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Whitaker inducted into Ga. Theatre Hall of Fame

Local actor, teacher, director is honored for artistic contributions

Whitaker inducted into Ga. Theatre Hall of Fame

Whitaker inducted into Ga. Theatre Hall of Fame

Mical Whitaker

Mical Whitaker has developed a reputation over his 50-year career.
    As a teacher who imparts not only knowledge, but passion for theater. As an actor who can take on almost any role. And as a director who not only promotes black theater but has tackled everything from Shakespeare to children’s plays.
    Now his home state is honoring that career.
    On Saturday, Whitaker was formally inducted into the Georgia Theatre Hall of Fame during the state’s annual theater conference in Kingsland. The Hall of Fame was established in 2008 to recognize exemplary contributions and accomplishments of theater practitioners from, or working in, the state of Georgia. He joins artists who include Ossie Davis and Jeff Foxworthy.
    “It was a total surprise,” Whitaker said. “It is beyond anything I’ve ever worked for.”
    His love of theater began when he left Metter to attend Howard University in Washington, D.C., and was cast in his first performance freshman year – the chorus of a Greek tragedy. After that he was hooked and soon decided to move to New York City, where he spent the next 20 years acting in everything from street performances to international festivals.
    During the 1960s and ’70s he developed his own theater company, The East River Players, which flourished as one of the city’s most important and influential African American theater voices.
    With the help of Geraldine Fitzgerald, Whitaker founded the Everyman Street Theater Company, and in the early 1970s developed the Everyman Street Theater Festival. The festival took place over two days in the plaza of the Lincoln Center. The annual event continues today, now known as the Lincoln Center Out of Doors, and is an annual 20-day celebration of live theater.  Additionally, Whitaker directed the Black Theatre Festival USA and the International Black Theater Festival in the same location.
    Whitaker also served on the governing board of the Black Theater Alliance, was the artistic director for the Richard Allen Center for Culture and Art, and was the producer and director of the 1979 Black Theatre Festival USA – the first national black theater festival. He produced a nationally syndicated radio show, “The Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee Story Hour” and was a longtime director of the annual AUDELCO Awards ceremony.
    In 1981, Whitaker returned to Georgia and began teaching at Georgia Southern College. During his tenure, he directed or acted in more than 100 theater productions and was instrumental in bringing black theater to campus.
    His work in African-American theater has been recognized with two Fulbright fellowships: in 1991 to Duke University and in 1992 to the University of Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania, East Africa.  
Despite retiring as a professor from Georgia Southern University in 2005, Whitaker has remained as busy as ever. He has performed in or directed 35 plays including performing locally as Hoke in “Driving Miss Daisy” and directing Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie,” for which he won the inaugural Emma Award for Best Director.
    Whitaker has also taken on the role of director of the Averitt Center’s Youth Theater.
    “Youth theater has always been my real love,” he said.
    When he moved to New York City, his first job was in a day care center in East Harlem.  Whitaker became a very popular figure because of the theater tricks and games he would do with the kids.
    “Maybe it’s because I’m a kid at heart,” he said. “But children are just so willing to do anything. When you tell a kid to be a cow, they’ll be a cow.”
    “The art of creativity is not something everyone has within oneself,” said Tim Chapman, the executive director of the Averitt Center. “However, God provided Mical Whitaker with an abundance of this special talent. I have seen him take someone's idea and turn that idea into a full theatrical production. He is quite amazing.”
    Whitaker also returns to the GSU campus every other year to teach a class in African-American Theatre, which he began in 1981.
    Whitaker’s numerous awards include the Seattle-area Emmy for the television production “Cellar George,” a CEBA Award for the radio production “The Beauty of Things Black,” an AUDELCO Award (New York) for Langston Hughes’ “Simply Heavenly” and Chicago’s Joseph Jefferson Citation for James Baldwin’s “The Amen Corner.” As director of the International Black Theatre Festival at Lincoln Center, he traveled extensively throughout Europe, Africa and the Caribbean.  He is a graduate of North Carolina A&T State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in professional theater. 
    “I knew when I got into theater, I’d found my niche,” Whitaker said. “It’s not work because I love it. I know that I am blessed.”

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