During the school year, most of the classrooms at Statesboro High School are buzzing with strict lectures on topics like algebraic equations and scientific reasoning. Once you reach the cafeteria, however, the tension begins to lift. Just past the hum of student chatter come the compelling — and often questionable — sounds of the fine arts wing.
On your way down the hallway, you may see the latest student artwork that adorns the walls, or hear the brassy trumpet notes bellowing from the band room. But amidst the rich visuals and sounds of music rings an unmistakable voice that fills the auditorium with a boisterous flare. His name is Eddie Frazier, and he teaches drama to 200 of the “brightest and goofiest” students at SHS.
Originally from Wrightsville, Georgia, Frazier has lived in Statesboro since his college years. After earning a bachelor’s degree through Georgia Southern University, he went on to begin his career at SHS as an English teacher. Though he had every intention of teaching literature, fate had other plans for him.
“I wasn’t really given a choice when I started teaching drama,” he said, letting out a small chuckle. “The principal at the time told me that my predecessor was leaving. He (the principal) knew that I had some theater experience in high school and college, so that’s how I got it. I realized very quickly that performing drama is a whole different kettle of fish than teaching it. The first few years I honestly didn’t know if I was supposed to be there. It wasn’t until my third year of teaching drama that I figured out what in the world I was doing,” he said.
No matter how lost he may have felt at the time, hindsight shows that he was on the right track all along. Sixteen years later, Frazier has become the Fine Arts Department chair, while simultaneously expanding the drama program in more ways than just attendance. Since SHS moved schools back in 2010, Frazier’s classes inherited a lot more resources to practice and learn with. Now that they have access to a state of the art auditorium, Frazier says his students are able to do more shows than ever — a privilege that had previously been denied due to the spatial limitations of the old school. With an average of six to seven shows per year, 2020’s calendar is already filling up with performances like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and, of course, the legendary Vaudeville.
When he is not busy teaching and directing his students, Frazier spends some of his free time at the Averitt Center for the Arts. Through performing in various roles like Uncle Fester from The Addams Family, and Dr. Frank-N-Furter from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Frazier says being on stage helps with his teaching skills behind the scenes. His experience as an actor allows him to level with his students in an empathetic way.
“I had forgotten how hard it was to learn lines or remember my blocking notation. So while teaching my students, I could honestly say, ‘Babies, I know how hard it is. I’m doing it right now.’ And in that light I was able to gain a more rounded perspective,” he said.
Aside from directing his own shows at SHS, Frazier’s next big event is happening for one night only, at the Whitaker Black Box Theater on Feb. 29. As part of the ONE: series, Frazier will be singing and performing a timeline of pieces that he has enjoyed throughout his career. This will include songs from shows like Mary Poppins, and 9 to 5. He will even feature one of his former students dancing en pointe to the song, “Feed the Birds,” while he sings alongside her.
The fact that he is reuniting with one of his former students shows just how much of an impact creativity can have on one’s adult life. It’s easy to see how this aspect of the fine arts could inadvertently take precedence over a grade scale. It’s not the A’s and B’s that shape us, but rather the limitless bounds of creativity that prepare us for a lifetime of reality.
“I hope that my students are able to take something with them and that they think about things differently. I want to give them the confidence to engender their own creativity. I think you live longer when you have an imagination. And I want my kids to live a long life where they have the creative space to jump out there and say, ‘Hey, what about this?’ To me that is the most important takeaway from my job,” he said.
This mindset has allowed students to tap into their true potential without holding back in fear. Perhaps it is because of this creative freedom that Frazier’s drama program has recently been nominated for the Tony Excellence and Theater Education Award in High School Theater.
No doubt that when it comes time for his retirement, the next person in charge will have some very big shoes to fill. For now, though, Frazier will continue building his legacy at SHS, and using the theater to temporarily remove us from our personal drama so that we might grasp the meaning of the phrase, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” (William Shakespeare)