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Decades-long theater collaboration at Alexandria City High School coming to an end

Hope Bachman (on left) and Leslie Jones have led the Alexandria City High School theatre department for 20 years (staff photo by James Cullum)

It’s the end of an era for Alexandria City High School’s drama program. After 20 years directing and producing dozens of theatrical performances, the partnership between co-teachers Hope Bachman and Leslie Jones will come to a close at the end of this school year.

Known informally as “Bach and Jones” to students, parents and staff, the pair were honored in a gala at ACHS last week. Bachman says that deciding to partner with Jones was one of the best decisions she ever made.

“Partnering up with Leslie was the second smartest decision of my life, with the first smartest being my marriage,” Bachman said.

Bachman is a 1998 graduate of Alexandria City High School (back when it was named T.C. Williams High School), and was hired in 2003 after she graduated from the University of Mary Washington. When hired to replace a retiring drama teacher, she was also put in charge of the drama program’s extracurricular activities.

“I was a brand new green baby teacher,” Bachman said. “I was drowning my first year. First year teaching is hard for everybody, but I had all the responsibilities of a first year teacher plus this entire program of afterschool things, which is incredibly time consuming to run.”

Jones, at that point, had been working at the school for eight years as an English teacher and cheerleading coach, and felt that she’d been passed over. It ended up taking a full year for the pair to come together, with Bachman swallowing her pride by asking Jones for help.

Jones said that once they started working together on the fall and spring productions that their relationship was no longer competitive.

“The nature of theater is collaborative,” Jones said. “At the end of the day, it’s about the production and about the product… because all along we want to teach our kids how to be good theater people, period.”

ACHS shows by Bach and Jones (staff photo by James Cullum)

The pair say a secret to their success has been presenting a unified front.

“It’s a sisterhood,” Jones said. “Believe me, we have been through it all. We don’t always agree. Who does? But we work it out. We always have a mantra between the two of us — ‘Hey, we’ll duke it out behind closed doors and then when we walk out the door we’re a united front.”

ACHS Executive Principal Alexander Duncan III thanked the duo for their work.

“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?” Duncan said. “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.”

After a 33-year career teaching, Jones said she’s looking forward to retiring. She and Bachman are now prepping, their final work together, the 2024 spring musical Bring It On.

“This is our swan song,” Jones said. “Once the final curtain (falls) and we’re at the cast party, we’ll be sobbing.”

Bachman said someone will have to step in to help fill Jones’ shoes.

“Just just like Leslie and I had to at the beginning, I will have to learn her successor’s strengths and weaknesses,” Bachman said. “And that person will have to learn mine, and we’ll figure we’ll figure it out as we go.”

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