An Inspiration: The Story of Katie Brobst

By Emily Beatty

Bright blue paint and fluorescent lights make up the director’s office. The walls are decorated with sticky notes of adoration and posters and photographs of her previous shows. The amount of creativity that fills the small space spills through the open doorway and into the only wing of the school where everyone is accepted as they are; where unrelenting music echos and bounces off cinderblock, passion and performance filling the souls of all who wander here.

 

At nearly any point of the day, you are almost guaranteed to find students hiding away in  the auditorium to do homework, study, or relax in one of the comfortable green chairs. Every morning, about a dozen students gather around one of the long banquet-style tables, using their time before first period not to sleep in, but to socialize with friends, catch up on homework, and play a round or two of Fortnite.

Around midday, students sneak in through side doors in order to eat their lunch while listening to the selective Chamber Singers choir or advanced jazz band. During studies, students can be found rehearsing or preparing for a test either on-stage or tucked away in one of the practice rooms.

 

The performing arts wing has become a safe space for many, and a second home for even more. Though students stress about school or problems at home, many find serenity and comfort the wing of the school that is always willing to welcome anyone with open arms, and many call this place home because of one person: Ms. Katie Brobst.

 

Ms. Brobst is unlike any other teacher at Canton High School. For the past two years, she has worked tirelessly to help reform the performing arts department within the school as well as the after-school Drama Club. Since her arrival, the club has now won 3 METG awards, and has produced two sold-out musicals, as well as two very successful plays and multiple other performances. She has also helped the performing arts department by adding and teaching multiple new classes, including a rigorous “Just Dance” and an additional “Acting II” for the talented performers within the school.

 

Before she was an award-winning teacher and director, Ms. Brobst grew up in Allentown, Pennsylvania, a small suburb about an hour or so from Philadelphia. One of three children, she grew up with a “normal childhood.” She’s very involved with her family: “I’m the middle child, I have an older sister who's five years older than me and a brother who's two years younger than me… I'm really close with my siblings and still close to my parents even though they're crazy.”

 

A major sports kid, she played everything: softball, volleyball, field hockey, basketball, and cheerleading. The only one that stuck though, was the last. “Cheerleading was fun because I like to dance,” said Brobst. She described how it was more of a hobby than a team, and how they weren’t very big on “tumbling or competing.”

 

Before she entered high school, Brobst caught the acting bug: “I was very lucky in my hometown where we had a really good community theater called the Civic Theater. They did A Christmas Carol every year and it had like, a hundred kids in it.” After watching her childhood friend Hannah do it all through elementary school, Katie thought she would give it a try. “And I remember sitting on the bus with her one day just talking about it and I was like, I can do this, this sounds easy enough and doable,” she remembered.

 

Ms. Brobst began drifting from the sports she had always known, and found herself spending more and more time practicing and preparing for shows at her local community theater. “That's when I got to escape all the crap of middle school.” Brobst spoke of the reassurance and positivity that the theater brought to her: “that was my safe haven and they were like my family. They were my weird friends that I needed when I, you know, didn't know what was going on with me in middle school. So that was like my, you know, safe place.”

 

With high school right around the corner, Katie knew she needed to make a decision. Though she loved sports, on stage was somewhere she knew she needed to be. By the end of freshman year, Ms. Brobst was an active member of the dance team and the choir at her school. She was also still working on the shows at the community theater. She performed in shows such as Little Shop of Horrors, The Crucible, and Jekyll and Hyde. By her junior year she was fully immersed in the theater world, and she realized that this was something she wanted to do for the rest of her life: “I knew that I wanted to do this for my life because it was the only thing that made me happy. And I’m passionate about it. I didn't want to like, you know, work in an office where I didn't care about what I was doing.” Her goal was to help people, to help them find passion and joy in what made her happy in life.

Flash forward past a degree in Musical Theater from American University and an adventurous job as a singer on a cruise ship, Katie Brobst had to decide what to do with her life. She had met her husband Milan while working on the ocean, and decided that she “didn't need to be living out a suitcase anymore.” She realized she could settle down in one spot and still do what she was passionate about all the time. Though it was a struggle, Ms. Brobst decided to give up acting and performing full-time in order have a life that was a little less all over the place. She received her degree in Theater and Education from Emerson College, and found herself following the family tradition of becoming a teacher, even if it was the last thing she expected to do: “I liked teaching. I always sort of did it on the side. I really like kids of all ages. So I was like, let me look into it. But I did not want to be public school teacher at all.”

 

Her original plan was to become a director similar to the one at her hometown community theater, she wanted to be able to teach classes, put on shows and help others to see the light she did while on stage. She didn’t want to return to the drama of high school, but the job in the education department of a small and local theater was an unrealistic dream: there were too few theaters and even less jobs available, so teaching it was, and she couldn't be more thankful.

 

Starting out with a fantastic student-teaching program at Framingham High School, Katie Brobst began to do what her students say she does best: inspire others. Eventually she took a risk on a job and ended up at the small, suburban Canton High School as a teacher and (very much needed) drama club director. Ms. Brobst teaches a handful of fun and exciting classes, all directed at helping to expand and cultivate the performing arts department.

 

When talking about her Acting II class, which is a semester-long course focused on improving the acting skills of the advanced performers of the school, Ms. Brobst couldn’t help but gush of her students. “Thank God I have my Acting II class right now. They are all the best kids, all my babies and they all want to be there… there's some great actors in that class and a it's, it's so, so satisfying to see the light bulb go off and see people connect with a monologue or see people get what I'm talking about.”

 

She teaches an intense dance class in the afternoon, and when asked, Declan Meade, a sophomore who runs the light department of drama club, describes the class as “the most difficult class I have ever taken, but also the most fun. I swear Chemistry is easier.”  The class learns dances they’ve seen on stage in the drama club’s productions, as well as dances to pop songs as well. Meade claims the most difficult to be the 60’s inspired dance to “Run and Tell That” from the 2017 production of Hairspray, and the most exciting to be “Seize the Day,” which was done by the male ensemble of the most recent spring cabaret. “I watched the boys do ‘Seize the Day’ last year, and all I could think of was how cool it would be to learn and do that dance, and now I am!” said Meade.

 

Ms. Brobst is not only an amazing teacher, but she’s a fantastic director as well. She has put up five major productions, a sixth in progress. Her first she claims to be her favorite show. “Epic Proportions was just so funny, it was our first show, our first time trying to work on a real set,” Brobst said. “I designed the set with my dad, and the crew and everyone was amazing. That was my first show here and it wasn’t sold out or anything, but it was mine and it was awesome.”

 

Since Epic, Brobst has directed Hairspray, Shine Like the Sun: A Musical Revue, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Beauty and the Beast. Tyler Czyras, a senior who has starred in each, said that Ms. Brobst “is an amazing director and an amazing person. She has changed the drama club and the performing arts department for the better, and more importantly she’s changed everyone in it.” Ms. Brobst is an inspiration to her students, if you were to ask anyone in the club, they have nothing but good things to say about her.

 

In the future, Ms. Brobst hopes to expand the drama club, recruit talented actors and add to a passionate tech crew. She hopes to put on more shows that “help others find the passion that I have in acting and performing.” As of now, Brobst plans to focus on the spring cabaret, which will take place May 17th, 2018 in the CHS Auditorium.