Long-time Cibola High School drama teacher Joan Kent died August 11 at age 93. The school’s theater bears her name. A memorial event will be held October 9, 6 p.m. at the Cibola theater. Those who wish to participate are urged to email Kathy Wimmer at actorharper @gmail.com.
“One of Joan’s mottos was ‘Life is full of comedy and tragedy,’” her daughter, Connie Friedrichs, recalled. “And Joan experienced it all. She also taught so many how to express the range of those emotions onstage.” Kent taught drama for 23 years, becoming more than a coach and director, but a profound influence on the teen lives she touched. She retired in 1993.
Active in theater in her native Chicago, she began teaching drama at West Mesa High in 1970 after she moved with her family to the Albuquerque area in 1964. She transferred to Cibola High when it opened in 1975. She lived in Rio Rancho.
“She was a very important influence on our lives,” a Cibola drama student, Val Martinez, reflected. “She made us persistent and good. We didn’t understand how good we really were until we performed in national and international events.” Few of her students went on to careers in theater or film, but the training and dedication Kent imparted nevertheless imparted crucial life skills.
Corrales’ Wendy Scott was one of those few. She is now a teaching artist for the Santa Fe Opera and has had roles in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. “Joan Kent had zero tolerance for passable work. She insisted we have persistence and dedication in our pursuit of excellent theater. Mrs. Kent was our biggest champion, and the first to put us in our place. I am positive that I am still working in the arts today because of the guidance and resilience I gained from a masterful teacher, Joan Kent.”
One of those who chose a different career, Jeff Handmaker (Class of 1988), put it this way. “Coming of age was already full of drama. We just managed to re-direct those energies into something wonderful.”