As a full-time theatre professor at William Woods University for the past 20 years, Joe Potter has worked with many budding stars. Now he has accepted an additional challenge—that of directing a promising group of high school thespians from around the state.
Potter, assistant professor and artistic director of theatre at WWU, has been selected by the Missouri State Thespian organization to direct the next all-state high school production. Throughout the next year, he will work on the university’s campus with a high school cast and crew composed of Missouri’s 30 most talented juniors.
Chosen for his proposal of “Tom Jones,” Potter was picked from a group of faculty from around the state to head the next Missouri Thespian All-State High School Theatre production. Potter will be in charge of directing, assembling and teaching the selected high school cast and crew for the 2004 performance in the Missouri State Thespian Festival.
Potter is excited and appreciative of the opportunity to work with some of the top creative high school students from around the state.
“I highly respect those in the high school teaching profession. They are taking the time to truly teach students about theatre. I am very grateful for the opportunity they are giving me to work with their kids to teach them about theatre the way we know it,” Potter said.
A production already showcased at William Woods, “Tom Jones” is a naughty comedy set in the 18th century.
“Tom is raised by a wealthy family. He is a skirt chaser and the skirts chase him as well,” Potter explained. “The beauty of this piece is that it’s full of characters to play that are squirrelly, fun and full of life.”
Both cast and crew will be chosen during the state festival, Jan. 2-5, 2003. A yearlong commitment will be required from the participants to prepare for the 2004 performance, when they will perform the play before an audience of 1,300 people.
Throughout the year, cast and crew will be visiting the university’s campus for production activities. In July, members will spend eight days and seven nights at summer camp. Three separate rehearsal/construction weekends will follow during September, November and December.
Potter does not expect this new responsibility to interfere with his on-campus theatre season obligations. He points out that the two “run side by side” so he is not forced to “choose one over the other.”
He added, “I am going to try to include [WWU] students as much as possible. In fact, I am choosing four to five students to help out with the [high school] production.”
Potter has high expectations of what his cast and crew will experience during this production. He says he plans to “teach them the good ol’ fundamentals of theater, like scene painting, traditional staging format from the 18th century and wearing clothing from another time period.”
According to Potter, if the show is deemed worthy and artistically successful by the International Thespian Society judges, the cast and crew will be off to the International Thespian Festival in Lincoln, Neb. There the production would be performed before an audience of more than 2,000, including people from Guam, Canada, Japan and Si-Pan.
“The benefits definitely outweigh the headaches,” said Potter. “[It’s about] all of us being here and working together to create a piece of artwork. If we receive any other accolades or honors, well, that’s just the gravy on top.”