Hall of Fame: Theatre Educator Honorees

Following are Theatre Educator Honorees of the WHSFA Hall of Fame.

Inaugural 2011 Class

Rick Braun (Waunakee High School)

Rick Braun has tirelessly given of himself for the development of theatre in the state of Wisconsin. He has worked on the theatre advisory board, as well as serving on the board of governors for the WHSFA. His meticulous record keeping about the state theatre festival and his willingness to share it was invaluable in compiling the information that helped make this Hall of Fame a reality. He has always placed the interest of others above his own and has continually made himself available to other directors, in their search for excellence. This trait has been embraced by his students, who always come for the entire theatre festival and volunteer to serve the WHSFA in any way they can, including cleaning up the theaters after the festival is concluded. The 10 Critic’s Choice awards, 5 Directing awards, and 34 Outstanding Acting awards that he and his casts have won at State are a tribute to his talent as an outstanding director as well. Rick has also led his casts in advancing to the State Theatre Festival twenty one consecutive years (With no end in sight!) a record unmatched by any other director in the history of the WHSFA.

Jym Clark (Greenfield/Whitnall High School/Waunakee)

Jym Clark was known for her interest in directing quiet shows with a lot of power that regularly impressed her audiences at the state festival. She has had a great deal of influence on her students, including her own family members, in spreading an interest in theater across the state of Wisconsin, and many of her students, as well as her two children, have gone on to become powerful directors and participants on stage, since their graduation. Her 6 Directing awards, 8 Critic’s Choice awards, and 23 Acting awards that her students won are indicative of the quality of work that she did over her career.

Diana Heagle (Mukwonago High School/Waukesha West)

Diana and her husband both directed at Mukwonago High School and were highly successful at the State theater contest. She is a very warm and genuine person who has always been magnanimous and open to suggestion, as well as always putting the needs of other theater professionals above any thought of her own needs. Her shows were always well-received at the State theater festival, where she was awarded an outstanding directing award seven times over the course of her career. After leaving Mukwonago High School, she stepped into a similar role at Waukesha West High School where she worked with WHSFA executive director Chuck Malone, and then replaced him when he retired at Waukesha West. She has also served the WHSFA, as a theater festival host at both the District and Sectional levels.

Earl S. Kjer (Oconto Falls/Eau Claire)

Earl S. Kjer was a highly successful director at Oconto Falls and Eau Claire High Schools, where he began his directing career in the 1930’s. That directing career stretched through the early 1950’s and the shows he produced were considered to be trend setters in the contest. His plays were some of the first ones that gave serious thought to selection, casting, and directing. His productions always required quite an amount of complicated stage business and were so well directed that at no time were the stage pictures ever out of balance. His costuming was delightful and his casts, acting as though they were living their parts, always kept well in character. These traits were demonstrated in all of his shows, but particularly in “Undercurrent” in 1935, “The Knave of Hearts” in 1936, and “Mind over Matter” in 1941, all of which received ‘A’ ranks. Earl was a tireless promoter of the state theater festival and worked in various capacities at the festival, including as an adjudicator for many years at both the state and sub state levels.

David Loos (Algoma High School)

David Loos has had the longest continuing active participation as a director in the long history of the WHSFA. His goal was to teach and direct for 50 years, and he came close, making it to 49. The amount of success that his casts had at the State Theatre Festival, even though that they came from a very small community where it was difficult to develop great depth, is illustrated by the 9 Critic’s Choice and Directing awards that he received, and the total of 37 awards that his school was awarded at State during his time directing at the school. He was comfortable, over his distinguished career, of taking leadership in the WHSFA organization and throughout the state of Wisconsin in a variety of roles, to facilitate the teaching of the fundamentals of theatre across the state.

Tom Lynch (Oshkosh West)

Tom Lynch, easily recognizable at the state festival by his full beard and ever present pipe, was a longtime director at Oshkosh West High School, from 1982 to 2000, and was one of the most successful directors to ever bring his shows to the State Theatre stage. Over the years of his involvement, he was awarded 8 Directing awards, and his casts garnered 8 Critic’s Choice awards for their high quality work. His work was done on an extremely wide pallet ranging from “They Danced real slow in Jackson”, to Steinbecks “The Grapes of Wrath”.

Clare McCain (Homestead High School)

Clare McCain has built a resume of wonderful shows that she has brought to the State Theatre Festival, many of which have been of Critic’s Choice quality. She always competed very hard at the State level, and the 12 Critic’s Choice, 33 Acting, 10 Directing, and 7 Ensemble awards that she was responsible for attest to her wonderful ability. She was influential in the creation of a one act class at Homestead High School, which speaks to her belief in the festival as a truly educational experience. She is very involved in the Milwaukee theatre community and has served as the host for a number of sub state theatre festivals over her tenure at Homestead High School.

Ted Moskonas (Wisconsin River Rapids)

Ted Moskonas is the former president of the Alliance of Wisconsin Theatre Educators. He was a recipient of the Outstanding Teacher Award from the Alliance of Wisconsin Theatre Educators for his fine work in theatre. His casts were always known for the quality work they did at the State Theatre Festivals and the 35 Directing, Acting, Ensemble, and Critic’s Choice awards won by Wisconsin Rapids are a testament to his talent. Ted currently works as the theatre manager of the Wisconsin Rapids Performing Arts Center and has for many years, served as an adjudicator at the State Theatre Festival.

Ron Parker (Kenosha Tremper/Appleton North)

Ron has always been considered one of the great One Act directors and the results that he has achieved at two separate high school’s(18 Critic’s Choice Awards, 10 Ensemble Awards, 8 Directing Awards, 34 Outstanding Acting Awards) over his career speak to that greatness. He is known for his generosity to others especially the beginning director. Despite his own success, there has never been an occasion where he has not been willing to help other directors, and would be the last person to talk about his own achievements, although in the history of the festival, they are monumental. He has always been fully aware of the importance of all facets of staging a production. A testament to this important trait is that his casts are the only ones who regularly get an audience ovation before their show begins, simply from the unified effort that they put forth to construct their sets. His casts were also known for doing the best Shakespeare at the State Theatre Festival. Ron has served the association in many capacities but especially as a workshop leader, sharing his expertise selflessly with both actors and directors from around the state and on multiple occasions has mounted both a competition piece as well as a showcase production. It is extremely fitting that Ron is at the top of the inaugural class of the Theatre Hall of Fame..

LJ Schlenk (Marquette High School)

LJ Schlenk was active as a director at Marquette High School in the 40’s and 50’s. His casts took part in the State theater festival from 1945-1955, and, in that short span of time, his casts won an ‘A’ or ‘B’ ranking (the equivalent of a Critic’s Choice award today) at the State theater festival seven times. One of his best shows was “A Night at an Inn” by Lord Dunsany in 1953, which was acclaimed as the best show at the State theater festival that year and received an ‘A’ ranking for the work done by his Marquette high school cast.

Lynda Sharpe (Middleton High School)

Lynda has a burning passion for theatre and it has found expression in many venues throughout her career as an educator throughout Wisconsin. The success of her casts and her direction of them has only been one facet of that career, but a very successful facet nonetheless. She has directed not only at Middleton High School, but at many other venues as well, including taking two of her casts to compete at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. She has always been known as a teacher who looks to create the best opportunities for her students to find success, and they have done so on many levels, including Broadway. Her success as a director on the State stage has included 27 overall awards, including 7 Critic’s Choice awards. Lynda is a thoroughly delightful person who continues to serve the theatre community in Wisconsin, even though she has retired from active teaching.

Michael Sherfinski (Mosinee High School)

Michael Sherfinski was an outstanding director for Mosinee High School for twelve years and was highly involved in the State One Act theater festival during his time there. His casts always brought a high quality product to the stage and that was recognized twenty seven times by the adjudicators for Outstanding awards at the State Festival. Michael was recognized by the festival five times as an outstanding director, and five of his shows received Critic’s Choice awards. Throughout their long history in the State Theatre Festival, Mosinee’s greatest success occurred while Michael was their director.

Bonnie B. Small (Oconomowoc High School)

Bonnie B. Small directed at Oconomowoc High School in the early 1930’s in the first years of the State theater festival’s history. Her productions dominated that early era, where her casts regularly took first place at the State theater festival during a time period when schools were ranked first, second, or third. Three of her most powerful shows were “Submerged” in 1932, “Cloudburst” in 1933, and “Dust of the Road” in 1934, all of which were awarded first place at State. Her shows were the first shows that moved away from what high schools generally did during that time period, which was cheap melodrama or “Toby-type” comedy, with no real literary or entertainment value. Her cast’s performances were ones that were not quickly forgotten by the state theatre festival audiences.

Herb Stoltenberg (Plymouth High School)

Herb is one of the most genuinely nice people who has ever been involved as a director at the State Theatre Festival. He is an extremely dedicated director who works very hard each and every year, no matter the talent level of his casts. That hard work has paid off on multiple occasions for Herb, as he has won 8 Critic’s Choice Awards, 10 Ensemble awards, and 6 Directing awards. He has always been very outgoing, warm, and thoroughly enjoys helping, not only his own students, but anyone else who involves themselves in the State Theatre Festival. He has generally been overlooked as a great director because he’s known more as a nice guy than a fierce competitor. His inclusion in the inaugural class in the WHSFA State Theatre Hall of Fame is a testament to the fact that you can be not only successful, but a nice guy as well.  

Tom Thaney (Brookfield Central)

Tom Thaney, is currently teaching at Wauwatosa West High School, but was known at WHSFA State Theatre festival, for his years as a director at Brookfield Central High School. He built a reputation for doing a series of musicals, including Pippin and Nunsense, that broadened the scope of the festival for all directors that followed him. While he has not competed for a long period of time, the great success that his casts had (35 State awards, including 8 Critic’s Choices and 21 student Acting awards) were emblematic of his power and ability as a director.



2012 Class  

Linda Aeppler (Brookfield East)

Linda Aeppler was always a very strong and very consistent director whose casts always brought a special level of excellence to their performances at the State theater festival. During her time at Brookfield East, she never had a theater to rehearse in and most of her work was done with her casts in the school’s cafeteria. She had a special love for melodrama and regularly chose to bring that under produced type of theater to the State stage. She was recognized seven times by the State adjudicators for her outstanding directing and her most outstanding shows (all of which received Critic’s Choice awards) were “Children, Children” in 1991, “Unknown Soldier” in 1994, and “Voices” in 1996. In her 20 years of directing, she brought a cast to the State theater festival 18 separate times.

Chris Andacht (Catholic Memorial)

Chris was introduced to the world of the WHSFA by Chuck Malone, who he now counts as a dear and valued friend. Chuck, beginning in 2001, repeatedly encouraged Chris and his Catholic Memorial casts to participate in the State theater festival and they finally did in 2002. Under Chuck’s guidance and continued connection, the Catholic Memorial theater community has had an incredible run of success at the State level. Beginning with their show “Cry of the Crows” in 2002, Chris’s casts have won a Critic’s Choice award every year since then. Chris and his company have embraced the Meisner approach, which leads to deeply riveting, authentic human acting by his actors and actresses that has resulted, during that same 10 year period, in a total of 39 outstanding acting awards (more than any other school in the history of the WHSFA). He has been awarded 10 outstanding directing awards, but is most proud of the fact that his three daughters Jennifer (2002), Kate (2004, 2005), and Amelia (2006, 2007, 2008), were all awarded outstanding acting awards at State. He is overjoyed to be entering the hall of fame in the same year as his daughter Amelia, who will be inducted this year for having been one of only three actors in the 116 year history of the association, to win three individual outstanding acting awards at State.

Roger Danielson (Appleton North/Appleton West)

Roger Danielson was a highly successful director and teacher of theater in the Appleton area from the late 1970’s through 1997. He directed at both Appleton North and Appleton West High Schools and was equally successful at both, in developing  programs that were strong theater companies that regularly competed at a very high level at the State theater contest. His work at the State theater festival has led him to be recognized more times (a total of 10) as an outstanding director than all but two other directors over the long history of the organization. The strong foundation that he built at Appleton North was continued by Ron Parker, and Appleton North is currently the only school to have two directing members elected to the hall of fame.

Ralph C. Lohse (Port Washington)

Ralph C. Lohse has had a long history of participation with the WHSFA State theater festival beginning in 1971 and extending through 2003. His Port Washington High School casts were recognized nine times with Critic’s Choice awards, and he himself was honored seven times as an outstanding director. During his tenure, Port Washington High School always staged strong performances that were well received at the State level.

Chuck Malone (Waukesha North/Waukesha West)

Chuck has always been known for his kindness, generosity, and compassion in dealing with both his students as well as any director who ever needed guidance or help, not only in the world of theater, but in life as well. He selflessly gave of himself for over 35 years at Waukesha North and Waukesha West, and his shows were regularly recognized for their acting strength, set design, costuming, and vision. He was a highly successful director at the State theater festival level, where he was especially successful at developing actors and actresses who were recognized on sixteen different occasions by the adjudicators for their outstanding acting. Three of his most successful shows were “Vanities”, “Larry Benson”, and “Flowers for Algernon” starring Rob Smith, who is now a successful actor and director in his own right. His gentle encouragement, willingness to share his expertise, and knowledge of the festival process have been shared many times with beginning directors without any thought for any reward other than rejoicing in their success. Chuck, in addition to being an outstanding director, has served the WHSFA at multiple levels for much of his adult life. Most recently, he was chosen to lead the WHSFA as its executive director and has done nothing but strengthen the organization since the first day he stepped into office. He is certainly a most worthy member of the theater hall of fame.

Gene Olson (McFarland)

Gene Olson has had a long and rewarding theater history at McFarland High School and in the State theater festival, which he entered for the first time in 1965. He was well known for having as much as 50% of the student body from McFarland high school involved in many of his shows. He enjoyed Shakespeare and loved putting a modern spin on many of William’s most famous works. The McFarland community loved and supported both him and his casts and would often bring three to four buses loaded with spectators to the State theater festival long before the time that parents got actively involved in the festival. His casts were recognized 12 times with Critic’s Choice awards, which speaks to the high quality of his shows and the demands that he placed on his student actors, who often achieved much more than they believed was possible. Gene recently passed away this last summer, still teaching in high school at the age of 85.

Holly Stanfield (Kenosha Bradford/Kenosha Ruther High School)

Holly Stanfield is one of the most talented directors to have ever brought a show to the State theater festival. She began at Kenosha Ruther in 1995 with a Critics Choice award for her first show “Medium” and brought her most recent show, “Lovers” by Brian Friel, to State with Kenosha Bradford in 2011. “Lovers” was a wonderful example of Holly’s ability to help her students find true life in the characters that they brought to the stage. The show simply grabbed its audience and wouldn’t let it go. Holly’s work has always been of outstanding quality. She has been involved with theater throughout the country on a national level and is recognized nationally for her expertise. She has established some wonderful ties with both a number of New York licensing houses, as well as the Disney Corporation, and has often premiered at Bradford High School their newly released shows. Thirteen of her actors and actresses have won acting awards at State and Holly has won five outstanding directing awards of her own. The schools that she has directed for have also won six Critic’s Choice awards during her involvement in the State theater festival.