To celebrate 50 years of Appleton East, English Language Arts teacher Corey Otis tasked students with writing about the history of their school: legends, myths, leaders, the occasional prank, etc. Following is a sampling of stories.
East Drama: The Traases Take the Stage
by Olivia McKee
When Mrs. Debra Weiher-Traas joined the Appleton East High School Drama and Theatre Department in 1990, she knew there was a lot of work to do. Few students were involved in the theater, but Mrs. Weiher-Traas knew hard work and determination would increase student enthusiasm and involvement.
She was right.
“The interests and the program as a whole has changed,” Mrs. Weiher-Traas said. “It is not uncommon to have over 130 students involved, whether it be in the pit, in the technical group or the actors on stage.”
Early on, Mr. Mike Traas headed the technical department, and Mrs. Weiher-Traas was in charge of the costumes. Soon, Mrs. Weiher-Traas took over the acting classes. By 1992, starting with the production of “Flowers for Algernon,” the Traases were running the show.
From the very beginning, the Drama and Theatre Department has invited students of diverse backgrounds, interests, and talents to join.
“Everyone comes to the theatre department for a different reason,” Mrs. Weiher Traas said. “Some come for the sense of family, to meet new friends which soon become lifelong friends, a few come to explore their talents. Others come because they feel as though it is a safe haven from home because the theatre is always a warm and welcoming place.”
East Theatre’s technical department has evolved as technology evolved. When Mr. Traas started in 1990, cordless drills didn’t exist; now East Theatre owns five. East’s drama productions are now enhanced by new technology, including LED lights, which can transform the set and stage (like making a fiber-optic curtain), and a projector, which was used to create the beautiful clock in last year’s production of “Cinderella.”
However, the core principles of the technical department remain the same. “One-hundred years ago you would look behind a set piece and see about the same structure work as you would see today,” explained Mr. Traas, “so in some ways the technical department has not changed.”
According to the Traases, community support has grown tremendously during their time at East. People in the community are more aware than before. Alumni return from all over the country to see East productions, and parents of alumni still help out with the department.
“Our shows are close to professional and not like any other high school,” Mrs. Weiher-Traas added. “The attendance has grown to close to sellout crowds.”