A Short History of the Frankfort High School Drama Club

Early History

Frankfort High School was organized in 1891 by Professor McHenry Rhoads, who was the Superintendent of public schools. The Frankfort public school system dates to 1863; but there was not a high school prior to 1891. Frankfort High was originally located at site of the current Second Street School, where all grades where housed. There has been a long history of dramatic productions at Frankfort High.

The first Capitolian was published in 1914.  “A Midsummer Nights Dream” was listed as the senior production in that yearbook. I suspect that there were other dramatic productions prior to this date. Unfortunately, the lack of Capitolians for these early years means that it is hard to find specific information about what occurred at the school. The four year high school program began in 1909. I find it very plausible that there could have been senior productions dating to the first four year class in 1909. I also believe that there could have been dramatic productions during the earliest years of the school but I have not been able to find specific proof of a production prior to 1914.

The first mention of a “Dramatic Club” was in 1917. Ruth McChesney was the first President of the drama club. Vene Rogers was the first secretary/treasurer and Carey Graham was the first stage manager. During this year the club produced the play “Alice and Wonderland, Up-to-Date.” It was noted in the Capitolian that this play was “very well attended.” They also produced the opera “Under the Stars and Stripes” during the 1917 school year. The FHS Commercial Department presented the operetta: “Dance of the Little Lanterns.” The Capitolian reported that this production was “enjoyable” and that the Commercial Department had some of the best singers and dancers in the school.

The Capitolian also mentioned that the sophomores produced a Halloween play during this school year.

The Modern Drama Club

During the 1971 school year, a group of students organized the modern FHS Drama Club. Leading this group was FHS alumnus George C. Wolfe who is a two time Tony Awarding winning director. Wolfe served as President of the drama club during the ’71 and ’72 school years. Barbra Rader, an FHS English teacher, agreed to serve as sponsor of the drama club.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever was first produced in 1991 by the now defunct Pegasus Players (according to SOS records the group dissolved in 1997) . Longtime theatre educator Karen Kimmel Hatter served as the first director of this production. After being produced two years under the auspices of the Pegasus Players the show moved to the Frankfort High School when Hatter accepted the position as Director of the theatre program at the school. Even though Hatter served as Director at FHS the Best Christmas Pageant Ever continued its tradition of being a community show that featured children from many different schools across Franklin County. Hatter would direct the show continuously for the first ten years of the production until 2001. Then in 2002 Kate Dominick (Osterloh) took the reins of the Pageant when it was produced for two years under the auspices of the Frankfort Arts Foundation. 

After an outcry from the community about the possibility of the end of this Frankfort Tradition, Karen Hatter returned to helm the production in 2004 and would continue to direct the show until her retirement from Frankfort High in 2010. She would end up directing the show a total of 16 times prior to her retirement. Even after her retirement, she continued to support the show many years after her retirement by serving in various roles including Stage and Costume Manager. In 2010 the show faced an uncertain future. However, Karin Rademaker (Pulliam), who succeeded Hatter as Theatre Director at FHS, endeavored to undertake and continue the Pageant. The 2010 Best Christmas Pageant Ever ended up being a scaled down production featuring a small group of Frankfort High and Second Street Students. Mrs. Rademaker stepped down as FHS theatre director at the end of the 2010-2011 school year. 

During the 2011-2012 school year FHS Drama alumnus Andrew Tippett (class of 2005) stepped into the role of Theatre Director at Frankfort High School. His first production in this role was The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Mr. Tippett had a long history with the Best Christmas Pageant Ever prior to assuming the director’s chair. He began his tenure as a “props person” for the third production. He continued to serve in various roles including lighting technician, set designer, Assistant to the Director, Stage Manager, Ralph Herdman, Hobie and Father. Prior to taking the reins as the Director he participated in 13 of the first 18 productions. 2019 marked the 27th production of the Pageant in the past 28 years. Mr. Tippett having participated in 22 of the 27 productions. In 2020 the show went dark due to the COVID-19 pandemic for only the second time since 1991.