ALEXANDRIA, VA-There are many famous creative partnerships in theater. Lerner and Loewe came together to create My Fair Lady and Camelot. The King and I, Oklahoma, and The Sound of Music were the result of the longtime collaboration between Rogers and Hammerstein. More than a century ago, Gilbert and Sullivan partnered to create H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, and The Mikado.
Now we can add Bach and Jones to that illustrious list. Hope Bachman and Leslie Jones were recently feted by students, staff, alumni, and other members of the local community at a gala that celebrated their 20 years of co-teaching and collaboration in the performing arts at Alexandria City High School, the longest-standing work partnership in Alexandria City Public Schools theater history.
Jones described their partnership as “the odd couple,” explaining that she prefers order while Bachman, with a laugh, added that she traffics in “controlled chaos.” The pair agreed that they balance each other, with Jones urging Bachman out of her comfort zone while Bachman reigns in some of Jones’ more inspired suggestions, all the while working towards a common goal. “At the end of the day, it’s about the production and the product,” said Jones. “But not just the product; the process of getting to the product. Because all along we want to teach our [students] how to be good people.”
Their first show working together was Playing Juliet/Casting Othello. In the succeeding two decades, the pair have collaborated on over 35 shows, including well-known classics like Chicago, Dreamgirls, and The Wiz; student-created short plays; and Everything Happens At Night, a play this fall that centered on love, murder, and jazz in 1953 Washington, D.C. and Alexandria that was written by a current ACHS student.
Bachman always acts as technical director, working on set design, construction, and lighting, while Jones always takes responsibility for organizing and editing the playbill. The duo take turns serving as the executive director, who focuses on rehearsing with the student actors, and the executive producer, who coordinates with parent boosters.
Jones’ executive producer credits include Little Shop Of Horrors, Beauty and the Beast, Hairspray, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Much Ado About Nothing, RENT, Fiddler on the Roof, Our Town, and Guys and Dolls. Bach’s executive producer credits include 12 Angry Jurors, RENT, Brave New World, The Tempest, Little Shop of Horrors; plus numerous One-Act Play Festivals and Writers’ Festivals. The duo have often returned to the better-known works of the Bard of Avon, including Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Tempest.
“We are so appreciative of the unwavering commitment that Leslie Jones and Hope Bachman have shown in their two decades of service to Alexandria City High School students and our school community,” said ACHS Executive Principal Alexander Duncan III. “How many teachers can say they regularly bring an auditorium full of people to their feet, either in tears or cheers, as well as having affected the lives and aspirations of countless students? They are so deserving of this celebration of their teaching partnership and contributions to our school.”
Other members of the theater community noted that the duo known as Bach and Jones have refined a third annual production, the Winter One-Act Play Festival, into a well-oiled machine and proving ground for students wanting to perform in the Virginia High School League’s One-Act Play Competition. And that, over the years, their shows and students have been nominated for multiple Cappie Awards.
In reflecting on their many years working together, the pair agreed that students have become more socially conscious and willing to challenge authority and call out injustice. Bachman added, however, that their students are still teenagers, finding out who they are and gaining independence. They both marveled at how some of the students they worked with 20 years ago are now adults with children of their own.
Like many famous partnerships, however, Bachman and Jones will soon end. Leslie Jones said she is planning to retire at the end of the academic year, after spending 33 years in education. Their last show will be next spring’s production of Bring It On, a fitting finale for former cheerleading coach Jones.
She holds degrees in theatre arts from Penn State and the City University of New York, Brooklyn College. In retirement, she looks forward to focusing on social justice issues and, perhaps, directing adults in the one show that remains on her directorial bucket list: 42nd Street. For Bachman, who graduated from T.C. Williams High School in 1998 and is alumna of the Performing Arts Department, she will greatly miss her theater partner: “Having someone to share the load with makes it 100 times easier, and better.” [SEE ALSO: Arena’s “Swept Away” is a Dark Tale on the High Seas with Music by Grammy Winners The Avett Brothers]