Curtain call: FHS drama coach to retire

Published 11:19 am Thursday, February 23, 2012

Ken Raybuck, Franklin City Public Schools' coordinator of testing, will retire after 34 years with the district. Raybuck directed many Franklin High School productions in his time as an English teacher and drama instructor there. He will direct the high school's version of "Godspell," which will debut at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 1 and continue at 7 p.m. Friday, March 2 and Saturday March 3 at FHS.

FHS drama instructor to bow out after musical ‘Godspell’

The curtain is about to fall on Ken Raybuck’s career.

After 36 years with Franklin City Public Schools, the former Franklin High School drama instructor and English teacher turned district-wide coordinator of testing will retire.

He will be directing his final show, the musical “Godspell” which debuts at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 1 at FHS and continues Friday, March 2 and Saturday, March 3 at 7 p.m.

Raybuck has been directing student productions at FHS since 1973 when he came to the school as an English teacher.

“The reason I came to Franklin was because there was a drama opening,” Raybuck said.

The high school program died out when he came to the central office eight years ago, but was revived two years ago by Megan Bair, an English teacher at FHS, who directed the musical “Grease,” Raybuck said.

The now defunct Franklin community theater program, which stopped producing shows in 1999 after the flood caused by Hurricane Floyd destroyed years’ worth of sets stored in what is now the Franklin Business Incubator, gave the school $5,000 to revive the drama program and the show was produced, Raybuck said.

Bair left and the school asked Raybuck to direct last year’s show, a musical comedy titled “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

Raybuck said he chose “Godspell,” a musical made up of a series of parables based primarily on the Gospel of Matthew, for this year’s production because it was an easy production to pull off with a smaller cast. The cast contains 10 FHS students.

“The majority of the roles are gender neutral and race neutral,” Raybuck said.

He said he also likes the musical because it allows for more of an ensemble cast, rather than one or two starring roles.

“Everyone in the show is on stage all the time with the exception of three minutes,” Raybuck said.

This includes intermission where the audience will be invited on stage for grape juice that is made to represent wine.

This year’s show was produced with the help of federal grant funding, Raybuck said.

Raybuck said the cast and crew have been preparing for the show’s debut since the students got back from winter break. Preparation has included rehearsal every weeknight and set construction on Saturdays.

“This is a very talented, energetic and committed group of people,” Raybuck said.

The students have done all the work for the production outside of class time.

FHS principal Dr. Rodney Berry said Raybuck has been responsible for many top-notch performances over the years and he expects “Godspell” to be no different.

“We are looking forward to the play “Godspell” because we know it’s going to be top notch,” Barry said. “We just hope the community comes out to support the students and Mr. Raybuck for his last production.”

Raybuck said he caught the acting bug late in life and fell in love with the craft after a performance in a play in his senior year at West Virginia Wesleyan. He said he jammed his final semester with theater credits before graduating with a degree in English education. He went back for a fifth year in college to get a theater degree as well.

Raybuck has been married to his wife Sherell, a retired teacher, for 36 years. They have three children: 22-year-old Josh, 32-year-old Shannon and 29-year-old Jennifer Peace, a teacher at Southampton Middle School, who is in charge of the choreography of this year’s production.

“All those dance lessons I paid for are finally paying off,” Raybuck said.

Tickets for the “Godspell are on sale now for $2 for students and $4 for adults. The tickets are available at the FCPS central office in City Hall, FHS or J.P. King Jr. Middle School.

Tickets at the door will cost $3 for students and $5 for adults.