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Former student shares story, advice to others

Robbie Hill, ’14, an FCS lifer is soon going to be performing in Fresno Pacific University’s rendition of Guys and Dolls. Hill’s passion for theatre started when he was young and he developed his skills throughout high school and into college. He currently majors in English at FPU and graduates in 2019.

Susan Ainley, an FCS teacher for the past 18 years has known Hill since kindergarten. She worked with him in the drama and in the music department, observing his talents while he was a student on campus.

Courtesy of Hill family

Robbie’s first lead role was during his senior year in Bye Bye Birdie as Albert.

“He has so many strengths,” Ainley said. “He is a very fine singer and while he was at Fresno Christian, he sang in the men’s ensemble. He is also a very strong actor. He acted for me starting in the fifth grade and any role I gave him he always did very very well. He has a really larger than life personality so when he is on stage people believe him when he acts. He connects well with the audience and he always puts every bit of effort he has into each role. He is fabulous.”

Ainley also understands the impact of drama on students and the importance of drama in the world.

“People like to laugh and people like to explore their emotions, and theater gives them a way to do that safely,” Ainley said. “Drama in any school is important because it is a creative outlet and many times students who go into to theater or drama are the ones who have a creative spark inside. Often they can’t find ways to express themselves. A lot of shy people join drama and it’s the one place that they can come out of their shyness and be accepted as they are. Even if you’re not going to be an actor for the rest of your life, it’s a great way to express yourself.”

Tamara Hill, Robbie’s mom and an FCS resource teacher for the past 19 years, has seen how drama has helped Robbie and made an impact on his confidence.

“Drama has allowed him to expand his ability to be confident in front of large crowds,” Tamara said. “To become someone else in order to be confident. So he doesn’t have to be Robbie up there he can play a part. This has given him the ability to go outside what he thinks he can do. For instance, when he is dancing that’s not something that comes naturally to him. But he’s doing that regardless and that’s building confidence in stuff he wouldn’t normally do.”

Robbie Hill has acted in numerous performances such as The Twelfth NightTwelve Angry Men and Cheaper By The Dozen. He enjoys the opportunity to delve into the personality of each character he plays.

You get to literally be anyone you want to be,” Hill said. “How cool is that? In my life, I have been the Duke of Illyria, a music agent for a world-famous rock star, a juror on an important murder trial, and many more. Getting to immerse myself into these characters is such an invigorating process that I will never get tired of. I personally get to bring whatever I want to these famous characters, and my depiction of them is different from any other actor who has portrayed the role. Seeing my portrayal enter the discourse of these plays is extremely rewarding.”

Courtesy of Hill family

Robbie’s first performance was in Mrs. Frasier’s Wizard of Oz.

On the other hand, Hill also considers the struggles of being fully committed to a program and how he balances his responsibilities.

“My least favorite thing about drama has to be the rigorous rehearsal schedule,” Hill said. “Once I started acting in college, I quickly realized that acting was a bigger commitment than I had previously thought. Our rehearsal schedule for Guys and Dolls is crazy. We usually rehearse five out of seven days a week from 6:00 p.m to 11:00 p.m. Because of this, it is very hard to manage my time wisely while juggling work and school, but I am keeping it together so far.”

Kyle Hudecek, ’14, another FCS student and Hill’s classmate also was involved in drama and attended FCS from 2010 to 2014.

“Robbie Hill has been involved in theatrical productions for many years,” Hudecek said. “I first met Robbie in 2010 in the production of 12 Angry Men. The seniors at the time took a liking to him and nicknamed him “baby Robbie”. From that point on he continued to grow and learn. In 2014, he starred as Albert in Bye Bye Birdie (on campus). This was the culmination of all his dramatical experience. The play was highly successful and a crowning achievement to his senior year. Robbie has continued his dramatical career at Fresno Pacific University. Last year was his first year in the FPU theatrical program. He described to me some of the new challenges stemming from the collegiate level drama; however, he was able to overcome them all.”

During high school, Hill was also a guest writer for The Feather although he was never actually part of the staff.

“I technically was never on The Feather,” Hill said. “Stobbe harassed me until I told him I would write a guest article for him. I finished that first article, and he never let me go from there. So I wrote for The Feather my entire senior year, but I was never an official staff member, nor did I ever sign up for the journalism class. But The Feather is, in my opinion, the most successful program at Fresno Christian. Things like athletics and the music department have their ups and downs, but in my observations, The Feather has been consistent in creating good content for as many years as I can remember. This gets overlooked at times since it is not as exciting as sports and things of that nature, but it is important to never ignore the hard work that writers for The Feather put in to make the paper great.”

Vijay Stephen | The Feather Online

Robbie is also performing in Guys And Dolls, April 12-15

Feather advisor and former English teacher Greg Stobbe also had an impact on Robbie’s life. Robbie’s mother Tamara has noticed this and feels that Stobbe’s connection with his students are important.

“Robbie credits Stobbe to his ability to write,” Tamara said. “Robbie works at Clovis Community college and tutors in the area of writing and he also desires to get a masters degree and become a professor at a college level. And he points back to Stobbe and the fact that Stobbe gave him the tools he needed to become a writer. He is absolutely amazing. I have read some of his writing, and certainly Fresno Christian’s program here has influenced that. Just the personal input that Stobbe has into each of his students. He cares about who you are as a person, not just as a journalist. He cares about you and your family.”

Recently FPU considered closing their drama department because the director of the department, Julia Reimer decided to step down. However, they have since retracted their statement and the program will be “reimagined.”

“Sometimes I think its a financial decision,” Tamara said. “Julia Reimer who has run that program for a long, long time was planning to step down. She had a lot of responsibility that I think she felt like she was going to hand it off, and that was the plan. They were going to bring somebody else in and then they looked at that and said maybe we are not going to do that. And so I think that they are still reimagining that, I am hoping that they will have a full-time professor come in and do what she did.”

Hill hopes FPU decides to keep the program, as many have invested time and effort into the drama department.

“If the drama department does close, this will affect me and many other students deeply,” Robbie said. “I am on a theater scholarship currently, and if the department closes, that is a big chunk of money. I will struggle to make up in other ways. I will also have a hard time finding a place to continue acting. Being involved in FPU productions is convenient for me since I attend the school, so it would be hard for me to find another place to join that will fit with my schedule.”

This article is a prelude to an upcoming review of  Hill’s performance in Guys and Dolls. His performance can be seen on April 12-14 starting at 7:30 pm, and on April 14 and 15 at 2 p.m. You can buy tickets here.

For more articles read, Third Quarter: How Students Feel They Performed and The Quest For The Perfect Street Taco.

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