Celebrating 100 Years of Oakland Technical High School
Tom Whayne, Drama Teacher, 1960s
First, let me say that teaching at Tech in the ‘60’s was a privilege. We teachers should have paid the system! The student body was live, game, integrated, and energetic both physically and spiritually. What a joy! As the drama teacher, I could have done any play in the books. How about a rock Oedipus or Waiting for Godot (I have always regretted not doing Godot at Tech, but, of course the cast is skimpy – four, and all men). Why was the school so wonderful in those years? Maybe, it was partly the time, with ideas and verve slipping down Telegraph Avenue (the “Ave”) from Sather Gate!
I started teaching there in 1959 (I was previously at Hamilton Jr. High). In 1959, the auditorium was where the library now is. The new auditorium opened in 1960, I believe. I did the first play there, The Adding Machine, an expressionist play by Elmer Rice. I thought the auditorium should be opened by a significant work of art. The reception was, shall we say, moderate.
My daily program usually looked like this: Advanced Drama, Beginning Drama, Stagecraft, an English class, and two conference periods. The extra conference period was a balance for all the extra time (afternoon and night rehearsals) spent at school.
The plays were mostly cast from my drama classes. The exception was musicals which were open to all students.
As far as actors from my classes:
Ted Lange — The Love Boat, That’s My Mama, he’s now directing 2 series for BET. We get together maybe once a year.
Anita and Bonnie (then “Pat”) Pointer of the Pointer Sisters
Wolfe Perry – The White Shadow (TV)
Paul Bates – Coming to America, 8 Mile, Bad Teacher (films)
Notes on the auditorium: The Black Panthers once took over an assembly. They collected money for the Huey Newton Defense Fund! Huey Newton once spoke there in an after-school, voluntary assembly. (I had a Panther in Beginning Drama – Oleander Harrison – nice kid).