Booker Sets the Stage to Say Goodbye

“He Built This Department.” – H. Scott Keys

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Booker High School has seen many teachers come and go through the years; however, in 2015 we will lose perhaps one of the most prominent, game-changing expert educator Booker has known, Mr. Kenneth Wiegers. As VPA Theatre/Technical Coordinator, he has built breathtaking sets for over 120 shows at Booker High School, which have taken Booker’s Theatre to countless state competitions.

Kenneth Wiegers studied and earned his Bachelor’s degree in Art and Theatre from Viterbo University, in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Wayne State University, in Detroit, Michigan. He first came to Booker High in 1985, and no one could predict the impact he would have on the school 30 years later.

His legacy will live on in Sarasota, Florida. The City Commission recently declared June 2 as Ken Wiegers Day. Our current theatre was masterminded and built solely by himself, the plans began in 1992, and they were finished 1995. In his own words, Mr. Wiegers recalls his past 30 years as a colleague, teacher, mentor, friend, and student of the theatre as “rewarding beyond years.”
When Mr. Wiegers first came to the Booker campus, he was unsure and was not made aware that he was actually applying for a job at a high school, and upon interview, Wiegers was originally rejected. However, in the summer of 1985, the course of Booker changed forever when Kenneth Wiegers accepted a job offer working as a stagecraft teacher in Booker’s theatre department.

The Tornado Tribune spoke with his peers and colleagues to find out just how fond of Mr. Wiegers they are, and what their personal favorite sets were.

Rebecca King, Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator, recalls that Wiegers was her own stagecraft teacher. She shared a personal experience as a result of having been a student of Wiegers.

“I tore down and rebuilt my entire kitchen, and I really think I owe that to working with power tools as a 14-year-old-girl.” King credits The Wiz as one of her favorite sets, and said that she enjoyed his simplicity, while capturing the true element of the show, whose setting was in Kansas. Perhaps one of the more eccentric shows, Annie Get Your Gun, is also a show that is close to King’s heart, once again, due to the simple set, while having characters “hanging from things and spinning while knives were being thrown at them.”

Johnnie Mnich, theatre adjunct, simply states his fondest memory was “the day he hired me!”

Nick Jones, former Booker student and now adjunct teacher to the theatre department said he has too many memories to count. Perhaps the fact that he comes to work every day, sees Mr. Wiegers and still continues to learn from him, would be Jones’ fondest thoughts regarding all Wiegers has to offer both himself and his students. Anyone who knows Jones knows that he and Wiegers have worked closely through the years. Wiegers taught Nick so much of what he presently knows and understands about lighting a show, building a show, and tearing down a show. He credits the set of ‘Sideshow’ as being his favorite, and feels much like King, crediting the simplicity, yet depth that went into creating the set.

In a brief interview with H. Scott Keys, theatre director and instructor, Keys recalls the times that he would go over to the Wiegers’ house and play cards just to enjoy each other’s company. Keys became foggy eyed when thinking of just how different producing a show would be without, in his words, “the backbone of the department,” Ken Wiegers. Keys makes clear that Wiegers never said “No” to any ideas Keys may have had, no matter their complications or absurdities. Wiegers would always find a way to figure it out and bring the ideas to fruition, making the shows come to life.

Keys was asked how the theater department might change without Wiegers. Keys quickly responded “Exponentially… We are not looking for someone to fill his shoes; no one can.” He further said, “I’m sure there will be times where I will pick up the phone and say ‘Hey, Ken, how do we do this? Or how can we make this happen?’ He will be missed…”

Keys could not recall a favorite set. He said everyone [each set] is unique and special.

Kenneth Wiegers surely left his mark here at Booker High School and a simple “thank you” does not come close to enough. He will be missed and his absence will be felt state-wide. His plans for retirement include a move to California with his wife to be closer to family. Needless to say, everyone who rubs shoulders with Kenneth Wiegers in the Sarasota community will miss him.

Mr. Kenneth Wiegers, on behalf of all of the Tornado Tribune, thank you for your art, your expertise, your dedication, and your legacy. You have left Booker High School a better place.

News Article about Mr. Weiger.

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The student news site of Booker High School.
Booker Sets the Stage to Say Goodbye