LEXINGTON, Ky. — Over the past 12 months, the theater industry has endured closed doors, empty seats and virtual shows. The profound impact of the pandemic has been felt by many, including performers and teachers like Austin Vahle who teaches at Brenda Cowan Elementary (BCE) School.

What You Need To Know

  • Brenda Cowan Elementary teaches core curriculum with fine arts emphasize 

  • The elementary school postponed theater productions for COVID-19 concerns

  • Austin Vahle graduated from WKU with Bachelor’s, Master’s degree

  • Vahle has been teaching fine arts for three years 

It's only ever been lights, camera, action for Austin Vahle. He grew up knowing how important fine arts were to him. Taking his love for theater, and combining it with the love for being an inspiration to the youth, has lead him to where he is now.

“We develop ideas, we develop ideas, cooperatively, cooperatively,” Vahle said.

Vahle is currently in his third year of teaching drama classes, as he stepped off of the stage and into the classroom to teach and mentor future generations. It's something he realized he wanted to do while mentoring a friend in college.

“The talk in the classroom is they know immediately this is my goal,” Vahle said.

That goal is returning to normalcy and bringing back theater for students at BCE and performers around the world.

“These scenic models allow the students to see where it starts and where you take it, how it gets built," he said.

Down the hall and behind the BCE gymnasium curtains is a set that has been tirelessly built by BCE parents, staff and students.

“This set is a little special because not only have we had to postpone Wiley, many of these set pieces that are starting to become the world of swamp are the same for The Lion King Junior,” Vahle said.

Vahle is a two time Western Kentucky University alum who, after he applied for one job teaching theater at BCE, began making a realization that would change his life.

“I do not want to be in the spotlight, that is not where I am best at. My goal in life is to provide those experiences,” Vahle remarked.

All it took was one phone call for Vahle to pack his stuff in Bowling Green and make the move to Lexington. "I have always had that love and passion for drama," he said.

BCE canceled last spring’s shows and postponed this fall’s, but Vahle and his students are still hopeful for the return of theater. The staff know children at the elementary school are in the best hands.

“In my opinion we have the best creative arts teachers in the world. They go above and beyond to make the arts fun and engaging, they are definitely an inspiration for our kids and help change the trajectory of the lives of our students,” said Principal Josh Williams.

The staff know in times of uncertainty, it's more than creating a Broadway star.

“I do not want to create the next Broadway star, that is not what I am here to do. Instead I am here to provide an experience that exposes students, allows them to gain appreciation from the arts, all the great things that come from the arts,” said Vahle.

For now it's lights out and no audiences, but Vahle knows theater plays a big part in children’s lives.

“It takes a village to produce a show, takes a village to promote the arts,” said Vahle.

Brenda Cowan Elementary School is hopeful they can perform their scheduled dramas safely in the near future. Vahle’s directing skills will be in action at the Woodford Theatre during their premiere of ‘White Christmas’ this winter.