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Community Spotlight: Cassy Maxton-Whitacre

By Ginny Butsch posted 08-16-2016 08:56



One of the main goals for our Theatre Education Community is to help theatre students and professionals from all over connect and identify with each other in order to build resources and support the theatre education field. We shine a spotlight on a different member every other week by conducting a simple interview.

Our latest Spotlight Member is Cassy Maxton-Whitacre, an EdTA professional member and the Theatre Department Coordinator for Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School in Fishersville, Virginia. Cassy only recently began actively participating in the Community, but in just a few short months she’s become a reliable contributor, providing thoughtful questions, encouragement and solid advice.  

Ginny: What is your greatest challenge currently?

Cassy: Currently my biggest challenge is not having the facilities and resources that I really need to make my program effective. We don't have an auditorium or stage, and we have to rent rehearsal and performance space from a community theater. On days when I have visiting guest artists and multiple classes happening simultaneously (which is once a week), we have to move off-site. We also don't have a music department, so I have to hire a musical director and musicians when we do a musical. It's challenging, but I have great students who are really adaptable, so we all manage to be pretty resourceful.

Ginny: What is your favorite musical (or play)? What makes it so special?

Cassy: I have a lot of favorites! Les Misérables is one of my favorite musicals because it is one of the first musicals that drew me in just from listening to the CD. I finally got to perform in it a few summers ago when the amateur rights became available. We had an amazing director and our cast reflected talent from all over the Shenandoah Valley, so it was a very special experience. As a director, I loved working on Urinetown with my students. It's clever and quirky and timely, and my kids got so much out of it. My favorite plays are Almost, Maine, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Crucible, These Shining Lives, and Still Life With Iris.

Ginny: What playwright would you love to have lunch with? Tell us a question you’d ask them.

Cassy: Aaron Sorkin. I love the way he uses language. I'd probably ask him to write a play that feels like The West Wing and has lots of strong, smart, well-developed female characters. Can you imagine a whole play of CJ Cregg types? How awesome would that be?

Ginny: What was the most difficult element of a production you’ve ever had to manage?

Cassy: We had aerial silks for Pippin a few years ago, which presented some challenges. Fortunately, we had done a workshop at the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts on a field trip, so a lot of the kids learned how to use them there. We have really good tech people at the theater we rent, so they figured out how to rig them. They looked amazing in the show, but the biggest challenge was probably that I couldn't possibly give every kid who wanted to the chance to perform on them. I did let everyone try it out in rehearsal, though (including me, my student teacher, and my choreographer).

Ginny: What is unique about your theatre program?

Cassy: My program is unique because it's a half-day pull-out program. I have students from seven different high schools all morning for only theatre classes (they also take humanities here with a different teacher), and then they go back to their regular schools in the afternoon. It's an audition-only program, so I really do have the most motivated kids, which is awesome. Because it's such an intensive program, we really have the time to dig deeply into theatre history, dramatic literature, Stanislavski technique and other topics. I also have a great guest artist program where theatre practitioners come in and teach for several weeks on specialized subjects such as stage makeup, stage combat, dance, and voice.

Ginny: What is the weirdest stage food you’ve ever made or eaten?

Cassy: I was in this 60's jukebox musical where the script called for all kinds of really specific food and drink, like Bugles and Snowballs. We were also supposed to be drinking margaritas and tequila shots for the whole first act, so we were chugging limeade and apple juice. By intermission, our throats were so coated with sugar we could barely sing!

Ginny: Name something on your bucket list.

Cassy: Appear on a TV show (I've been in a B-horror movie and a local commercial, so I want to round out the list!).

Ginny: If you could have a different career, what would you choose?

Cassy: Travel/food writer or young adult novelist.

Ginny: How do you relax after a busy day?

Cassy: I have a one-year-old, so there isn't much relaxing in my life right now! HGTV or Gilmore Girls on Netflix is about as close as I get.

Ginny: What is your proudest accomplishment?

Cassy: Taking my students to the Virginia Theatre Association one-act competition with our low-budget, bare-bones production of Almost, Maine and advancing to the state finals from over 50 competing schools. I had a really special cast, and I was so proud of them.

Ginny: What is something we would be surprised to learn about you?

Cassy: I've worked for both USA Hockey and the National Hockey League.

Ginny: Tell us about the best day of your life.

Cassy: After a year of fertility challenges, seeing my baby's heartbeat on the ultrasound for the first time. See, it would have been predictable if I had said the day she was born, wouldn't it? :-)

Cassy’s theatre program sounds an adventure, and she and her students seem to embrace its challenges and think outside of the box in order to maximize their educational experience. If you enjoyed Cassy’s interview as much as I did, add her as a contact in the Community!


Do you know someone who deserves a moment in the Spotlight? Tell me their name and why at Want to read more Community Spotlights? You can find them here.