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September 2022

Alumnus channels life into meaningful plays

During his time as an elementary principal in White Deer, Texas, Billy Boone was burdened by the memory of the tragic death of a student at his prior school from child abuse. A relatively new father himself, he recalls rocking his young daughter Ruby and feeling helpless about the situation.

“All these terrible things in the world, and I was powerless to do anything but just hold my daughter and tell her I love her and rock her while she was sleeping,” he remembered. “The amazing thing in that moment was that it would just be a few years later that God answered my prayer of ‘what could I do as a theatre teacher to solve all these things’ and I had these dreams and it led me to write Cry of the Peacock. Schools have been able to use this play for child abuse awareness all over

BIlly directing Peacock
Billy working with Cry of the Peacock cast

the country, and I feel like in that moment God honored the cries of a broken father wishing he could do more.”

Though it wasn’t Billy’s first experience in playwriting, Cry of the Peacock has been his most successful, and the impetus to encourage him to follow the inspiration he receives to share a message through theatre.

Inspired to create

After working a few other jobs after graduating from Wayland in 2005, Billy decided that the theatre – a place he thrived at Wayland under now-retired director Dr. Marti Runnels – was the best place for him and teaching was the right route. Billy returned to earn a master’s degree in education in 2007 then took a role in Clarendon as a theatre director. It was there he took the love for writing he’d had since a young age and combined it with his love for the stage.

“I had a great group of seniors that year that had been with me all four years of high school and wanted something deep and tragic they could sink their teeth into. Then I had a group of really great students I had previously taught in sixth grade that were coming into the program as freshman and wanted something lighter,” he explained. “I was trying to find a show  that would touch both extremes. Unfortunately, I could not find a One-Act Play that fit the bill.”

So Billy set out to write a piece of his own, starting with the structure and honing it in the workshop of his classroom with student input. Drawing on his own recent experience of losing his father-in-law to cancer, he polled his theatre students and found every single one had similar experiences. 

The final product was Sillyheart, a play about a young girl’s experience with cancer that dives into the fantasy world. With budgets tight, Billy noted that having his own work meant he was not out the expense of royalties and could use those funds to add sets or costumes to enhance the show.

Millsap performs Sillyheart
Sillyheart performed by Millsap High

He got approval from the UIL to use the play for their OAP competition and the experience was overall highly rewarding for several reasons.

“Something I’ve been proud of is that schools will often contact me and let me know the proceeds are going to the American Cancer Society or the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. That really makes me feel good knowing that it’s not just a show but there is good coming from what they are doing,” he said. “It always means something to me that they would choose to invest their time, effort and energy into my show but even more importantly to  turn that around to benefit others for cancer research.”

The next creation

He decided to submit the work to a few publishers, and Eldridge Publishing was interested. That became the first in what now is four plays offered under Eldridge in Billy’s name, and he said others are in the works as he continues to polish and hone those plays.

The next year, Billy took the elementary principal job in nearby White Deer, and his creative outlet of playwriting became more prevalent. He developed a rapport with the theatre teacher at White Deer High School and would often consult with the group. When he offered her a new script he’d penned, she jumped at the chance to premiere the work on stage with her students.

“We went through the same process to get it approved by UIL. It was the most successful show White Deer had done in  20 years,” he said. “We made it to the regional round but didn’t advance to state. The director was great, the cast and crew were great and it was a wonderful experience.”

That was Cry of the Peacock’s debut, and it was quickly picked up by Eldridge. Since then it has been performed hundreds of times by schools across the nation and remains a favorite for both its creativity and its messaging. The UIL added it to the permanent list of approved One-Act Plays recently as well, so Billy expects the reach to continue. He’s most proud of the impact it’s had far and wide.

“Later on it was recognized by the Texas House of Representatives in a house resolution put forward by Representative Price for its merit and message about abuse. That’s something I’ve very humbled by,” Billy noted. “Not only was I able to write it, perform it and publish it, but thankful that the writing has done some good in this world bringing awareness about child abuse.”

The inspiration for that play was unlike any other Billy said he’s experienced. He dreamt about his newest play opening on Broadway.  When he awoke from the dream with only one scene still vivid and jotted it on a notepad kept by his bed. About a year later, he had another dream involving a student revealing scratches down their back to a teacher. He now felt he had the bookends for a new play, and Cry of the Peacock began taking shape.   Billy looked back to the memory of the tragic loss of the student in Clarendon to finish the writing the play.

Honing his craft

When it comes to writing plays, Billy says he harkens back to a statement by novelist Stephen King who likened writing as “unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun.”  The idea is not an artist with a paintbrush but an archeologist with a brush uncovering the bones of a story.

“I think for me that’s true. I’ve found that these two ideas will just come together subconsciously and seems to take on a life. It seems like I’m not doing anything but uncovering the story. Sometimes they grow legs and become something like a play,” he says. “It takes so much time and effort to get a play all the way finished. Sometimes what I uncover becomes a full-fledged museum exhibit – to continue the analogy – and sometimes it’s just a little fossil.”

Boone family
Billy, daughters Norah and Ruby, and wife Megan

Since leaving White Deer, Billy’s been serving as Assistant Managing Director in payroll and tax services at Texas Tech University.  Although, he is no longer teaching or directing theatre at the HS level, he still actively pursues playwriting as his creative outlet. He is able to stay involved with area One-Act Play contests as manager and enjoys that interaction with student actors still.

And while his writing isn’t his full-time job at the moment, he’d love to see more of his work published and performed and impacting audiences. And yeah, it wouldn’t hurt to see that dream sequence of watching his show on a Broadway premiere come true someday.

“I’m still so blessed that anyone would ever choose a play I’ve written and find my words meaningful. When I started writing these shows all those years ago, I didn’t think they’d ever see the light of day,” he said. “It’s funny how your dreams keep growing and getting bigger. I used to think ‘If I can just get one play published…’ and now I have four. I’m very thankful to have been able createshows that have a message, shows that can make an impact and schools and community theatres can find value in what I do and partner with me to make the world a better place. I’m really humbled by that.”

Billy and wife Megan, a longtime music teacher in the Frenship schools, have two daughters: Ruby, 12, and Norah, 10.


Devotional: Provision is near

I have loved music for many years, across many genres. It's not uncommon for me to spout lyrics in certain situations when they seem appropriate. It's just part of who I am. 

Because of that, I think God has often chosen music to speak to me in special ways because he knows it both catches and holds my attention. So when I hear a particular song, then wake with it on my lips and in my mind, I try to pay close attention to the words He may want me to hear. Lately, that has been a popular Christian song "Honey in the Rock" by Brooke Ligertwood and Brandon Lake. Take a gander at this poetry:

"Praying for a miracleJar of sweet honeyThirsty for the living wellOnly You can satisfy.Sweetness at the mercy seatNow I've tasted, it's not hard to seeOnly You can satisfy.

There's honey in the rockWater in the stoneManna on the groundNo matter where I goI don't need to worry now that I knowEverything I need You've gotThere's honey in the rock."

Now I'll be honest: The first time this song tripped across my ears I thought, 'Honey? from a rock? That's crazy.' But I think that's the point... the blessings from leaning on Jesus are sometimes unexpected. With our finite human brains, we can't always understand how he's able to provide that "manna on the ground" the song mentions. But he does.

I don't know about you, but I have heard a LOT of people mention how they are weary... overwhelmed... exhausted. Mentally, spiritually and physically. If I'm honest, I'm there too right now. We're all hunting for nourishment, relief from the rat race and the sweetness that God himself can only provide. 

Are you trying to do it yourself? Guilty. And I'll bet you come up unsatisfied every time, just like me. The good news is He doesm't disappoint. When we lean into God and give our will and our burdens over to Him alone, He promises -- and delivers -- that "honey in the rock." Every. Time. 

Teresa Young is a 1994 graduate and has served on the Advancement Staff at Wayland for 20 years. She and husband Tommy have four puppy kids.  


From the History Files

This month's history feature is the transcript of a speech given by Professor Emeritus and University Historian Dr. Estelle Owens on the Founders Day celebration held August 31, 2022, in honor of the 114th birthday of Wayland.

Long before this university, or Plainview, or Hale County, or even the United States existed. Long before pioneers blazed a trail to the Plains of Texas. Long before there was anything but the land — and the wind — Wayland existed in the mind and heart of God. He knew we would be here to celebrate the existence of this university, its 114 years of service, and those who have gone before us who made Wayland what it is today. We exist because he wants us here. He just needed a few good men — and women — to make the vision a reality. He finds them in every generation, starting with James Henry and Sarah Francis Wayland — Jimmy and Sally to each other — whom he called into his service.

James and Sarah Wayland
Dr. James and Mrs. Sarah Wayland

And when he called, they echoed the prophet Samuel with the only answer they could give: “Speak, Lord, for your servants are listening.”

Honored as our primary founders, the Waylands were nevertheless very human human beings. They had the full range of human experiences, including immigration and starting over in a new community, joy in finding the love of their lives and becoming parents of nine children, grief over the deaths of three of those children whom not even his medical skills could save, and financial hardships at the end of their lives. He was born in Missouri during the Civil War then devastating the country. He grew up on a farm, in a family of devout Methodists who understood and practiced servant leadership. She grew up close to Fort Worth, met the new doctor in town, fell in love with him, and married him after he agreed to become a Baptist. He had major health issues and found the climate of Central Texas way too humid for his asthma. Advised to move to higher ground, they came to Plainview in 1891 when it was less than a generation away from being an active Indian frontier.

As the second doctor in Plainview, he set up a medical practice that ranged 200 miles in all directions from the tiny town. On his rounds for 30 years, he came to know many of the pioneer families that moved here. To serve them as their doctor, he treated illnesses and injuries; made house calls many miles from Plainview; and acted as midwife and chief bottle washer, laundress, and cook when a new baby entered a remote household. He knew that many of these people had college degrees, that they recognized the life-altering power of education, and that they devoutly wanted it for their children in a school close to home.

He used to drive his buggy out front here when it was nothing but a slight rise from about a mile from downtown Plainview. As he sat and studied the land, he prayed that God would allow him someday to establish that school. He and she went all in on that, pledging their worldly goods, their prayer support, their influence, and their good name to ensure that the college was born and succeeded. They went all in as they persuade others to join them in the effort and educated their children here from the youngest, their twins Robert and Marguerite, to their oldest surviving daughter.

“All in” meant that they were servant-leaders, pioneers, mentors, life coaches, and just plain good examples for others to follow. They went way beyond sacrificial giving of themselves and their means. By today’s standards, their giving over their lifetime totaled the equivalent of about $2.5 million — a huge percentage of his medical practice income and what he earned as a small rancher and landowner. Before the effects of his diabetes claimed his life, he lived to see his home carved up into apartments because they needed money to live. They gave and gave and continued to give, even when it hurt. Their lives echoed the Bible’s King David, who once declared that he would never “offer the Lord my God that which costs me nothing.”

Family historians have established that Dr. Wayland descended from English and French kings, but the only king the Waylands cared about was the King of Kings they served. This university is the result of their commitment to go “all in.” They lived the philosophy credited to Methodism's founder, John Wesley: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

Generation after generation, God has called thousands of others to do the same to make a difference in the world that desperately needs the values Wayland holds and teaches: go “all in” to treat people with dignity and respect, to love as Jesus loved, to recognize that everyone is equal at the foot of the cross. Going “all in” may not make you financially wealthy or famous, but it will surely enrich your life as you serve your creator and work for a better world, as the Waylands did. May we dedicate ourselves to follow their example and go all in.