Westerville South High School will play host to a party to celebrate 75 years of theater with an open house and Night of Celebration on Friday, Dec. 22, at the school, 303 S. Otterbein Ave.

The open house will begin at 5 p.m. with a program set at 7 p.m.

Westerville High School Theatre was established in 1942 through the International Thespian Society, said Matt Wolfe, Westerville South theater director.

He said all Westerville theater lovers are invited to come and support the program and have a wonderful family fun evening.

"We ... have remained an active and strong troupe," Wolfe said. "I am in my fifth year as director of Westerville South Theatre. It is my honor to walk the halls of the school each day, guiding Westerville South's best and brightest in the theater."

During his tenure, the school has produced classics such as "Anything Goes," "Bye Bye Birdie" and "The Pajama Game," and literary favorites like "Lord of the Flies," "The Great Gatsby" and "To Kill a Mockingbird."

They've also performed Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Twelfth Night," as well as children's theater including "Charlotte's Web" and "Bridge to Terabithia," along with many other titles.

"This history of excellence is brought on by the directors who came before me and blazed a trail of theatrical excellence," Wolfe said. "I am privileged to welcome back Ron Nocks, Kim Mollohan, Valerie (Plessinger) McGregor, Scott Wilson and Sarah Detrick, along with students, parents and special performers of students, co-workers and the like from our time at South."

Nocks was the head of the theater department from 1963 to 1984.

"The thing that stands out was there was no theater when I arrived," Nocks said.

He said he was promised a theater shortly after he was hired, but it took six years to build one after he started teaching there.

Nocks said a lecture hall was planned instead of a theater, and he and Otterbein theater professors Chuck Dodrill and Fred "Pop" Thayer opposed it.

"I asked them to build a theater that could be used as a lecture hall," Nocks said.

He helped the school establish what's currently there and a plaque honors him as visitors enter the theater.

"I don't think it should be called the Nocks theater though we spent a lot of time there," he said. "It was a great time."

He said he has taught in all three of Westerville's high schools, and he believes South is the best despite it being the oldest.

Nocks brought fall and spring productions to the high school and helped develop a children's theater that could be taken on the road to elementary schools.

In 1967, the school started taking 10 students to New York City to spend four nights and see three shows.

"That went on until 1982," he said. "It was sponsored by the thespian club."

Scott Wilson directed the theater program from 1999-2003 and he also taught English and theater at South.

"My fondest memories are about the family we created through our productions," he said. "Our production of 'Hello, Dolly' stands out as our strongest production and has a special place in my heart since it ended up being my final show at South."

With the leadership of excellent directors, supportive parents and talented students, Wolfe said, he's excited to celebrate 75 years.

After the celebration at the school, a greet and meet will begin at Asterisk Supper Club, 14 N. State St. in Uptown Westerville, for those over age 21.

Families and guests under 21 will be welcome at Star Lanes Polaris, 8655 Lyra Drive.

Wolfe said all performers, presenters and guests are asked to purchase a $5 ticket so attendance can be estimated.

Tickets will be sold at door, but RSVP by purchasing the ticket is appreciated by Dec.15.

To purchase tickets, visit localevelevents.com and search "75." There are also options to donate money and purchase an anniversary shirt.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla