Troy High School’s Imboden selected for Ohio thespian hall of fame


For the Miami Valley Today

TROY — Irene Imboden remembers being an introverted kid wandering the halls of Jackson High School, hoping she could get through the school day without anyone noticing her.

That all changed when she found the world of acting and drama.

“When I was in high school, I was invisible,” said Imboden, who has taught English and been involved in the drama program at Troy High School for the past three decades. “I was so shy and so quiet you would not have even known I was there. But my school did a high school play and a high school musical every year. And so when I was a very timid sophomore, I wandered into the auditions for ‘Guys and Dolls,’ and that was the first show that I did. And theatre became that outlet for me to portray somebody else, to have a chance to explore other characters.”

For the past 29 years, Imboden has tried to take the lessons she learned from being a part of the theatre and impart them into her students. In addition to teaching drama classes, she’s directed or been involved with 82 plays or musicals in Troy. This fall, she’ll direct “Peter/Wendy,” her 83rd production at Troy.

For her dedication to the stage, the Educational Theatre Association, Ohio Chapter, Hall of Fame recently announced it will be inducting Imboden. Each year, the hall of fame honors individuals “who have given outstanding dedication, commitment and service to the Ohio Educational Theatre Association and Ohio Thespians.”

“Oh, I couldn’t believe it,” Imboden said of finding out she was going to be inducted into the hall of fame. “I mean, I have been serving on that board for 19 years, and I’ve been a member, I mean, I was an inducted thespian in my high school back when I was a sophomore. So I’ve been affiliated with the Ohio Thespian Organization for a very long time.”

After graduating from Jackson High School, Imboden earned her bachelor’s degree at Wright State University and her master’s degree from Northwestern University. It was while she was student teaching that an opportunity that would change her, along with the lives of hundreds of Troy students, fell into her lap.

“I ended up in Troy because I did my student teaching at Fairborn High School with Linda Miller,” Imboden said. “And she was acquainted with the woman who was the drama teacher here at the time. Her name was Gaye Frye. Gaye called Linda and said, ‘I’m going to retire. Do you know anybody?’ And Linda said, ‘Yes, I do.’ I applied for this job. It’s the only job I ever applied for, and I have been here for 29 years ever since.”

In that time, Imboden said she has tried to make sure the theatre has impacted her students the same way it did her.

“I don’t expect my students to grow up and be actors or even stage technicians, directors,” she said. “I don’t want that for them, but all of them are going to go on a job interview. All of them are going to go on a first date. And being able to communicate with people, being able to have a little bit of self-confidence, even if you don’t feel self-confidence, you want to appear confident. I think drama classes help students do that.

“The other thing I love about teaching drama here at Troy High School is I get all kinds of students in my classes. I get varsity athletes. I get freshmen who don’t know where they want to fit in at Troy High School yet, and they’re all in one room, 9 through 12. And so that is also a real-world experience. You’re going to be working with all kinds of people. And so I love that the students get that experience.”

Imboden said her love for the students and fellow staff members at Troy High School, as well as the Troy community itself, has made it easy to stay in one place for her entire career, which is unusual in her profession.

“It is extremely unusual, and I know that,” she said. “Working with teachers from all over the state of Ohio, they cannot believe that that is my experience. A woman that’s on the board with me, she’s been in seven different schools in her career, and she’s older than I am. It’s just very unusual.

“But I also tell people that if you came to this building and met the people that I work with, that’s most of their experience. Most of the people that I work with have been in Troy for their whole careers. That’s just something that Troy does, and that’s— I don’t know if you all know how unusual that is. It just isn’t done in other school districts. It just isn’t. And that’s got to mean something. It has to.”

After nearly three decades at Troy, Imboden knows she’s closer to the end of her career than she is to the beginning. She’s in the midst of her 83rd production at Troy, and in that time has never repeated a play or musical. Before she retires, however, she would like to do one repeat before the stage lights go down for the final time.

“You’ll know that it’s time for me to go because I’m going to do ‘Godspell’ again,” she said. “That’s going to be my swan song. I’m going to do that show one more time because I love it. I did it when I was in high school. So it’s very impactful for me, and that kind of brings it full circle. Don’t you think that would?”

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