Donnie Bryan began his journey in secondary school theatre in 1980 as a professional actor, playing the role of Linus in a traveling production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. On that tour he led theatre workshops, and his experiences with students inspired him to become a teacher. He spent his last two years of college working toward certification. He earned degrees in theatre, studio art, and English, and taught in all three areas when he began at Russellville High School in Alabama in 1982—but soon the theatre program became his full-time pursuit.
In 1997 he began teaching at Deshler High School and worked with the Alabama Board of Education in Montgomery, researching and developing the state’s first comprehensive arts standards and curriculum and helping to train teachers and administrators on its implementation. In 2002, he moved to Florence High School, also in Alabama, which evolved into the town’s first arts magnet program. Over most of those years, from 1993 to 2004, Mr. Bryan led the Alabama Thespians as chapter director.
Then his career took him to Tennessee, where he has taught workshops at state conferences, adjudicated scholarships, and judged one-act play competitions. He also coordinated the Thespian scholarship program at the Thespian Festival for nine years. He moved to Nashville in 2008 to oversee the design and technical direction of Ensworth High School’s landmark venue, which opened in March 2009. He directs the school musical, sponsors an active Thespian troupe and technical theatre team, and was recently named chair of the Visual and Performing Arts Department.
He’s teamed up with the education staffs at Nashville Children’s Theatre and Bravo Creative Arts Center to develop more opportunities for area students, and he developed a networking system through which more than two dozen Nashville theatre groups and schools exchange tickets to fill empty seats and share props, sets, costumes, and support.
Described by friends as “a true Southern gentleman,” Mr. Bryan and his wife Joni have two grown daughters, Rachel and Amber.