PORT ARTHUR – Damon Gengo wears his passion for theater on his face. He talks about the stage, his experiences in front of audiences and now, his time as an instructor of drama at Lamar State College-Port Arthur, and as he does, his eyes glint and a smile beams through about his love of the performing arts.
But just as quickly, Gengo’s expression changes as he mentions one of his mentors, Bill Morton. His face turns a bit more serious, his voice lowering in reverence to the man who helped lead him down his path of theatrical dreams. And now, two decades after Morton’s death, Gengo pays a special tribute to his friend as he takes the office of President of the Texas Community College Speech and Theater Association.
“When I was in high school, Bill worked with some of the UIL groups and he made a big impact on me,” Gengo said. “He made a big impact on a lot of people.”
In fact, Morton took over as President of the TCCSTA and helped revitalize the struggling organization. Under his tutelage, TCCSTA began to thrive and with that success, generations of thespians and theater technicians found their opportunity to succeed.
Today, Gengo pays homage to his friend and mentor by leading the state’s oldest collegiate theater organization. The group was formed in 1922.
“When I first joined TCCSTA two years ago, I watched as the group gave out the Challenge Award. I found out it was named in honor of Bill Morton,” Gengo said. “That’s who he was, someone who challenged others to do better. He influenced a lot of lives.”
Gengo, who has been at Lamar State College-Port Arthur since 2006, is now in a position to influence the organization and its impact on community college instructors and students across the state. In just his third year of participation, Gengo was named the association’s president.
“I was quite shocked,” he said. “I was already very involved in the group, and our students here are very involved. But when I was nominated, it came as a surprise.”
When Gengo accepted the nomination, the voting body immediately grabbed the opportunity to see the Southeast Texan take the top spot.
Gengo made his first trip to TCCSTA two years ago and last year, he led a group of students from LSC-PA to Tomball where they performed “Proof” as part of the organization’s annual theater festival. During that festival, students perform for judges who critique the performance as well as the technical aspects of each show. Rather than competing against other schools, the festival offers an opportunity to improve in an atmosphere of mutual support among theater groups.
“Instead of ‘you beat me last year so I’m going to beat you this year’,” Gengo explained, “there is a feel of support for everyone to succeed and learn something. Groups get to see different facilities and travel with a show rather than just performing a set number of shows in front of the home crowd.”
The LSC-PA theater group will perform again this year with the festival taking place at Blinn Junior College in Brenham.