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S.C. Theatre Association names three to its Hall of Fame

The South Carolina Theatre Association executive board announces three inductees in 2018 South Carolina Theatre Hall of Fame class. The hall honors South Carolinians who have made outstanding contributions, achieved careers of distinction, and are widely recognized as accomplished practioners of theatre. The SCTA Hall of Fame is awarded annually at the SCTA Convention. This year's inductees are:

  • Donna Wilson,
  • Douglas McCoy,
  • and Julian Wiles.

Donna Wilson holds a MFA in theatre, with a specialization in directing, and an MAT in theatre arts from USC. Recently retired as director of the Palmetto Center for the Arts (PCA) and theatre teacher at Richland Northeast High School, she earned her National Board Certification as an Early Adolescence Generalist and was Richland Northeast High School's 2001-2002 Teacher of the Year and a District Honor Roll Teacher of the Year. She is also a recipient of the Outstanding Theatre Educator Award presented by the South Carolina Theatre Association (SCTA) and is the recipient of SCTA's 2010 Lifetime Service Award. In addition, she received the 2010 S.C. Consortium for Gifted Education Award for Outstanding Professional Accomplishment, and more recently was named a 2015 TWIN (Tribute to Women in Industry) Honoree by the Palmetto Center for Women. Ms. Wilson has served as president of the S.C. Theatre Association, the Palmetto Dramatics Association, and the South Carolina Speech Communication Association and has been involved in numerous arts initiatives, including serving this year on the state's committee to revise the South Carolina Guidelines for Identification of Artistically Gifted and Talented Students. Her Richland Northeast theatre program, a winner of many awards and superior ratings, represented SCTA's High School Division at the Southeastern Theatre Conference in 2014 and 2013 and was selected five times (1998, 2002, 2004, 2007 and 2011) by the American High School Theatre Festival to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. Currently, she serves as Director of the Tri-District Arts Consortium, a summer program for artistically gifted and talented middle school students in Richland District Two, Lexington District One and School District Five of Lexington and Richland Counties. Douglas McCoy (posthumously) was the founding partner and executive/artistic director of Centre Stage-South Carolina! He directed over 136 mainstage productions at Centre Stage, including Mass Appeal, which in 1984 won first place locally in the SCTA Community Theatre Festival, regionally at the Southeastern Theatre Conference in 1985, and finally it was given fourth place at the Festival of American Community Theatre the same year. Douglas also worked in area high schools, Anderson Community Theatre, Clemson Little Theatre, New Arts Theatre in Asheville, Warehouse Theatre in Greenville, and The Greenville Savoyards, Light Opera Company. He has a minimum of 17 awards and honors for his productions and his work in the community, including city and county resolutions proclaiming Centre Stage a cultural asset to the community, an Elizabeth O'Neill Verner nomination, a Toastmasters International Communication Achievement Award, and a Jefferson Award, among others. He served on the board of directors of the American Association of Community Theatres, chaired the Community Theatre Division of SCTA, conducted theatre workshops for USC, Clemson, SETC, Perry Correctional Institute, and Upstate high schools and middle schools. During his tenure, Centre Stage produced five world premieres and twenty-one South Carolina premieres. Douglas' passion for theatre manifested in masterfully produced shows that were impactful to the audiences who were entertained, challenged, and sometimes pushed to the limits to look at issues that face humanity. His contribution and legacy can be seen today in the students he's inspired that are acting, teaching, and advocating in our communities. Douglas McCoy earned a place in our theatre community and should never be forgotten for his passion and commitment to the theatre arts. Julian Wiles founded Charleston Stage, Charleston's resident professional theatre company, in 1978. It has since grown into South Carolina's largest professional theatre and one of the state's largest arts institutions. Over the past 38 years, Wiles has directed and designed more than 200 productions and penned 27 original plays and musicals for the company. Wiles continues to serve as the company's producing artistic director, heading a staff of 25 full-time theatre professionals. Wiles, a South Carolina native, grew up on a cotton farm in Ft. Motte. He attended Clemson University, received a history degree from the College of Charleston in 1974, and an MFA in dramatic art from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1976. Wiles has written or adapted 27 original plays and musicals for the company including the boy who stole the stars, Nevermore! Edgar Allan Poe, the Final Mystery, The Seat of Justice, Denmark Vesey: Insurrection, Gershwin at Folly, Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus, Helium and most recently, Inga Binga. Julian Wiles is a recipient of the 2010 Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Award, the state's highest honor in the arts awarded by the S.C. Arts Commission. Wiles is also a member of the Dramatists Guild. The 2018 South Carolina Theatre Hall of Fame inductees will be honored at a reception on Friday, Nov. 9 at Sullivan's Metropolitan Grill in Anderson, and the formal induction will take place at the Henderson Auditorium in the Rainey Fine Arts Center at Anderson University at 8 p.m. The SCTA Hall of Fame was started in 2016 with the first inductee being Dr. Phillip Hill. Other inductees to date are Sally Cade Holmes, Randall David Cook, Erskine C. Johnson III, Jack Benjamin, and Jim and Kay Thigpen.
For more information about the annual convention please visit www.SouthCarolinaTheatre.org

Charleston Stage’s Julian Wiles pens play about pivotal civil rights case, Seat of Justice

Note: Charleston Stage receives an annual general operating support grant from the South Carolina Arts Commission. Visit the Charleston Stage website for Seat of Justice ticket information and to read background about the play's development. Related: View trailer for Seat of Justice   From Charleston City Paper Article by Helen Mitternight, photo courtesy Charleston Stage

julianwilesGrowing up in a white, South Carolina community, Charleston Stage founder Julian Wiles didn't know about the historic 1950 court case Briggs v. Elliott, a suit which later became the nucleus of the ground-breaking Brown v. Board of Education case. It wasn't until he was an adult that he learned about this amazing story that took place so close to home. He knew he wasn't alone, so he decided to write a play about the pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement. "I don't think it's just black history, I think it's everybody's history," Wiles says. "I don't presume to know exactly how people felt. But you know, I grew up in a segregated world, I went to a white school, so I know that part of the equation." Wiles' Seat of Justice tells the story of a group of African-American parents who simply wanted the school district to maintain the bus their children rode to the rickety, blacks-only school they attended in Clarendon County, Silver School. While Clarendon County School District 22 officials refused to spend money on the bus, they had no problem paying for a new school for white children. The case was eventually taken up by future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Twenty parents signed on to the lawsuit, and, Wiles says, for their actions they would all lose their jobs or be harassed. "In many ways, most people in South Carolina lived in one of three worlds: white or black or working together," Wiles says. "And those were parallel universes. Everyone accepted that this was the rule of how we should live. What's really amazing to me is how a group of very simple people — sharecroppers, teachers — decided the way the world worked was just not fair." Of course, before writing this historical drama, Wiles had to do his research. Fortunately, he was able to speak with someone who witnessed the original case, Charleston civil rights activist Ruby Cornwell. "I had a great time with her," Wiles recalls. "I had read so much and I knew so many of the players from the research. I was bringing up people she knew so well. Being 100, she had lost her contemporaries, so there was no one to talk to in a lot of detail about it. I got to do that." Wiles also spoke with descendants of the original petitioners, like the son of the Rev. Joseph A. DeLaine, Silver School's principal. When the play opens at the Dock Street Theatre this week, Wiles says several of the litigants' descendants will be in the audience, as will the son of the white local school board chair who denied the funds for the school bus. Photos from that time will be on display upstairs from the stage, and the legendary civil rights photographer Cecil Williams — who was just a boy when he snapped the photos — will also be on hand. The one person who will not be seeing the play is Ruby Cornwell, whose experiences became the voice of the play's narrator. "She almost made it," Wiles said. "She lived to almost 101. She was very sweet. She read a number of drafts and made suggestions. The day she turned 100, the play wasn't ready, but we took an excerpt from the play, her opening monologue, and I had an actress from the college read it at her church that day. She loved it." While Briggs v. Elliott was ultimately folded into the Brown v. Board of Education case for political reasons — Brown originated in Kansas not the Deep South — the Clarendon case was the focal point of Marshall's argument before the Supreme Court. Wiles says he was struck by the complexities of the issue, particularly as it involved school district superintendent L.B. McCord and principal DeLaine. "It wasn't just good guys or bad guys. The case has what drama is, the personal interactions between people, people who worked together. For instance, domestics almost became part of the family in some odd way, and I was trying to explore how that dynamic worked and what happened when those dynamics began to break down," he says. "In the end, L.B. McCord winds up firing the Rev. DeLaine, but they had a good working relationship until this all collided." And on Feb. 21, there will be a post-show panel sponsored by the International African-American Museum and moderated by College of Charleston history professor Bernard Powers. Special matinees will be performed for students, including those in Clarendon County, where the case began. "I hope the takeaway from this play is: It's not over," Wiles said. "We still need people to take their seats in the seat of justice all the time and work to make our world better. We can't wait on politicians, judges, elections. We have to all take stands and do things and be the people who will make our world more harmonious. It's our responsibility."