Honoring Our 2023 Retirees: Mrs. Debra Dumas


Alexis Dorf

All who have had the privilege to work alongside stage crew’s accomplished Mrs. Debra Dumas—better known as Deb by her colleagues and students—have also been touched by her warm compassion and inspiring talent. Responsible for bringing the Ruel E. Tucker auditorium to life, Deb’s talent has forever changed the quality of productions at South High. 

Deb began working backstage when she was a high school student, but it wasn’t until college when Deb solidified her passion for stage crew. “I picked an elective my second year called Intro to Theatre Tech, and that changed my life,” Deb explains. At the University of Virginia, Deb worked on lighting, and eventually moved to New York to advance her career as a stage lighting director. “I worked on small shows for little pay and worked my way up. I eventually joined the [International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees] union and began working for Broadway.” Deb explained humbly that her time on Broadway included lighting for Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Phantom of the Opera.

After leading master classes in South Carolina and at the University of Virginia, Deb found another passion: teaching. After having her first child, Deb began teaching at Adelphi University, Long Island High School for the Arts, Pace University, and eventually Great Neck South High School. Working alongside Mr. Marr, Deb helped build the Theatre South program we know and love today. Together, they worked on creating a stronger student-led program to build a community of leaders in the theater program.“When I started working here, well, it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I loved the support here, and I love the kids here. I still do. The kids, that’s what I’ll miss the most in retirement.” 

Outside of the auditorium, Deb is an active feminist and strong activist. She works closely with the environmentalist movement in her community, and in her youth, she participated in social rights marches, including the March on Washington. Deb’s strong female presence backstage has inspired female students to strive for success in an environment dominated by men. “One of my students said that my presence as a woman inspired her, as a woman, to do things she never saw herself doing. I never even thought I had that kind of impact,” Deb explained.  

For Deb, life in retirement consists of picturesque hikes and scenic trips around the world; however, no plane ride or road trip can break the ever-present tie Deb has permanently created between her and her students. Deb will always provide support to her students, whether she’s exploring the Rockies, or attending a South High production, right here in Great Neck. “You guys give me hope for the future,” she says. “I once lost that hope, but you guys are going to be fine.” 

The South High community will miss Deb, but wishes her well in retirement. Deb has taken with her a piece of Theatre South that cannot be replaced or restored, but her hard work, dedication, and moral compass have been deeply ingrained in Theatre South, where her students will continue to preserve her legacy.