Portsmouth Schools Say Farewell to Theater Director Alden Caple


Alden Caple (middle) teaching music to Analise Marin (left) and Ryan Scarlotto (right)

Emma Bowen, PaperClip Staff/Writer

Portsmouth School District’s theater director, Alden Caple, will resign after 10 years at the end of the 2021-22 school year. 

Back in 2012, a student of Caple’s from Great Bay Academy of Dance told him about an open position at the high school. When Caple applied for the job, he did not expect to find his new home for the next decade.

Since his first day, Caple has led the high school theater department through productions, competitions, and showcases. Among many choices, one show holds a special place in the director’s heart.

In spring 2019, Caple’s grandmother passed away during the production development of “Tuck Everlasting.” Caple believes “as artists, we can understand life and understand our own emotions through the art. Working on that show was very healing.” 

Caple plans to close his 10 years with “Sondheim on Sondheim,” a musical revue of the late composer Stephen Sondheim’s work. According to Caple, the cast of 36 high school and middle school performers will show the audience “something they haven’t seen in this area.”  

“Sondheim on Sondheim” includes 19 of Sondheim’s works and will challenge the actors to connect with the material to create an immersive experience. Caple has reported that he is “looking [forward to] seeing our cast tackle this extremely challenging material and make it look easy.”

Over the last 10 years, PHS theater has done various shows and traveled across the country for national competitions. Caple loves to see how these experiences affect his students year after year. 

“It is seeing the growth of my students from where we started the year, seeing the growth that you make in those 3-5 days in California on top of all the growth you’ve made that year, and then you come into the audition for the spring show and I get to see you apply everything. Whether the awards are there or not, the things that matter stuck.” 

Caple values the standard that PHS theater has set and appreciates the work that students put into challenging themselves. Whether they take a dance class or voice lesson, he has watched his students transform into strong and resilient individuals by being in the department. 

“It’s not about talent,” Caple says. “In the end, it’s about finding your goals [and] what you have to do…You have to take the things that confuse you, synthesize them, and process them, and through all of that process, I feel like theater students leave here ready to take on whatever challenge they’re going to face in their life.” Caple wishes for students who enter the department in the future to “uphold that standard and that drive, because it’s not exclusive to theater.”

Caple has learned from his mentors in the school district that it all needs to be about the students. “I think that the most humbling part of being a teacher is remembering how many other people have stuff going on. It helps you empathize and think with understanding and empathy first, and not judgment.”

Caple believes that “the best teachers are learners.” He says that by “directing, critiquing, discussing…with all of that, while I’m helping you hone your skills, how can I not be honing my own skills?” 

After the school year ends, Caple will be taking time off for himself, directing Upside Arts’ annual overnight camp, and auditioning.

When asked where he sees himself in 10 years, Caple plans to “own a summer camp, with a house on a lake,” and perform in his free time.

As he enters the next chapter of his life, Caple wants to adopt Yes Theory’s motto and “seek discomfort.” 

“I’m ready for new challenges,” he states. “I think that’s how we grow as people. When we put ourselves in new situations that make us uncomfortable, or where we are not the smartest or most talented or have the most knowledge in that room, I think those are the moments where we grow the most.”  

While Caple is sad to leave the students he has built connections with, he does not see his resignation as “leaving anything behind.”

“I see myself taking steps forward, and I think, if anything, I want that to encourage other people to know that they can put themselves out there, that they can take risks and they can chase dreams–because life is short.”

Caple looks forward to “the things that I’m going to gain and that my students are going to gain.” He is excited that his students can work with a new person that brings different perspectives and assets to the program. In the same way, he is seeking new challenges, he hopes his students will benefit and grow from this experience. 

Caple describes himself as “someone who gets excited by change… I like to shake things up, so I’m excited to shake things up.” 

While the Portsmouth community will miss his presence, there are still opportunities to support and work with Alden Caple. His last show with the school district, “Sondheim on Sondheim,” is a must-see and will run May 20th-22nd for five shows. Additionally, Caple’s theater organization Upside Arts produces multiple self-written shows, cabarets, and summer camps throughout the year.

As Stephen Sondheim wrote: “Sometimes people leave you halfway through the wood. Do not let it grieve you, no one leaves for good.”