Teacher Tribute: Danny Kotzian


H. Hortman

Rehearsing lines with junior Miriam Rodriguez for this year’s fall play Night Must Fall, Mr. K demonstrates his passion for discovering and working with amazing talent. His commitment to the Millbrook Theatre Department is displayed through the quality and entertainment value of each production he directs.

Hannah Hortman, Editor-in-Chief

 Mr. K, one of Millbrook’s greatest theatre directors of all time, is the epitome of dedication. Mr. K’s love for theatre was sparked by the enthusiasm of his past teachers. They made learning about the performing arts fun, inspiring him to follow in their footsteps rather than becoming a major actor. Thus, Mr. K graduated from East Carolina University with a degree in theatre education. 

  Mr. K teaches four levels of theatre arts courses and IB Theatre. While each class is at a different level, Mr. K hopes that students can walk away from his class with something they can use in real-life. He explains how theatre class teaches skills such as collaboration, leadership, and problem-solving which are highly appealing to employers. He emphasizes that theatre classes are unique because they offer students the opportunity to exercise the most important skill: creativity. Senior Casey Wild says, “If you are doing a dialogue, monologue, or any sort of improv, you have a lot of freedom to express yourself. You get to make your own character versus the teacher having a strict bullet-pointed list of what to do.” In hindsight of Eklektikos, Mr. K explains that these theatre pieces were created by the students, giving them the chance to deliver powerful messages about the future of electronic devices, body dysmorphia, and societal beauty standards. 

  Mr. K describes how many students initially take theatre just for fun but end up wanting to major in theatre by their senior year. Using the musical Sweeney Todd as an example, he explains, “There was a kid who came in, who had never taken chorus class, who had never taken theatre class, but ends up playing Sweeney Todd, which is a very tough show to do. Now, he is writing shows for Off-Broadway in New York.” Before COVID-19  turned the world upside down, Mr. K took pride in organizing trips to New York City for performing arts students, providing them with the opportunity to experience Broadway and other professional productions firsthand. 

  Over the past seventeen years, Mr. K has played a crucial role in directing numerous plays, musicals, and shows. When asked to name the first show that comes to his mind, Mr. K says, “Death Takes a Holiday is one of my favorites. It was a melodrama that was written in the 1920s, and I just did not think it was very funny. Modern audiences would not get the jokes, but when I read the script, I felt that the lines were really poetic. Instead of trying to do it as something funny, we did it as something serious. I am very proud of that show and the experimentation that we did with it.” Following this idea of experimentation, Mr. K has benefited greatly from the relationships he has built with current and previous team members of the performing arts department. “When I look at the posters on the walls, especially the musicals, there are so many people that are involved in one of these things. You know how you collaborate and solve problems together to make these shows possible on this stage. You make life-long friendships. You never forget these people.” Just as he works to bring old plays and shows to life, Mr. K displays this value of preserving history through his unique hobby of antique restoration. Aware that old history is disappearing, Mr. K restores broken things back to their original condition and documents his creations on Instagram @danthelanternman! Mr. K, also known as Dan the Lantern Man, continues to serve as an amazing Millbrook Theatre Director, revising history as he does so!