AHS speech and drama students fine-tune their performances in monthly master classes, thanks to a Westheimer Foundation grant.
Demond Wilson, a former high school drama teacher, works with students one-on-one or in small groups. His company, The Perfect Performance, specializes in workshops and camps for drama and speech students that travel nationwide.
“My students call me the Mary Poppins of forensics,” Wilson said. “They say ‘You drop in, and just as we’re all like ‘yay!’ you open your umbrella and you’re off to someplace else.’”
Alexia Girard and Jessica Cajina, who’ve been preparing for an upcoming competition in Denver, said Wilson’s classes are challenging because they’re so thorough.
“We give him a foundation of a house, and he puts the curtains, the rug, the drapes and every little itsy-bitsy thing,” Girard said. “His workshops are so intense because if you take one tiny wrong step he’ll say ‘nope, do it again.’And he makes a week’s work like a year’s.”
 They said at this level  every movement, line, breath and blink needs to be fully considered and motivated.
“He really opens our eyes to what the meaning of the play is, what the meaning of our steps are, our blocking, what we’re doing and who we are” Cajina said. “It’s worth it, because without Mr. Gunter and Demond, we’d be mediocre. They take us to the next level.”
After his first year as AHS’ drama coach, Brian Gunter applied for a grant to take students to a drama camp held by Demond Wilson, a longtime peer of his.
“That was wonderful, we came back, and throughout that next year I brought him,” Gunter said.
Gunter wrote another grant to the Westheimer Foundation the next year for continuing education for theater students, which let him bring in Wilson for master classes.
“That propelled us to our second state championship and national recognition,” Gunter said.
Last year, Gunter wrote another grant for funds for a summer camp at Ardmore High School with Wilson and other coaches, as well as nine monthly master classes during the school year.
“His credentials are so significant, and [the students] revere him so much that they just trust him implicitly,” Gunter said. “We work very hard to get them to a point where it will be beneficial for them to work with him, because not every kid gets to. He’s there to hone in on things.”
Alongside the monthly workshops, Wilson holds a drama camp during the summer. He said he begins teaching students his methods during the camp, which means they can hit the ground running once the school year begins.
“We work on everything from curriculum development to individual student work to teaching teachers how to build and maintain great programs,” Wilson said. ‘In my classroom, I figured out what went well and took the best of what we were doing, and teachers started recognizing that.”