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Mical Whitakers everlasting mark in Statesboro, Bulloch
Bulloch County Black History Month 2017
W Mical Whitaker
Mical Whitaker

Witty, classy, outspoken, knowledgeable, well-traveled, polite with a splash of Southern charm coupled with a thick layer of New York temerity all tempered with a goodly dose of genuine sensitivity. Blend it all together and you have Mical Whitaker, the well-known producer and director of "The Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee Story Hour," a retired assistant professor of theater at Georgia Southern University, and the founder and past director of the Statesboro Youth Theatre at the Averitt Center for the Arts.

Whitaker still teaches and directs African-American Theatre at GSU and acts as the artistic director of The Arts at Willow Hill. Recently, he directed his annual "Behold Here Cometh the Dreamer" production, celebrating MLK Day. And in Statesboro and Bulloch County, Mical Whitaker is an icon for black theater - indeed, all theater.

He is distinctive, not only in intellect but also in talent. Therefore, it is not a wonder that this theatrical guru is both unusual and traditional at the same time, preferring a pot of Southern cooked neck bones, which he cooks himself, to lobster tail or prime rib.

The daisy-chaining of his life proves interesting as each episode connects prophetically to the next. An adopted 9-month-old-baby boy, Whitaker has been staged in many roles from Metter to Pennsylvania to New Jersey to Washington, D.C., to New York and then back home again. In fact, his upcoming biography is to be written by Derrick Bailey.

"The dots will connect themselves," Whitaker's grandmother said.

Born Feb. 10, 1941, Mical made his debut as the adopted son of Ellis and Alma Whitaker, both educators. From the beginning, Mical was immersed in education.

"I always went to school," he said. And he adored English. His father fostered Mical's love for public speaking. In fact, with his father's help, Mical won several elementary oratorical contests. However, his true talent for the theater surfaced in New York.

The 75-year-old Aquarian is true to his astrological sign. Aquarian males are considered brilliant communicators, incredibly creative, highly intelligent, social, independent and original thinkers.

While at Wildwood High School in New Jersey, he polished his oratorical skills.

However, he said: "Although I enjoyed my moments in the limelight, it wasn't until I was a freshman at Howard University that I even considered the possibility of a career on the stage."

Whitaker became totally engrossed with the Howard Players, the university's premiere drama group. Mical said he saw them "creating real, honest-to-God theater."

At Howard, he earned roles in plays by Owen Dodson, a Yale MFA graduate.

In 1961, Mical became aware that he "could pursue the dream of working in theater."

Therefore, he left Washington, D.C., and headed to New York City.

Meeting Harlem's esteemed Rev. Eugene Adair and his wife, Dr. Thelma Adair, Mical became acquainted with New York's children. Later, while attending acting school, he worked for the East River Houses Children's Center, where he directed Harlem's children in Greek dramas.

Twelve years later, those same actors became his esteemed East River Players, established in 1964. Then, Edith Issacs gave him the directorship over the newly built Theater Arts Center. And Mical Whitaker, the successful New York director - 1961-1981 - was born.

Tragically, he buried three family matriarchs from 1975-1976 - and with an aging father, Mical returned home, jobless. However, he received an adjunct professorship teaching theater at Georgia Southern, and the rest is local black history.

In 2003, he directed "Statesboro Bluefront," a documentary of the early black businesses on front street. Also, many know Whitaker for his annual "Tales from the Tomb" appearances as the ghost of educator William James, the founder of a local school and a good friend of Marvin Pittman, GSU laboratory school's founder. As James, Mical brings a part of local black history back to life.
Today, Mical is noted for seeking out and developing local talent.

His first local drama using an all-black cast was "The Amen Corner" (1982), next "Raisin in the Sun" (1994), "Intimate Apparel" (2009) and "Dreamgirls" (2016).
In fact, Whitaker has directed and/or acted in more than 50 campus productions. In 2015, GSU honored him with the Mical Whitaker African-American Scholarship for his 30-year theatrical legacy.

Accolades follow him like actors crossing a stage: the Seattle-area Emmy, a CEBA Award, an AUDELCO award, Chicago's Joseph Jefferson Award and The Kennedy Center ACTF Meritorious Achievement Award in Directing.

His words to the wise are to recite the 23rd Psalm while walking the streets of Harlem and to always "follow your heart."

Mical truly has.

 

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