CUMMING -- Forsyth Central High School has added some drama to its theater program. The school recently appointed a new theater director.
Kevin Whitley, an AP studio art, AP art history, painting and visual arts teacher, was appointed to the position in January and began as director this semester.
He previously served as assistant theater director.
Whitley has taught at the school since 1989, where he began his career working with drama teacher – and Central Hall of Fame member – Yatesy Harvey.
Since then, he has served in various leadership roles within the arts department, experience he said he plans to use in his new role.
“I want students to see there are many different aspects of theater, not just being onstage,” Whitley said. “I would love to start a puppetry troop where students could do voice-overs, design the [puppets] to bring them to life. Film is also such a big industry in Georgia – maybe introduce that, too.”
Onstage, Whitley founded and directed the first FCHS Chamber Singers ensemble and assistant directed more than a dozen dramatic performances.
Behind the scenes, too, he has played a large role in set design, winning awards for the more than 40 performances he has helped with.
During his time as assistant theater director, Central won eight state championships and three state runners-up in the Georgia High School Association’s One Act Play competition, which is held yearly.
Whitley has held seminars and workshops at the annual Georgia State Thespian Conference and is recognized nationally and statewide for award-winning theatrical set design for educational and community theater.
Central’s Principal, Mitch Young, said he is “extremely excited” about the appointment.
“There is no one who has done more behind the scenes, literally and figuratively, to establish the greatness of Central’s arts programs and, specifically, our drama program,” Young said. “His vision, which is rooted in a well-rounded approach that includes traditional community theater, musical productions, and cutting edge ideas such as animation, voice acting and puppetry, really ties together the great legacy of the past with a forward-thinking approach and fresh ideas.”
Whitley said he is excited about the new gig.
“I was initially a little hesitant, only because I’ve been teaching visual arts for 26 years,” he said. “But I always told myself that I didn’t want to be a coaster – one of those people who just coast through their last few years before retirement. So, after thinking about it and having the pleasure of being part of Central’s theater program for almost 30 years, I thought maybe it’s time for an artistic change.”
Whitley said he hopes to bring artistic change to Central’s theater program, too.
“As a creative person, I’m excited about the opportunities. This [position] is new, but not unfamiliar,” he said. “I’ve had the privilege of working with wonderful directors and I’ve had this backlog of ideas stored away in my brain.
“Being the oldest high school in the county, I think we have a history, a longevity that we need to emphasize. But I want to really focus a lot on creating a stronger connection with the community, too.”
That community connection, Whitley said, may mean bringing theater outside of Central’s walls; one idea he has is introducing a “play in the park” of event.
“Having a play in the park series would be amazing,” Whitley said. “Sawnee preserve is right around the corner and it has that amphitheater…I can just see us [performing] 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' there in May. I want Central to be known for traditions but also innovations for the future.
“This [job] is about taking what I’ve learned and what I know and to be able to see all these ideas come into fruition.”