Response to: SBHS Theatre: A Life-Changing Experience?

We so enjoyed reading the excel-lent article written by young Tyler Greenwald on the Santa Barbara High School theater program and its masterful director Otto Layman (On Theatre, "SBHS Theatre: A Life-Changing Experience?," MJ # 19/50). As a teacher and mentor, Mr. Layman deserves enormous praise and appreciation from this community and the young people he has inspired and guided over the years not just for the wonderful plays and musicals he produces with them, but for a much greater gift that he gives. Tyler asked if the Santa Barbara High School theater program is life changing. "Does it deliver more than just applause?" he asks. The answer to that question is a resounding "Yes!" Three of our four sons attended Santa Barbara High School. Our son Wyatt, who is developmentally disabled as a result of an illness as a baby, was placed in special classes as well as mainstream classes. For much of high school, he was lonely, isolated, and terribly hurt when he was the subject of taunts from some of his classmates. We tried hard to find activities he could be a part of if not a central team-mate or participant. When Wyatt was a senior, Otto Layman was open to having him in his theater class and vowed to find a role for him in the stage crew or other part of the production they were doing that year. Through Otto's efforts, Wyatt became a real part of the group. He ended up with a small speaking part and attended all rehearsals and performances. He was voted "most improved" and received a wonderful 
cement gargoyle as a trophy from the group. It sits today in a place of honor in his apartment. It was the happiest we ever saw our child during all his years of school and all the hardships he endured to overcome his disabilities and become independent. The other members of the class gained as much as Wyatt did by learning that despite his disabilities he was a smart, funny, pretty cool guy after all. Today Wyatt is 34, lives in the Bay Area in an apartment with a room-mate, and has a job and a girlfriend. A big part of his journey and heroic efforts to accomplish independence was the confidence Otto Layman instilled in him by including Wyatt in his class and nurturing both him and his classmates to have it be a positive life experience for all of them. We can never thank Otto Layman enough. He deserves every good review he gets as a director, as a teacher, and as a man. Kip, Kim, Christian, Km, Wyatt, and Alex Seefeld Montecito