Ames High Drama: Delighting audiences since 1888

Ames High is a place where creativity flows from the hearts of students out into the community and beyond. One of the most moving ways that our school demonstrates our art is through our theater program. Over the years, Ames High has had many amazing and talented directors, actors, productions, and members of the drama department. The interest in theater was put to action over 120 years ago back when Ames had graduating classes in the single digits. In 1888, a small group of literature enthusiasts formed a club called the “Shakespearean Club” where they would read plays, recite poetry, perform music, and even dance around. The beloved Mrs. Potter was the sponsor of the Shakespearean Club. Potter was one of the more popular teachers, and the students took a profound liking to her. The pioneers of the Ames High Theater paved the way for the future drama students by performing and directing small, low budget productions under Potter’s wing. After the students who formed Shakespearean Club graduated, the club did not last many years afterward. This didn’t mean the end of theater at Ames High, though. Many drama clubs have been formed over the years and have been sponsored and directed by a wide variety of teachers and staff members. Some of the most influential people who guided Ames’s young actors include Wayne Hanson, Al Jerdee, Del Schmidt, Brian Parrish, and current drama sponsor and director Steven Woolery. For over thirty years, Wayne Hanson was the heart and soul of Ames High theater. The time and effort that he spent on each production made every moment worthwhile. Hanson is known for his quirkiness and fun-loving attitude. “One year when [Hanson] was selected to be woken up for Band Raid during Ames High’s homecoming week,” AHS Director of Bands Chris Ewan said, “the students arrived and gathered on his porch at 2:30 in the morning, and he burst through the front door holding a rifle. He scared the students by yelling things like ‘Get off my lawn!’ and ‘You crazy kids…’ The band students always loved to visit his house for band raid.” Hanson is still a member of the Ames community and lives fairly close to the high school. He organized many productions during his time here including the productions of a musical once every 4 years. Choral director Steven Linn has had the pleasure of directing the musicals alongside several directors. “Wayne was a great director who really cared about the theater,” Linn said. “It wasn’t until Al Jerdee came to be the director at Ames High that we decided to do the musicals every year. We loved doing them so much that we started the tradition in 2002 by inserting our production of Bye Bye Birdie into the program 3 years early.” The tradition has continued every year, with Annie Get Your Gun marking the 10th musical in Ames’ 10 year streak. When English teacher Del Schmidt took the reigns in 2006 with AHS Alumni Brian Parrish, they added Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and The Sound of Music into the musical mix. Schmidt said that “being involved with the drama department was very enjoyable,” and that there are “so many committed and talented students that go to Ames.” Schmidt would have liked to have directed more than 2 years, but when he started teaching A.P. classes his schedule “started to overflow and it was hard to imagine organizing the theater program in the coming years.” In 2009 English teacher Steven Woolery became Director of the drama department. “It’s been amazing to move to Ames and get to work with such incredible individuals,” Woolery said. “My work is done so easily because of the passion and determination that each student possesses.” Woolery encourages students to engage themselves in the world of acting and has kept the International Thespian Society going strong. Theater at Ames provides many opportunities and immensely builds character. It’s a truly wonderful program started with humble intentions. The theater was made by the students for the students. It’s as Schmidt said: “There are so many talented kids in Ames and it is wonderful that they have this great creative outlet.”