Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Westminster Drama Club – Ethan Shaw

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Ethan Shaw
Sophomore, Westminster School at Oak Mountain

Westminster’s clubs and other avenues of extracurricular involvement have been a topic of frequent discussion over the past few years. Each year brings new opportunities for students to become involved with all the school has to offer outside of academics. However, last August brought something special and unique to the students of the Upper School. Mr. Riley Kross, an alumnus of Furman University with a degree in English literature, recently joined the Westminster faculty as a humanities teacher. Mr. Kross, in addition to his expertise in the realms of literature and public speaking, possesses a love for drama tempered by substantial experience as a playwright. As a result he has introduced a revitalization of the thespian arts within the Upper School. Since the performance of the musical Annie several years ago, there has not been a significant theatrical endeavor at Westminster. Even so, a good bit of interest has remained among the student body, which has helped to fuel the current attempt to remedy that situation.

Mr. Kross has taken charge of the initiative to create a Westminster drama club much like what has existed in past years, but he has added a few distinctive features. For one, this year’s drama club is characterized by improvisational exercises in the form of games. These are largely based off the format of the television show Whose Line Is It Anyway?, although many are variations of games from the show or even completely new inventions. Such games allow a student to gain confidence in acting with and in front of one another, and they sharpen the student’s capability of thinking on the spot while portraying a specific character. Additionally, Mr. Kross has introduced playwriting, an area of strong personal experience, to his drama students during the spring semester. He divided the students into groups of two to three and is allowing each group to compose a unique play of roughly ten minutes with the goal to perform later this year. This process is twofold: it incorporates the major elements of literary composition including plot and character development, while it also offers group acting experience to students.

Sophomore Joey Gissendaner, a proud member of the Westminster drama club since its inception, is currently working with two other students on a play that assesses relationships within the acting world itself. The three have created a story detailing an interview between a director and an actor as it unfolds. Gissendaner remarks that playwriting is a lot of fun but still somewhat difficult due to a lack of prior training. Thankfully, the nature of the club is such that all students are encouraged to come and take part regardless of varying levels of experience. He goes on to state, “Drama club lets me connect with kids I would not otherwise connect with in a way that’s lighthearted and fun.” To Gissendaner and many others, drama club both sharpens one’s acting skills as well as provides a means for building relationships with students of similar interests.

Daniel Hughes, also a Westminster sophomore, joined the drama club more recently but has quickly rekindled a passion for acting and is now in regular attendance at the weekly meetings. He relates that acting is a family legacy for him and that it seems theater has always been a part of his life. “I just enjoy acting,” he explains frankly. Hughes stresses that drama club offers him a way “to hang out with friends and have fun.” He especially enjoys being a part of the wide variety of improvisational games available to the students. Among his personal favorites is the question game, in which students rotating in two lines do their best to carry on a conversation by only asking questions of each other. He also enjoys table swap, where four students engage in a dialogue while four personality traits rotate between them. Hughes is also currently a part of a group working on a play titled Poor Shundley. The setting of the play is the office of an arrogant but incapable lawyer who makes a hobby out of harassing his hard-working clerk Mr. Shundley. The storyline centers around a conversation between the lawyer and a spoiled college graduate interviewing for a job at the firm, who likewise sets himself at odds with the meek Mr. Shundley. Hughes, who portrays the abused clerk, explains how he enjoys playing this role. He jokes, “Shundley is a funny character, probably more hard-working than I am!” Despite the differences in character, however, Hughes appreciates how portraying someone unlike oneself can be beneficial and allow a person to explore more fully the dynamics of human emotion. Altogether, Hughes views the playwriting/acting experience as one that is ultimately creative in nature, but he also notes that it is a great way to institute team-building among students.

Apart from just these specific testimonies, the lure of the dramatic experience is one that has captivated mankind since ages past. The Greco-Roman world was marked by an obsession with the spectacle of theater. The great tragic and comedic playwrights of the ancient world were those who best captured on stage fragments of the ever-so-intricate human experience. At a school devoted to a classical curriculum, it is more than appropriate that students have the opportunity to experience one of the cultural phenomena of classical times. Furthermore, drama does much to enrich the world of Christian education. It provides a unique and exciting means of offering vivid portrayal to the wide spectrum of human emotions which have been created by God. Westminster now possesses a direct avenue of contact with this art, perfected over the centuries by giants such as Thespis, Aeschylus, and Shakespeare. It would seem, then, that there can be nothing left to do but take the step of faith out onto the world’s stage.


The Westminster drama club meets weekly every Tuesday during lunch in Mr. Kross’s classroom. All Upper School students interested are encouraged to attend. Contact Mr. Riley Kross with any questions. 

The Camera – Katie Brooks Boone

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Katie Brooks Boone
Mr. Carrell
May 16, 2013

The camera was seen in earliest form as the “camera obscura.” The idea for this “dark chamber” was first recorded by an ancient Chinese philosopher named Mo Ti who discovered that focused images can be created when light passes through a small hole and into a dark area. The inverted image created by this light would translate to a picture. Other ancient philosophers also studied this idea by viewing solar eclipses through a pinhole to create a sharper image of the sun. Eventually, the idea of observing projected images was done in a dark room with a pinhole on the opposite wall, hence the name “camera obscura.”

Around a century later, the camera obscura became a portable drawing device for copying projected image. And in an effort to more permanently preserve these images, many experiments were done with various light exposures to automatically create detailed copies of the projected image. Over time the portable camera became more efficient and it became possible to photograph images with exposure to a light-sensitive material. In 1826 Joseph Nicephore Niepce made the first permanent photograph with a sliding wooden box camera. As time progressed, the method of exposure in portable cameras became much quicker and more accurate. More light-sensitive photographic materials were used to create clear images, and mechanical shutter devices were incorporated to allow shorter and more accurate timed exposures. In the 1920s, the electronic video tube was invented which allowed further development of a projected image. This device converted optical images into electrical signals. And naturally, more efficient models were created and new digital forms of photography quickly replaced the old film-based cameras.

Today camera’s are used every day by millions of people who do not think twice about the number of megapixels in their iphone camera. But the invention of the camera has made an unfathomable impact on the culture we live in. Newspapers, magazines, and books all are heavily supplied with pictures taken by thousands of high-tech cameras that we easily take for granted. Without it, society would lack the ability to preserve beautiful images that will last for a lifetime.

Carter Lemons – The Bad News of Ecclesiastes

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Carter Lemons
January 30, 2013
10A Hermeneutics

According to a study by Emory University, an average of 864,950 people attempt suicide every year. This means that one person attempts suicide every thirty-eight seconds. This alarming statistic shows how many people see life: pointless. They see good people suffering while the wicked thrive, and a plethora of other travesties that exist in the world. The book of Ecclesiastes seems to provide some insight into this grim matter. It conveys that life on earth is absolutely meaningless, that it is all smoke, so people should enjoy all that God has given. However, the purpose of the book is to warn God’s people that, even though they should enjoy themselves, their actions will be judged. For God’s people, there is really no good news.

Ecclesiastes opens with a description of the world. “Smoke, nothing but smoke. [That’s what the Quester says.] There’s nothing to anything- it’s all smoke.”1 The author believes that everything on the earth is useless, and finds that there is nothing new. He goes on to address the fact that life is futile, and everything people do on earth is vanity. The Quester talks about how he built great houses and vineyards and parks but then realized that it was vanity.2 It was smoke. Another message conveyed in Ecclesiastes is that no one will be remembered. The Quester tells a story about a wise man who saved his small village from an attacking king. Despite the victory, the man was forgotten.3 The Quester’s conclusion in regard to all the vanity in the world is that people should just enjoy themselves. At the end of chapter five, the Quester states that the best way to live is to make the most of what God gives. People should have a good time. To quote the author, “That’s the human lot.”4

Given the grim message of Ecclesiastes, it is no surprise that the suicide attempt rate is as high as it is. A life with no higher purpose is hardly worth living. However, there is a purpose to the book. While Ecclesiastes is not meant to depress people, it serves as a warning to them. The final two verses clearly state, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgement, with every secret thing, whether good or evil”5 The Quester warns the people of Israel that, while everything on earth is ultimately vanity, God will hold them accountable for all their actions. Reflecting on his own experience throughout the book, the author hopes to prevent God’s people from making the same mistakes he did.

While the warning was beneficial to Israel, there is really no good news for them in Ecclesiastes. As a matter of fact, it was bad news that God was going judge everyone’s actions. It is impossible to keep the multitude of Jewish laws, so everyone would suffer from God’s judgement. Ecclesiastes is just another reminder to the 864,950 people who attempt suicide and to everyone else of the grim fact that the world is fallen. As a solution, the Quester encourages his readers to enjoy life, but remember God’s coming judgement. “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”6


1 Ecclesiastes 1:2
2 Ecclesiastes 2:4-6
3 Ecclesiastes 9:13-15
4 Ecclesiastes 5:18b
5 Ecclesiastes 12:13-14
6 Ecclesiastes 12:13