSHS Drama Club, all while putting on two full-scale productions a year.
Regarding the typical stereotypes between athletes and drama students, he said that that those stigmas aren’t true in today’s high schools, at least not at Cactus Shadows. Cupo said he’s had many athletes in drama club over the years; some even choose the stage over the practice field.
“It just depends,” he said. “I’ve had swimmers, track stars, even football players, that act, help out during productions, or build sets.”
Drama can often provide athletes with a creative outlet not necessarily offered in their sport. Conversely, many actors take on sports as another way to support their school and stay healthy.
Junior Kameron Moore is a member of the swim team, plans to compete on the track team this season, and is an active participant in the drama program at Cactus Shadows.
Moore said that being in drama has prompted him to be more creative and “drama strengthens you creatively, while athletics and swim strengthen you physically.”
Moore was an athlete first, who took Cupo’s drama class simply as a fine arts credit. He’s now a member of the Improv Troupe, active in CSHS Drama Club, and just scored the lead role in ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’, the school’s fall production.
“If it weren’t for Cupo, I wouldn’t be doing drama,” Moore said. “I really look up to him.”
While it’s interesting that some athletes are involved in drama, it is also clear that the majority of thespians are not athletes. Fine arts is their passion and their teacher, Cupo, spends countless hours helping students find a place to fit into the department.
Alexa Dragone, junior co-captain of the Improv Troupe, became involved with drama through her sisters, who were all former students of Cupo’s.
“My favorite part about Cupo is that he’s not afraid to be Cupo,” Dragone said.
Cupo has a way of connecting with students that brings out their individual contributions. He allows them to shine in their own way. Dragone said that if she wasn’t in drama club, her high school experience would have been very difference. She is definitely more outgoing and feels free to express herself in many different aspects.
There have definitely been struggles for the CSHS drama department, when it comes to freedom of speech and expression. Not all parents and students agree with every play. But, Cupo makes sure that his drama students are well educated by teaching them about numerous plays.
Cupo continues to change students’ lives through the arts and said he plans to for a long time.
“To see students so passionate about something and to see them express themselves,” Cupo said. “As a theatre teacher, that’s the best gift ever.”