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West Ashley Flashback — A Well-Polished Show

Mr. Hester’s St. Andrew’s Parish High School musicals were the event of the spring season

The ladies demonstrate the “Can-Can” as part of one of Mr. Hester’s productions. 
(Photograph courtesy of Tom Fowler)The ladies demonstrate the “Can-Can” as part of one of Mr. Hester’s productions. (Photograph courtesy of Tom Fowler)

August 8, 2017
By Donna Jacobs | Contributing Writer

Mr. Hester’s musicals were the cultural event of the spring season in St. Andrew’s Parish High School. Known to his students as “Fess,” short for Professor, Mr. Hester honed his directing skills through his acting in Footlight plays. His summers would be spent in New York City taking in the latest shows on Broadway. He would return to Charleston with ideas and enthusiasm for organizing large-scale productions.

“Fess’s” enthusiasm was infectious and during the spring of most school years the members of the Dramatic Club, later known as the Players’ Club, would entertain the community as if they were on Broadway.

“We were ‘Glee’ before there was ‘Glee” recounts Stella Milton Kearse. Showtime (1945), Curtain Time (1947), Encore (1956), Two on the Aisle (1957), Showtime on Broadway (1963), Broadway Melody (1964), New York, New York (1965), and Show Business are just some of the names of programs produced during Mr. Hester’s tenure as faculty advisor to the club.

Open a dialogue with any St. Andrew’s Parish High School alumni about Mr. Hester’s musicals and adoration is what you hear. His students have fond memories and great stories of their time under his leadership and tutelage. With his guidance, the students came up with the ideas, choreographed the numbers, designed costumes, practiced, smiled, and put on quite a show in the school auditorium.

They were huge successes with the students’ enthusiasm for “Fess” and the whole experience reflected in each production.

In addition to the students who sang and danced on stage, there was a whole production staff: stage assistants, spotlight controllers, scenery constructors, ushers, musicians, and program designers. It might have been hard to find the student who was not involved at some level in each show.

It seems every alumni has a personal story about these musical revues and the memorabilia fill the scrapbooks of many of them. There are tattered programs with signatures and comments of the cast, programs with “Fess’s” direction notes, photographs, newspaper articles, reviews, and tickets. Words like “capacity audience”, “elaborate costumes”, “precision dancing” and “well-polished show” were used in the newspaper articles describing the shows. The community anticipated these shows in the spring and the students delivered – thanks to Mr. Hester.

What is your story about Mr. Hester? Contact Donna Jacobs at westashleybook@gmail.com.


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