“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” — Oscar Wilde
From comedies to tragedies, the ancient Greeks were especially fond of the fine arts and the importance of theatre. Their first performances inspired historical figures throughout the decades, including William Shakespeare, Henrik Ibsen, Arthur Miller, and many more. The beauty and intensity of a dramatic play helps develop morality and even portrays the remnants of former civilizations; not only this, but it unifies a group that appreciates the complexities of a great performance. Swinging into today, theater is still prevalent and essential in developing society.
Cherokee County is fertile soil for the arts and the Cherokee High School Drama Program’s recent accomplishments are proof. This year, the program’s production of the one act play “Charlie’s Aunt” earned them second place in the 7A State One Act competition for the first time in eighty years. In both 2021 and 2022, the club won the Literary State Meet for the first time in school history. This year, the school earned third place in the 7A State competition following a victory in the 5-7A Regional championship.
In the Regional and State One Act Competitions, seven or eight schools come together to each show a one-act play. Each school has fifty-five minutes to set the stage, perform, and then clear the set. Schools rehearse the performance and timing of the show for months prior to the competition in late October. The shows at both region and state are judged by three judges using a rubric provided by Georgia High School Association. If awarded, the top school at the region competition will continue on to state competition.
The Regional and State Literary Meet is similar to that of a track meet. Many different disciplines come together to try their hand at winning the gold medal. The categories include three writers’ narrative, argumentative, literary analysis, two students mastering the art of speech both domestic and international, choral groups with both male and female solos, a men’s quartet and a women’s trio, and the dramatic interpretation of comedic, dramatic, and duo. In the dramatic interpretations, each set of students perform an eight to ten minute fully memorized script with multiple characters being interpreted and acted.
Dr. Jodi Burn, the school’s theatre program director, states that she feels “the adults and children alike involved in the theatre program strive to be better and better at everything they approach. They want the community to hold pride in their efforts.”
A few dazzling stars in this program include Wyatt Darnell, who was named Best Actor in the 7A State competition and also won the State in Duo Interpretation category with Lily Richard, the winner of All-Star Cast in the Regional One Act competition. Emmanuel Mwangi soared following a win in the 7A State Champion for Oral Interpretation – Humorous category last year; this year, he flexed his dramatic acting skills and placed third in the state Literary Interpretation Solo Dramatic category.
Wyatt expresses his admiration for the club, stating, “To me, these awards, especially Best Actor at state, prove that I am capable of possibly fulfilling my dream and being on Broadway someday. The title alone is nice and all, but to me, the weight that comes with the titles, the potential they hold, and the opportunities they create are more important to me than anything.”
Lily says working with Wyatt in the Duo performance required “lots of time to get together and work out the chemistry.” She details the dedicated time spent practicing every lunch period to win this outstanding accomplishment but does not regret any second of it.
When Emmanuel won the 7A State Champion for Oral Interpretation – Humorous award last year, he walked into it with little hope feeling that he was merely a sophomore. He says, “Once I got the ball rolling last year, I knew I wanted to do it again. The first time was a pump of adrenaline that sparked intrigue in competing again this year. I’ll probably be participating next year as well.” He explains that their director told the club that students were hesitant to compete since they had little faith that they would win. He decided to throw his hat into the ring, unaware of the adventure he would soon embark on. After winning comedic, he decided to compete for the dramatic title and though he placed third, it has not dampened any of his hopes.
In addition to Wyatt, Emmanuel, and Lily, the Cherokee literary team included Thaddaeus Brake, Caleb Christian, Rhiannon Crisante, Sola Hulbert, Brooke Kelly, Leila Iovino, Caidyn McCoy, Abigail Scott, Andrew Solano, Rachel Tew, Colton Tunget, Matthew Thomas, and Ruby Womack.
Following their big wins at the Region & State Literary competitions, the trio was reunited on stage for the Cherokee High School spring musical production of The Addams Family, starring Wyatt as family patriarch Gomez Addams and Emmanuel as Uncle Fester, with Lily as the stage manager. The fantastic show was a comical feast that embraced the wackiness in every family and featured an original story.
The cast and crew of The Addams Family put on a fantastic show with “creepy, kooky, mysterious, and spooky” moments full of fun.
Our interview with Emmanuel Mwangi, Wyatt Darnell, and Lily Richard just before The Addams Family opening night.
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Emma Tyler is a senior AP/honors student at Cherokee High School and two-time Governor’s Honors Program nominee for literature. She is currently an intern at Enjoy Cherokee Magazine and plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in English or journalism.