OLATHE, Kan. — Early each year a non-profit group called The English-Speaking Union of the United States holds competitions all over the country to find the best high school Shakespearean actors. This week’s Fox 4 Young Achiever is Kansas City’s champion for 2013. And it’s nearly time for Wyatt McCall to hit the stage for the national competition.
“Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious summer by this sun of York.”
So begins Wyatt McCall, alone on the imposing auditorium stage of Olathe Northwest High School. It is the famous soliloquy that starts Richard the Third. And aside from the typical high school jeans and casual shirt he’s wearing, Wyatt makes one absolutely believe he is the evil, brooding, deformed British monarch of Shakespeare’s tragic play.
“When he takes on a role, he changes,” says Olathe Northwest theater instructor Robin Murphy in admiration and awe. “You will see a much older man. You’ll see a much more devious man. And you will see a little bit of evil in Richard the Third that you would never see in Wyatt McCall.”
And although he is just coming to the end of his junior year at Olathe Northwest, Wyatt already has an impressive mastery of The Bard’s challenging language and meaning.
“Like butter in his mouth,” says Murphy. “Like it was his second language. He not only could speak it beautifully, he got it. You really, as a listener, understood what he was saying.”
“The essence of Shakespeare is the people,” says Wyatt. “The words really never intimidate me. The phrases never intimidate me because I knew what the characters were like so it was really just a way of the characters expressing the words. The feeling comes with the words naturally when you sort of get an understanding for it. I feel like I’m really good at sort of feeling how these characters would react.”
With his uncanny talent and understanding, Wyatt rode this fascinating character to the championship of the English-Speaking Union’s Kansas City region Shakespeare Competition for high school actors a few weeks ago. And in less than two weeks Wyatt will travel to New York City for the national competition with dozens of other regional champions.
“It’s sort of reinforced the feeling that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing,” says Wyatt.
Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage.” And the stage is becoming a world of success for Wyatt. He burst onto the scene in performing arts at Olathe Northwest seemingly out of nowhere as a sophomore, and had taken no theater or vocal music classes there before.
“I’d been playing hockey,” he laughs. But the lure of the stage snagged him.
“Yeah,” says Wyatt. “Because I loved the movies. I loved acting with my friends. Playing pretend. I was good at impressions and my parents were like, ‘We need to get him involved in this kind of stuff.'”
Now Wyatt’s a star member of Olathe Northwest’s repertory class for advanced theater students and he’s in the school’s top choral group. And over the past two years he’s soared in major productions there. Captain Hook in Peter Pan. Benedick in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. And Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof.
“Wyatt has everything on a real natural basis,” says Murphy. “He works so hard and his work ethic is so driven by his passion for what he is doing that he makes it appear effortless. And he can take on any character and really make it his own. And with ease. All of these diverse roles with ease. And always knows his lines before anybody else. Always willing to experiment. Always willing to take direction very well.”
With all of that going for him, Wyatt’s setting his sights on a performing career. And he knows the experience doing Shakespeare in New York City with other terrific teenage actors will be a big step toward that goal.
“It’s going to be a great experience,” says Wyatt. “I know that. And I really don’t know where it’s going to take me but I’m really excited to see where it does take me. That’s for sure.”
The English-Speaking Union of the United States is a non-profit organization that celebrates English as a shared language to foster global understanding and good will by providing educational and cultural opportunities like the National Shakespeare Competition. Wyatt’s day in the spotlight will be April 22 on stage at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center in New York City.
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