.1964: The Beginning.
Dick Wesp and Roger Grooms began the AHS Spring Musical Tradition during the '63-'64 school year with a production of "Bye, Bye, Birdie," which opened on May 3, 1964. Each year the productions showcased the best performance and instrumental talent as AHS.
For many years, the AHS Spring musical formed the core of Theatrical Arts at our school. It ignited a passion in the students for performing, along with a desire to explore theatre in all of its forms. By the 1990’s, one show a year simply wasn’t enough. The students needed more. And Anderson Theatre was born.
.1994: Anderson Theatre.
In the Spring of 1994, Choral teacher John Simpkins walked onto the Titus stage to watch a rehearsal for a student play. The actors stopped their work and he asked what show they were doing and when performances would be. The surprised response was that the show was “Our Town,” and the performance was happening...right now. John looked out to see a small group of parents in the audience. He was shocked and after profusely apologizing to the students and parents, he marched into the Principal’s office and demanded that the school create a fully supported Theatre Department.
Anderson Theatre officially began in the Fall of 1994 with the show “Little Shop of Horrors.” They put up three shows that school year, and for many years to follow, all in addition to participating in the Spring Musical. They joined the International Thespian Society and began our continuing tradition of attending and bringing productions to the State Conference.
In 1999, John left Anderson and Sherry McCamley took over Anderson Theatre. She continued directing three shows a year, and increased the number of students involved. In 2003 she took over Directing duties for the Spring Musical. Many of Sherry’s students continued their Theatre work in college and in their professional careers.
2005 was another year of transition, as Sherry McCamly departed and Stephen Skiles arrived. Along with producing four shows every year, Stephen’s students were also involved with the Cappies program, a Student Theatre Program that celebrates quality High School Theatre. Stephen also taught the first Theatre Arts class offered at AHS.
When Stephen moved on in 2007 Chad Weddle replaced him as both Theatre teacher and Director. While producing between three and five productions a year, Chad has overseen the full merge of the Spring Musical into the Anderson Theatre family, as well as an explosion of Theatre Arts classes—from one to five. Student participation in Anderson Theatre more than doubled. Chad’s students have recently worked with local Universities to bridge the gap between High School and Collegiate theatre programs by creating both the Theatre League and Company.
The passion among AHS students for Theatre continued to build, and in the Fall of 2016 Hannah Linser-Wilder joined the Department. Hannah teaches both English and Theatre Arts classes, as well as Directing two of the four major projects produced by Anderson Theatre each year. With her arrival, the future health and strength of the Anderson Theatre Department is ensured.
Since its birth in 1994, Anderson Theatre has become one of the most successful theatre programs in the state of Ohio. Countless Anderson Theatre alumni have gained invaluable skills in communication, project planning, critical thinking, and collaboration. The students of Anderson High School are fortunate that Anderson Theatre will continue to help us believe in ourselves and inspire our dreams for years to come.
.2017: Anderson Film.
The seed of Anderson Film began in 2011, when Chad Weddle inspired his Studio Theatre class to take advantage of modern technology and think beyond the stage. They took a modernist play, bobrauschenbergamerica, and created a feature-length film during class. Seeing such interest among his students, that summer Chad began a film camp to discover and nurture the talents and skills of student Film actors and Technicians. Since then, the TOAST Film Camp has brought Film training to over 400 students from all over Cincinnati, employed 15 AHS alumni, produced numerous film projects, and most importantly, brought film education into the forefront of the AHS community.
At the same time, Chad increased the opportunities for Film projects within his classes and within Anderson Theatre productions. Interest among the students continued to grow, and in the Fall of 2016, AHS offered its first Film Studies course. Dedicated Film students could now learn all aspects of filmmaking, including writing, acting, directing, filming, and editing. With strong student demand, there are now five integrated Film Studies classes. The Film Studies program is one of only three programs in the district to have integrated classes. Student films produced in these classes have won many local and national film awards including three nominations for Student Emmy awards.
Along with this growth in class work, the 2017-2018 season saw the very first Main Stage Film Festival. An extracurricular activity that is managed alongside Anderson Theatre productions, Anderson Film works in conjunction with Anderson Orchestras, so that each film has used original music composed by students and performed live for each performance. Since its inception, the Department has created five Narrative Short Films, an original Music Video, and a Feature-Length Film.
To embrace the on-location nature of Film, and its unique ability to bring distant places and people to a local audience, Anderson Film students have traveled to California, the Grand Canyon, and even Japan to experience extraordinary places to create film. We believe that Anderson is the only High School in the country that teaches and produces Film at this level. Anderson Film students are inspired to try new things and look to the future of Performing Arts.