The history of the Okemos Theatre Department is as old as the history of the high school itself. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, it was not unusual for three plays to be produced each year: a Senior Play, a Junior Play, and a third play put on by members of the faculty. Participation in these plays was high, out of necessity. The Senior Play in 1929, The Absent-Minded Bridegroom, had a cast of twelve. That was a neat trick, considering the entire senior class that year numbered eight!
Even the most ardent theater fan would have a hard time recognizing the titles of those early plays, including such un¬memorable “classics” as Betty’s Last Bet, The Automatic Butler, Mountain Mumps and The Doctor Has a Daughter.
Movies will make you famous; Television will make you rich; But theatre will make you good. — Terrence Mann
In the years that followed, drama became less of a priority at Okemos High School. A drama club, if one existed at all, would frequently be combined with other activities. In 1956, for example, you could have been a member of the Dramat¬ics-Literary-Debate Club. Less and less emphasis was placed on theater, and by the late fifties, drama as an extracurricular activity had been abandoned.
With much fanfare, OHS revived Drama Club in 1962. Students put on two ambitious productions, one in the fall and another in the spring, establishing a pattern that would continue for decades. A year later, a production of Bye Bye Birdie became the first musical performed at OHS. Until the completion of the “new” high school (now Chippewa Middle School), many of these shows were performed at the legendary Okemos Barn Theater, the long-time home of community theater productions.
Throughout the sixties and seventies, it was common for one director to work on the straight (non-musical) play, and a different director to work on the musical. That changed in the spring of 1983 when Dee Greenberg took over the drama program and began an unprecedented 18-year run as director of both productions each year. Georgia Styka followed that run directing eight outstanding shows in four years, culminating with 2005’s triumphant Beauty and the Beast.
In the fall of 2006, Okemos High School Drama began a new era in which three shows were produced each season. Dramatic productions were featured in the fall and winter, followed by the traditional spring musical. For five seasons, the dramatic productions were directed by Marc Vickers. In 2005, Mr. Vickers introduced the first Shakespeare production ever staged at Okemos High School with The Merry Wives of Windsor. Chad DeKatch took over musical productions in 2006 with Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods, and for the next ten years, established a history of strong Fall plays, a more intimate winter play, and a vibrant Spring musical.
I like the ephemeral thing about theatre, every performance is like a ghost – it’s there and then it’s gone. — Maggie Smith
Okemos is once again entering a new and exciting time as a new team takes the lead of Okemos High School Drama. OHS is proud to welcome co-directors Chad Swan-Badgero and Chad DeKatch, Music Director Claire Bellamy, and Choreographer Karyn Perry (who has remained a creative powerhouse for many years at OHS).
Below is a nearly complete list of all the shows that have been produced since the revival of the Drama Club in 1962.
1962-63: The Curious Savage, Big Hans and Little Hans
1963-64: You Can’t Take It With You, Bye Bye Birdie
1964-65: Night Must Fall, Come Blow Your Horn
1965-66: A Doll’s House, Harvey
1966-67: It Walks at Midnight, Tom Jones
1967-68: Night of January 16th
1968-69: No Information Available
1969-70: Family Portrait, Take a Shoe
1970-71: The Truth About Lillian
1971-72: A Thurber Carnival, You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, Oklahoma
1972-73: Antigone, West Side Story
1973-74: Damn Yankees
1974-75: The Music Man
1975-76: Anything Goes
1976-77: She Stoops to Conquer, The Apple Tree
1977-78: Anne Frank, The Gift of the Magi, Carousel
1978-79: Three on a Bench, Harvey, The Sound of Music
1979-80: Lizzie Borden, Frankenstein, South Pacific
1980-81: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Guys and Dolls
1981-82: The Glass Menagerie, Fiddler on the Roof
1982-83: The Mousetrap, Oklahoma!
1983-84: Our Town, The Music Man
1984-85: You Can’t Take It With You, Joseph and the Dreamcoat
1985-86: Exit the Body, Hello Dolly
1986-87: Brighton Beach Memoirs, Guys and Dolls
1987-88: Picnic, Carousel
1988-89: Fame, Grease
1989-90: While the Lights Were Out, Singin’ In the Rain
1990-91: Noises Off, A Thousand Clowns, Bye Bye Birdie
1991-92: The Mousetrap, West Side Story
1992-93: The Miracle Worker, South Pacific
1993-94: Little Shop of Horrors, Pirates of Penzance
1994-95: Rebel Without a Cause, Anything Goes
1995-96: The Real Inspector Hound, The Actors’ Nightmare, Camelot
1996-97: The Secret Garden, Damn Yankees
1997-98: A Christmas Carol, My Fair Lady
1998-99: Harvey, Crazy For You
1999-00: The Great All-American Musical Disaster, Fiddler on the Roof
2000-01: Berkeley Square, Hello Dolly
2001-02: Our Town, State Fair
2002-03: Clue, Brigadoon
2003-04: Arsenic and Old Lace, Grease
2004-05: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Beauty and the Beast
2005-06: The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Importance of Being Earnest, Into the Woods
2006-07: Arabian Nights, The Canterbury Tales, Guys and Dolls
2007-08: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Our Country’s Good, Kiss Me Kate
2008-09: Major Barbara, An Inspector Calls, Seussical-The Musical
2009-10: The Crucible, Dancing at Lughnasa, The Wedding Singer
2010-11: Noises Off, Picasso at Lapin Agile, Curtains
2011-12: The Triangle Factory Fire Project, Much Ado About Nothing, Anything Goes
2012-13: Brighton Beach Memoirs, Almost Maine, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat
2013-14: It’s a Wonderful Life, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, Shrek the Musical
2014-15: Animal Farm, The Boys Next Door, Loserville
2015-16: Little Women – The Musical, Three Stories Up, Big Fish
2016-17: The Little Prince, Three Feet Under, Cinderella
2017-18: An Ideal Husband, Our Town, Les Misérables
2018-19: Peter and The Starcatcher, Okemos Has Got Talent (Season 1), Mamma Mia!
2019-20: Radium Girls, Okemos Has Got Talent (Season 2)
2020-21: The Big One-Oh!, WOHS: The 39 Steps, Disney’s High School Musical