The weather has finally shifted and fall is in the air! This month I decided to interview a member of the Camp KC staff, Paul Donovan. Paul has been writing theatre reviews for over 15 years. In addition to being a fan of the theatre, Donovan is a math teacher, volunteers with incarcerated people in Kansas, and is co-authoring a book! I am always in awe at the level of talent that we have on staff. Paul definitely fits into that category!
I understand that you have been writing theater reviews for Camp for about 15 years. How did you get started?
I started writing reviews back in the mid-’90s while I was a student at Kansas State. Liberty Press was looking for someone to write reviews of theater in our area. My friend delivered the paper around Manhattan, and he told them I might be good at it. I decided to give it a shot.
When I moved to Kansas City, Liberty Press wasn’t distributed much there. But another LGBT paper, the Midwest Times, noticed my writings and took me on. Then John Long noticed me, and when the Midwest Times stopped publishing, I started writing for Camp.
What do you enjoy most about the theater?
I enjoy the intimacy and the knowledge that this is going on live right in front of me. I’m a movie addict, as well, but theater brings a sense of immediacy and style that you don’t get from cinema.
And you’re a math teacher! I will confess that I went to ratemyteachers.com, and you have very high ratings. Why did you become a teacher?
I didn’t know I was still on ratemyteachers.com!
I became a teacher by accident. I was working for a nonprofit, the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ). My job was to go to metro high schools and help them start gay-straight alliances, as well as work with other social justice areas.
Then the grant I was hired under expired, and NCCJ couldn’t afford to keep me. I needed a new job. Then I heard that the Kansas City, Kansas, schools were looking for people who had degrees but who weren’t teachers. I talked to them, since my degree is in physics. I was hired and went to school on nights and summers to get my teaching certification.
I only had to stay four years, but I am on my third school in 14 years.
Other than funding, what do you find the biggest challenge in teaching?
I’ve always taught in or near the urban core, so many students have life circumstances that are challenging, which affects how they are able to function in school. It’s hard work being able to reach them and help them deal with life and school at the same time.
And you recently started teaching math to incarcerated people in Kansas. How did you become involved?
I also adjunct at various colleges around town, in the evenings. I was teaching a class at Donnelly College. They have an outreach program with Lansing State Prison, where they help inmates get their associate’s degrees. They needed a math teacher, and they asked me.
I suffer from sleep paralysis with hallucinations. Sleep paralysis is when you wake up, but your body is still asleep so you can’t move. Some people then have nightmares in that state, and since you are (mostly) awake, the nightmares become “real.” I’m one of those people, so I have memories of my room being invaded by monsters and demons. I don’t remember them as dreams, I remember them as actual events, even though I know they are not.
My friend and co-teacher Chris Rau is an artist. I mentioned my sleep paralysis to him once, and we decided to team up. I wrote down my sleep-paralysis nightmares, and Chris drew illustrations based on those nightmares. We worked off and on since spring 2017. And now, I Had A Nightmare is finished
Who is the target audience for the book?
This book is aimed at two groups: first, people that have the same condition as me. I want them to be able to read the stories and know that they aren’t the only ones that have these horrific experiences.
The book is also aimed at people who are curious about this condition – it will give them a way to vicariously experience this in a creepy, but safe, way.
Do you intend to self-publish or attempt to find a publisher?
Right now, we are self-publishing. We launched a Kickstarter, which raised twice as much as what we were aiming for. The book will be published in October. If a publisher happens to hear about us, great, but we’re doing this basically for the fun of it, not to get rich.
(NOTE: The Kickstarter ended Sept. 23. People can look at the Kickstarter URL for more information (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/chrisrauart/i-had-a-nightmare?ref=creator_nav), but they will have to contact me directly at [email protected] if they want to buy a copy.)
What do you like to do when you’re not busy teaching math or writing theater reviews?
I watch tons and tons of movies. I’ve seen around 130 movies so far in 2018. I like every genre except romance. And romantic comedy.
While not as often, I also play video games. I have a PlayStation 4 and an Xbox One, and I use them both.
And now for a fun one. Which theater production could you see over and over again and not be bored?
This might be a conventional and cliché choice, but it would definitely be Les Miserables. I first saw it in high school when our French class took a field trip to see it. I was utterly transfixed by it and have seen it several times since.