Paul Vega powers performing arts program

Paul Vega finds joy in teaching his drama students year after year.

Dougherty Valley High School Website

Paul Vega finds joy in teaching his drama students year after year.

The lights dim in the theater, the plush velvet curtains open and the show begins. The silent creator behind each of the beautiful productions here at DVHS, Mr. Paul Vega has been involved in theater arts since he was 11 years old. However, he has played more roles than just the passionate teacher he is today.

Vega began his career after graduating college by working in film, aiding in the operations of many feature films. He went on to work as a lighting designer at local amusement park Great America for almost 13 years. Since coming to Dougherty, he has directed every show since the opening of the school in 2007.

His favorite show to direct was “In the Heights,” which carried a bitter-sweet connection to his own life.

“One of the reasons it really related to me is that there’s a character in the play called Graffiti Pete that is misunderstood, and everybody thinks he’s a thug and a troublemaker, but he really brings out the best in people,” Vega said. “The character reminded me of my nephew who was unfortunately murdered the year before, so when I thought of [a show] to do, the show just kept coming to me and it was more a tribute to my nephew.”  

Drama allows Mr. Vega to channel his raw emotions into a work of art. Teaching his students is just one way he does this.

He loves teaching drama to high school students because it gives him the opportunity to build strong relationships with them, along with seeing his students immerse themselves in their work. However, the one thing that frustrates him about teaching is realizing how thin students are spread trying to juggle rehearsals and their day-to-day lives.

Lauren Ottley, a junior that has worked with Vega for many years, stated, “This is my third year on song team, my third year in leadership, my third year in theater and this year I’m drama club president. This, plus school and the SAT, is so much, but when I’m in the drama room, I’m present and there to work, I don’t have as much time as I’d like to be there, so when I am, I make the most out of it. I also think that the casts have become such a supportive environment that that’s who I go to.”

Although drama can be difficult to keep up with, Vega strives to push his students to become their best selves. For example, prior to working with Vega, one student had become accustomed to receiving leading roles. However, after working with Vega, Vega said “she learned that she needs to adapt to different shows and how she goes about things.”

“Now that she’s out of college, and pursuing this as a profession, she contacts me frequently telling me how things are going and to tell me how happy she is to have the ability to work with me because it prepared her a lot for college and professional work,” Vega said.  

Ottley even claims that Vega “is like my second father. He’s my support on campus through anything and everything.”  

Vega ensures that he creates a friendly setting that allows people to help one another by creating the necessary guide in the classroom.

However, his own experience in drama was not always as encouraging.

In high school, “there were some people who bullied me, who would make fun of me, especially since when I was going into high school, I played football and baseball and I left those to do drama. People would pick on me, but I had such a supportive group around me in drama, and while there was a little pressure, there’s far more support in the program to help you get through that. [I realized that] anybody making fun of me wasn’t really worth my time,” he said.

Emulating his high school drama experience, Vega aims to create a comfortable environment for his students.

Ottley explains, “He seems like this angry, scary, director, but in reality he’s just a big teddy bear.”