by HOLLY SCHOENSTEIN | REPORTER
Tallmadge — Three years ago, a group of Tallmadge High School alumni, students, high school staff members and residents petitioned the Board of Education to have the stage in the auditorium dedicated to Frank Chaff IV, a teacher, director of the Drama Club’s productions and adviser of the Student Senate.
After the Board of Education approved the group’s request in the spring, an official dedication ceremony was planned to coincide with the production of “Death of a Salesman” on Nov. 10.
During the dedication, a 10-minute video with photos and film footage from Chaff’s productions over the years was shown. Chaff, now retired after teaching at the high school for 43 years, was presented with a plaque bearing his name, and a replica will be mounted near the stage.
“It feels great to be recognized for being part of this drama program that went on for the last 40-some years,” said Chaff, who directed about 80 different shows and plays and more than 100 productions. “What I think of when I see the stage is the thousands of young people that have gone through our drama program and have been in shows.”
He estimated more than 2,000 students were involved with the drama program during his 35 or so years directing productions.
He also taught classes in drama, psychology, history and government to students in ninth through 12th grades. He retired in 2009.
Cherie Wade was a student of Chaff’s and was active in drama club. She graduated in 1973 and later became a colleague of Chaff’s. Then he became her sons’ teacher and drama director.
Wade was among the small group of alumni who organized the effort to have the stage named after Chaff. About 250 people signed petitions and some wrote letters as part of the nomination process.
“Having the privilege to work with Frank on many productions, I have been able to watch him at his very best. He is an amazing director,” Wade said during the dedication. “His vision for planning a show is astounding, from choosing the right show to making the right casting choices, planning the stage set and blocking the actors on stage. However, the greatest gift he so humbly holds is the ability to pull the best performance out of a person that they can possibly give. It is a process. I have watched him do it and it truly is a gift. It is fascinating to watch a Frank Chaff play or musical unfold.”
Stephen Roth, a 2009 THS graduate and Ohio State University student, was in 11 of Chaff’s productions. He also was involved with Student Senate and took a few of Chaff’s classes. Roth said he considers Chaff a mentor and a close friend.
“I'm grateful that the stage at the high school will forever serve as a reminder that you should always strive to be your best, do great things and enjoy life, all of which were lessons I learned from Mr. Chaff,” Roth said.
Superintendent Jeff Ferguson called Chaff “instrumental in keeping the drama alive in the schools” throughout the decades when, at time, budgets and art programs were being cut.
He also said Chaff was known for his large casts.
“He would go throughout the halls and recruit kids from all walks of life and make big casts so that it was a school feeling when you go see the productions. You had these kids who were taking risks and doing things they never thought they could do — small parts, big parts, set design, learning skills, teamwork,” Ferguson said.
He recalled this was one of the reasons the group recommended the stage be named in his honor.
“I want to thank everyone who wrote letters and had a part in making this a reality. It’s an extraordinary honor for me. It’s something that I hope down in the future my grandchildren or great-grandchildren will be able to see something that I did,” Chaff said.
Over the 15 to 20 years Chaff was involved with Student Senate, he said it raised $50,000 for various community groups, including Haven of Rest. He said the group was involved with blood drives, and one year, it bought in-need students suits and dresses for prom.
Although he no longer works with students at THS, he still lives in Tallmadge and is involved in theater. For the past two years, he’s been directing plays at Marlington High School in Stark County.
A play he wrote is scheduled to be performed in March at the Hower House in Akron. The name of the play has yet to be finalized.
This summer Chaff also expects to officially announce a singing and acting group he’s forming.
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