By Jeff Barr/weloveannarbor.com
All freshmen have adjustments to make when entering high school, but Skyline senior drama student Amanda Wilhoit faced more than most four years ago.
Not only was Wilhoit entering a new school, she had just come into a new country. Having lived the previous 12 years in Asia – four in Japan and eight in Singapore – as her father was employed there by Wacher, a chemical company, Wilhoit remembers looking for something that would help her find her way.
Theater was her path.
“I remember moving to Michigan and feeling kind of lost,” said Wilhoit, 17. “I tried crew, I considered a dance studio, I was looking for some activity to get involved in.
“Then I went out for ‘Adams Family,’ the musical we did my freshman year, and I knew I found what I was looking for. Theatre was my home, my community. I knew it instantly.”
Wilhoit attended private American International Schools through the 8th grade in Asia and the transition to Skyline was drastic, to say the least.
“The whole concept of public high school was quite foreign to me,” she said. “I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I remember being so surprised when the seniors, and especially the juniors, in theatre went out of their way to make feel welcome.
“Theatre was such a big part of my life right away. It was a huge part of what made my transition to public school, to the United States so much smoother than it could have been otherwise.”
Under Skyline Theatre Program Director Anne-Marie Roberts, Wilhoit has not looked back once she set her sights on Theatre Class and Drama Club. She has appeared in musicals and straight-acting plays, and she has acted and also served in the technical crew.
“She has done it all,” Roberts said. “Amanda doesn’t shy away from anything. You can tell she loves what she’s doing.”
After a featured-dance appearance in the Ensemble in “Addams Family” as a freshman, Wilhoit managed lights the same year for “Macbeth.” As a sophomore, she played Amy Spettigue – a supporting lead – in “Charlie’s Aunt,” and also had a featured dance in the “Beauty and the Beast” Ensemble. She played the female secondary antagonist, Madame Thenardier, in “Les Miserables” as a junior and the same year appeared in “The Diviners.”
As a senior, she was a stage manager for “Romeo and Juliet,” and she plans to audition for the spring musical, “Shrek,” when Christmas break is finished.
Oh, one more thing. Wilhoit is president of the Student Leadership Board for Theatre. Once she started in theatre, there was no looking back.
“One of the big parts of being President of the Student Leadership Board is trying to get more recognition for our program, and for arts in general,” she said. “Athletics gets more recognition, and arts always seems to struggle to get noticed as much as it deserves to be.”
One way that the Skyline Theatre program raises awareness, as well as much-need funds is the annual Get Hype Cabaret, which is led by assistant director Brady Brockie. The cabaret was held in November and contained scenes and shows from various shows.
“It gives lots of people a chance at lead roles,” Wilhoit said. “Some people who might not get a chance otherwise.”
Wilhoit will attend Tufts University in Boston next fall, majoring in community health with a minor in Chinese. But that doesn’t mean she will leave drama behind. She plans to continue in theatre, whether it be on the community stage or as an extra-curricular activity.
The Skyline senior has never regretted her participated in theatre; in fact, despite all the hard work of rehearsing, working on sets, technical aspects, learning lines, dances and everything else that goes into a production, she says she wouldn’t change a thing.
“Our theatre program helped shape my character, helped me find my place in Ann Arbor,” she said. “I tell everyone they should take part in theatre because it’s a community like no other.”
For more information on Skyline High School Theatre, go to https://www.skylinehstheatre.org/