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The Man Behind the Shakespeare Productions

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[dropcap]F[/dropcap]riends, family, students, and alumni all gathered together on the final performance of the TA Players’ production of The Tempest this past fall in celebration of Christopher Queally. The former teacher and director has influenced the lives of many faculty and students over the multiple decades that he has been a part of the Thornton community.

The Tempest, performed in early November was a show that he will remember for a long time.

“[The cast] developed in ways that were unique to them,” said Queally. The majority of the principal cast were experienced actors that have studied their fair share of Shakespeare.

A study done at Liverpool University in 2013 found that people who read works by William Shakespeare and other classic writers show more self-reflection and the works can also benefit the brain. The academics argued that brain scans suggested that these classic works of literature could be more helpful than self-help books.

This increased reflection is seen in cast members that delved deeply into Queally’s final show. Aja Sobus, senior, has also worked with Queally in multiple productions and has been able to really connect with him in that time. Sobus most recently played the role of Ariel in the production of The Tempest.

“I have learned the beauty, and power of Shakespeare. I have learned to always treasure every word, every pause, and every stage direction. I have also learned the value of asking questions and how important it is to ask someone for help when you need it, and most importantly from Mr. Queally I have learned to love every stage I step on,” said Sobus.

Queally was born and raised in Yonkers, New York. After the Vietnam War, he officially started his teaching career in New York. Queally’s wife at the time had family in Old Orchard Beach and by 1973 their young family had a house in Maine and Queally was looking for work in the area. In 1975, he got a job at Thornton Academy. He has been an English teacher, a head of the English department, and a theatre director in the years since then.

He’s always there for you in a way that lets you know he’s really there. You don’t feel as if he’s being fake with you because he isn’t fake,” said Alivia Sobey, his granddaughter who is currently a sophomore and helped backstage during his final play.

Photo by David Hanright
Queally and his granddaughter in England. Photo by David Hanright

Queally has a special connection to literature. In the many English courses that he has taught at TA, Queally has examined many authors’ stories but the works of William Shakespeare stood out to him the most.

“He was above anything else I was teaching…all the hoopla was true,” said Queally.

Queally has done 19 Shakespeare shows at TA with students, but 50 plays all together. In 1992, he received a Master of Arts in Shakespeare Studies at The Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. Seeing the students put on a production was one of the biggest rewards for him.

“I don’t expect anyone to love it like I do,” said Queally, but the appreciation and understanding of Shakespeare’s works that is in so many of his students show just how much he was able to share that passion for Shakespeare’s works.

Photo by David Hanright
Photo by David Hanright

In The Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare wrote,

I would there were no age between sixteen and

three-and-twenty, or that youth would sleep out the

rest; for there is nothing in the between but

getting wenches with child, wronging the ancientry,

stealing, fighting–”

Teacher Christopher Queally has dedicated the last number of years since his hire as English teacher in 1975 proving that teens are capable of so much more than his favorite writer suggested and this ironically included a focus on making teens proficient in the bard’s work.

Haleigh McKechnie, graduate of the class of 2015, worked with Queally in four productions and also accompanied him on a trip to England with fellow students in the spring of 2015.

“[Queally] taught me that there are so many ways to look at the world starting with analyzing Shakespeare and finding the hidden meanings, then it started to morph into me being able to look at characters as having back stories that we don’t know. It’s amazing to now look at the world and think about how every person has a complex never ending story that could explain every mistake or accomplishment made. [Queally] just has so much sympathy and understanding in everything he does that it helped me look behind the curtain and try to find the true story in characters and real life,” said McKechnie. She now attends Columbia College Chicago where she is majoring in acting.

As knowledge to pass on to future thespians who study Shakespeare Queally said, “Pay attention… When people really focus and pay attention, they can do anything.”

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