• September 18Forsyth Central vs. Duluth: 41-42

Kevin Whitley Takes the Stage

Kealy Ford, Editor in Chief

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In the past few years, Central’s Drama Department has had a precarious relationship with teachers. This year’s current seniors will have had four different drama teachers by the time they graduate.

Mr. Pingle left Central in 2014, bringing in Ms. Quigley as the new teacher who stayed for two years before accepting a job closer to home at Lumpkin County High School. Mrs. Tanner, a young blonde woman who was expecting her first child, joined the FCHS staff in fall of the 2016 school year, but struck by tragedy, she was unable to continue her work at Central into the second semester.

This left administration scrambling for a substitute to carry the year to its end and for a teacher who could direct the 2017-2018 school year and hopefully find a permanent home at FCHS, at last.

Switching from teacher to teacher is detrimental to a student’s theater experiences. It is difficult to develop a close relationship within a year and even harder to progress as an actor when constantly faced with change and instability. “ Developing a director-troupe bond can often take upwards of two years, an opportunity that my graduating class of thespians hasn’t had the opportunity to experience,” Joseph Signa, junior, stated. It is unfortunate that the 2017 and 2018 graduates will have faced so many hunts for a new director, but the underclassmen and rising freshmen are hopeful for a new beginning.

It has been announced officially that Kevin Whitley, a current art teacher at Central, has been hired to become the new drama teacher.

Mr. Whitley has worked closely with the drama program for years by building beautiful sets and by coaching the actors. He was actually involved in his own drama program when he was in high school and college.

“I did some one act in high school but I didn’t really get involved in performing arts until college… I had some friends in college and my senior year, the college was doing Grease. They convinced me and helped prepare me, and I auditioned and got it in the show. I’ve been involved in theater since then,” he explained.

“My wife and I met through an audition, so theater has always been a major part of my life,” he stated. His daughter, Emily Whitley, is a Central Stage alumni who now majors in musical theater at Brenau University, and his youngest daughter, Anna Whitley, is a dancer for Sawnee Ballet Company. Performance is infused in his life.

Joseph spoke about how having so many new teachers has negatively affected the drama department but was hopeful with Mr. Whitley coming onboard.

“This [instability] may have previously affected the work we could accomplish, but Mr. Whitley’s addition to the team at Forsyth Central Stage is the best possible news, as he is a well known influence around our department and will quickly create a lasting family bond,” Joseph explained.

 

Mr. Whitley has exciting new visions for the program. He wants to produce shows that everyone in the school would want to participate in and that every student would want to see. He has a vision to produce musicals that will be more appealing to the average high school student. This opens the opportunity to entice students who have never before participated in theater.

“Most shows are going to be open audition (open to the whole school) because that’s how you are going to get people involved from the school. That’s how people are going to catch the bug.”

The “bug” is often how thespians refer to the fire you feel upon taking the stage for the first time that drives you to want more and more.

 

“Once you catch the bug, you kind of keep the bug,” he mused.

 

“Some of my main objectives is number one: to simplify the program and go more for quality over quantity,” he explained. “But also some new initiatives…There are more ways to perform than just theater.”

He then went on to describe the many forms of performance he hopes to nurture such as puppetry, film, and voice overs. He mentioned how he would love to have a touring puppetry group. “This would be great for students with great vocalization and character voices who don’t necessarily want to be seen onstage. It opens up more opportunities.”

Central is known as the “traditional” school of theater due to the school’s extensive history. In the Yatesy Harvey days, the renown drama teacher who taught from 1989-2010,  Central was known as the reigning champion of One Act Competition. In the past years, however, the school’s triumph has been diminished by other schools’ great spectacles, parading money and budgets that Central has had difficulty competing with, but Mr. Whitley is tired of trying to best the competition in Forsyth as they “play their own game”.

“My biggest thing is to play our game very well and not try to play everyone else’s,” he said. He acknowledged that Central is a school of tradition before adding, “I want to foster that tradition but also embrace the future.”

My biggest thing is to play our game very well and not try to play everyone else’s.”

— Kevin Whitley

In order to do this, he plans to create new traditions such as “play in the park,” which would take place in an outdoor auditorium in May. He provided examples, describing with passionate gestures how he could just envision A Midsummer Night’s Dream being performed at dusk.

“I would like to do play in the park, outdoor theater which is a whole other genre that most kids don’t have experience with. Most schools don’t have this, and I want ours to be the first…I want it to be an expectation of Central from the community that every May, there is a play in the park.”

Mr. Whitley has been a revered art teacher for years, and now, he takes the position as the drama teacher. There are so many hopeful students that have craved a stable, accomplished theater department, and he has the means to give it to them. Finally, Central Stage may have a permanent director and a chance to grow.

 

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