Dear Castilleja Board of Trustees,
This is literally the 5th time I have begun this letter to you. Every time I sit down to write to you about Bear Capron, his effect on me and the Castilleja community, and his tragic disappearance I freeze up and am unable to continue. This time I will finish this letter because I owe it to my teacher, my mentor, and my friend, Bear Capron.
Castilleja has been the love of my life. It has nurtured me, supported me, taught me, and loved me. It taught me not only about history and chemistry, but also about friendship and love. It taught me to be honest, determined, courageous, and strong in the face of danger. As a freshman in college I have littered my dorm room with Castilleja memories and paraphernalia. The infinite support I received and continue to receive from the Castilleja community has made the "college transition" less painful. I talk about my school with pride and longing to whomever will listen.
This suddenly stopped when I found out about Mr. Capron's disappearance. Nothing, and I mean nothing, has shocked me so much as hearing that my beloved director, adviser, mentor, teacher, friend, and "uncle" had disappeared and had been allegedly fired. A fellow classmate called me five times in three hours, trying desperately to get a hold of me. When she finally did she was crying. In the last three weeks I have spoken to dozens of alums, current students, and faculty who are all terrified by what has happened. Current students, especially, have been absolutely devastated by Mr. Capron's absence. It has affected their personal and academic lives in a profound way. From talking to them, it seems as if Castilleja has become a war zone instead of a place of learning. Instead of talking about Plato and the Holy Roman Empire as my friends and I used to do during lunch, they talk about the horror and hypocrisy that surrounds Mr. Capron's disappearance. Their lives have been violently disrupted.
It is not an exaggeration to say that this incident has flipped my world upside down. It has made me question everything I was taught at Castilleja. It has made me doubt myself. It is deeply disturbing that the place I respect and love most in the world is capable of such deceit. I have become afraid. I perceive Mr. Capron's disappearance as a threat to my way of being. It stands in direct opposition to the ideals that were instilled in me at Castilleja. As a Castilleja girl who finds it to be her duty to honor her school by implementing the values she learned there into her daily life, I cannot bear to stand back and watch as the Castilleja community is robbed of one of its most beloved supporters and teachers. That would be irresponsible of me. I would not be living up to the expectations placed on me by my Castilleja teachers and peers if I did not do everything in my power to reverse this situation.
Mr. Capron has played a huge role in my growth. For one, he made me love the theater. He introduced me to a world of magic, which has marked me and defined me. I now intend on minoring in Theater. He is a passionate and talented teacher. Castilleja, however, is not lacking in fabulous teachers. Mr. Capron is more than that. He did more than just teach about acting and film. He transformed us. He, more than anyone at Castilleja, understands the difficulties inherent in being a Castilleja student. And he was able to know you, just by looking at you, because he is observant, intuitive, and loving. He has inspired all those he has come into contact with to be more thoughtful and creative people. Bear Capron is my hero. He was there for me when no one else was and I will forever be indebted to him. What is most amazing, however, is that he was able to be that "hero" and mentor to everyone who wanted his advice. Mr. Capron has so much still to give to this community, that it is shameful that we are depriving ourselves of his gift.
Besides asking for a reversal of this decision, I would also ask that the process in which this was done be investigated and seriously questioned. The secrecy in which this was done only intensified the panic and pain that has followed. I would like to continue to support Castilleja in every way I can, but if the school allows a figure like Bear Capron to just disappear I cannot support Castilleja with a clear conscience. It would be going against everything I have learned. Castilleja will no longer be my Castilleja, the Castilleja I know and love, if this situation is ignored. The basic integrity of Castilleja is in question. I beg you to protect her.
Thank you for all of your hard work.
I greatly appreciate all you have done for me and for our community.
I ask you to stay strong and face this challenge courageously and nobly.
Attached is the Founder's Day Speech I gave last May. It deals with how theater and by extension Mr. Capron have shaped my Castilleja experience and community.
Thank you so much.
Sincerely and Respectfully,
Class of '09
We measure all things by how much they have changed. Growth versus destruction, addition versus subtraction. What Castilleja has taught me, however, is that growth isn't really about growing vertically and that becoming who you are means first realizing who you are not. I've learned a lot of things in the classrooms here, but this is not one of those answers that can be found in Brinkley's United States History book or one of those problems that can be solved by a complicated chemistry equation.
If you look to my right you will see the place where I changed. But like most change, it is immeasurable. This building, the chapel-theater gives students a voice. Whether you're up there making an announcement at meeting, dancing your heart out at "Arts with a Heart", or acting in a play, the chapel-theater is always a place for expression. And for me, it's this magic place that has allowed me to come into my own.
I came to Castilleja my freshman year, thinking that I had already become the person I was going to be for the rest of my life. Having gone to a German School since I was three years old, I considered myself German. Having done ballet all my life I considered myself a ballerina. And I thought I was happy in these boxes I had chosen. But after a year of exploring Castilleja, I realized I wanted more than what I had laid out for myself. I wanted to try it all, to explore my new world - this circle. So after my freshman year, I did something scary and exciting. I stepped out of my comfort zone: I quit ballet and tried out for the fall play. Which happened to be, A Midsummer Night's Dream. Much to my surprise, I was cast as the arrogant and imaginative actor, Bottom. I was ecstatic. This character had everything I wanted: spirit, ambition, energy, and a loving heart. I dove into Bottom and found myself entranced by the power I had over this character. The way I inflected even one syllable turned Shakespeare's creation into my own. When opening night rolled around, all the work I had put into Bottom paid off. I had never acted before, but ever since that first opening night, I have been spellbound.
It is hard for me to imagine life without theater. I have fallen in love with this world that values creativity, encourages exploration and introspection, and demands understanding. When I agreed to act as Bottom, I agreed to go on a journey with him - to explore his past and my past, his dreams and my dreams. And by the end of that journey, I had managed to create a character that was neither Bottom as I had originally seen him nor me as I had originally seen myself, but instead a molding of the two. This character was entirely new yet completely my own.
Acting has helped me create intense and loving friendships, it has provided me with the most generous uncle and mentor, and it has given me the opportunity to find my voice. Acting and it's emphasis on connection and expression have brought a brilliant focus to my life and have begun to create the person I strive to be.
Anyone who has ever acted will tell you that the fastest way to forge a friendship is to be in a show with them. In the fall of my senior year I had the unbelievable privilege to work with a talented cast and the brilliant Mr. Capron in "The House of Bernard Alba". I had worked with most of the cast before and so I knew the experience was going to be wonderful, but I had no idea that it was going to be life changing. The play is a devastating tragedy. I played the crazy grandmother of eight oppressed women, one of whom kills herself. Just remembering how Maria Josefa, I, had to cry on stage while my daughters, my friends, dragged me off, still burns a whole in the pit of my stomach. Because to a certain extent, everything my characters have gone through, I have gone through too. An unbreakable trust is developed, when you allow yourself to be this vulnerable in front of your fellow actors. Acting is like being born and growing up all over again. When you're first developing your characters, that's exactly what you're doing. You're developing, you're growing, you're changing. You see the world in an entirely new light. You don't know where you're going or who your character is going to turn out to be. You just have to trust your actors, your teachers, and most importantly yourself. You have to trust that somewhere inside of you, there is a crazy old grandma just waiting to come out.
Some people see acting as reaching out to embody a fictitious character. I see it as reaching inside yourself to embody a version of yourself. Teachers have to believe in the power of nurture, or else they would have given up on us a long time ago. Well, so do I. I believe that every one of us, can learn to empathize. To understand someone is to find yourself in them, and if you love yourself, as you ought to, you must love those you understand.
In learning how to become these characters and adopt their voices, I have been able distill my own. And that is what Castilleja is all about. During my four years here I have been handed hundreds of opportunities to use my voice. And as I leave, I finally understand how privileged I am to have been given these opportunities and how important it was that I had the courage to take them. I have never felt so committed to my responsibility to use my voice as I do right now. As I look ahead and think about who it is I want to be, I waver in my confidence. I'm scared that I will not be brave enough or strong enough to take the risks that could bring me the future I desire. But then I look back at the risks I have taken here and I see what wonderful treasures they have brought me. Who knew four years at Castilleja could seem like a Midsummer's Night Dream? Thank you and in the words of our trusted fairy Puck, So good night unto you all. Give me your hands, if we be friends, And Robin shall restore amends.
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