Getting Personal is an email Q&A with a local personality. Here, News-Gazette staff writer Melissa Merli chats with LaDonna Wilson, a teacher and the drama director at Central High School who also takes part in community theater: Getting Personal appears first in print., in Sunday editions of The News-Gazette. In the Jan. 22 newspaper, we'll have a chat with Mary Henson, the wife of University of Illinois coaching legend Lou Henson.
What time do you typically get up? What do you do the first hour of the morning?
5:45; shower, read emails and respond to them, basic household chores.
What did you have for lunch today? Where? With whom?
I had a chicken salad sandwich and a banana. I ate in the principal's conference room with three other teachers from different departments.
Best high school memory.
Being Adelaide in "Guys and Dolls" my senior year. I got a standing ovation and lots of public acknowledgement, even from my physics teacher, who was a sour man. He thought I did better than the actress who played the part in a professional production of "Guys and Dolls."
Tell me about your favorite pair of shoes.
A brown pair of Old Navy $3 flip-flops. I wore them touring Scotland and wear them often, even at school. They are the most comfortable shoes I've ever owned.
What does a perfect Sunday afternoon include?
Laughter with friends and/or family and a Bears victory.
Was there one book you read as a child that you still cherish? Own? Read?
I loved the "Boxcar Children" series and read them to my children and hope to read them to my grandchildren someday.
Where on earth are you dying to go? Why?
Italy. I love the art, food, wine and architecture of the cities and want to explore the countryside as well.
Tell me about your favorite pet.
I had a sweet Doberman pinscher when I was in high school who was like a friend. He was as close to a human as any animal I have ever seen.
Have you discovered that you are becoming like one of your parents? Which one and how?
Both, but probably more like my father. My father was always a clown, and I love to make people laugh. He also loved to weave a good yarn, and I feel as if that storytelling ability was passed down to me.
What would you order for your last meal?
Giordano's deep-dish pizza with sausage, mushrooms and tomatoes.
What can you not live without?
Obviously the people in my life. After that? My iPhone.
Who do you have on your iPod?
My iPod is empty, ironically, but I generally only listen when I am in the car to the music from the show I am directing. If not, I usually prefer silence. As a schoolteacher, I get so little of that.
What's the happiest memory of your life?
Besides my children being born, it would have to be the vacations when my children were little. Their joy at new experiences always made my heart swell. I wouldn't trade those memories for any amount of money.
If you could host a dinner party with any three living people in the world, whom would you invite?
Besides my friends, it would have to be Stephen Sondheim, George Carville and Tina Fey. Oh, that would be an amusing dinner!
What's the best advice you've ever been given?
Direct a show every year that scares you a little. Then you will stay fresh and on top of your game.
What's your best piece of advice?
Pursue a field that you feel passionate about — working for money doesn't make anyone happy.
What was your first job, and how much did you make an hour?
Working in a parts warehouse for Honda motorcycles. I made $3 an hour.
What was a pivotal decision in your career, and how did you arrive at that decision?
I took a class at the University of Illinois, educational policy studies, because a friend of mine wanted to enroll. He once said that the only way to make a difference in the world was to inspire the youth of America. That stuck with me. After I became a teacher, I also got to direct plays. That was just an awesome bonus.
Do you have a bad habit? What is it?
I am addicted to Diet Mountain Dew. That's the first step, right? Admitting the problem?
How do you handle a stressful situation?
I am great in a crisis. I tend to get into triage mode pretty easily. I tend to get calm and directive. Sometimes, afterward, I get a little shaky and then prefer a good dose of friends and family to remind me what is important in life.