Spotlight on Theatre Director Lori Carroll
It’s no secret that Wando High School is home to some of the most gifted young men and women in the Charleston area. From excellence in academics to superior sports teams, Wando seems to be teeming with talented students.
The Fine Arts Department is no exception.
The department is comprised of theatre, art, band, chorus, dance and orchestra. After being recognized nationally year after year, it’s safe to say some of this can be chalked up to leadership, and the woman behind the curtain: Lori Carroll.
Carroll, who is the Theatre Director and Fine Arts Department Chair, has been at Wando since it opened in 2004, but her background in theatre began long before then. Her childhood involved dance, band and choir and now, in the professional sphere as well, where she has been in theatre education for over 25 years.
Carroll refers to herself as a born educator and began her career as an English teacher before moving into theater education. After moving to Mount Pleasant from Ohio, she started teaching acting classes with the Charleston Stage Company.
“I think I was always interested in theatre, but just didn’t always have the accessibility to it until Charleston Stage,” she says.
She soon realized she could make more of an impact on students in theatre versus English and received her MA in Theatre Education from the University of South Carolina. Up until that time, she had never visited New York. She now visits every year for various workshops and to keep up with what’s happening on and off-Broadway.
“I love learning what is changing in theatre and bringing it back to Wando,” Carroll admits.
She currently teaches Theatre 1, 2, 3 as well as the Honors Theatre Ensemble. “You can honestly just see the kids get sucked into theatre. It’s such a cool thing to be a part of.”
The theatre department is busy throughout the year, with over 20 public performances each school year; including a fall play, comedy show, coffee house, Thursday Night Live, student-directed plays and a musical each February.
Carroll notes it truly is a school-wide effort with the musical, involving everyone from the band to techies to teachers, who help with the costumes. Their participation has resulted in it becoming a community tradition.
Many students participate in Drama 1 as an elective and then have the option to continue to pursue some of the more advanced classes. Carroll estimates there’s around 100 or so students who are heavily involved in the theatre department.
“In such a huge school, everyone needs a safe space and, for many, the theatre is that safe space where people don’t have to worry about being judged,” Carroll says.
Some of Carroll’s students have gone on to work in professional theatres or study theatre throughout the Southeast, New York and London, with one student stage managing a theme park in Dubai.
“They’re learning life skills along the way and it ends up being much more than a grade. From psychology to marketing. It’s honestly like a small business for them. The students create the posters, write the press releases, oversee lighting and sound, costuming. They’re forced to problem solve, work collaboratively, follow instructions and take initiative,” Carroll says.
Carroll believes that the students who decide not to pursue the theatre gain valuable life lessons—beyond acting skills—as a result of being involved in the theatre department.
“It’s not just about teaching theatre . . . it’s about preparing these students to be successful and overall good human beings,” she says.