March 2017

HHCA presents Tarzan: Meet Zach Whitton, King of the Jungle

Author: Special to CH2

Hilton Head Christian Academy senior Zach Whitton will be soaring onto the stage as Tarzan in the musical adventure based on Disney’s epic animated version of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes and a book by Tony Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang. The show takes place at the Seahawk Cultural Center, March 16-18 and features heart-pumping music by rock legend Phil Collins.

Orphaned by shipwreck as an infant, raised by gorillas in the jungles of Africa, and struggling to fit in, Tarzan is forced to confront his identity, when he happens upon a group of English explorers and the young botanist, Jane Porter. His animal upbringing clashes with his human instincts, and his heart is torn between self-discovery and loyalty to his gorilla-family. Tarzan is faced with a choice that will change the course of his life, forever.

Unlike the identity crisis experienced by his stage character, Whitton knows who he is, what he stands for, and where he is going—well, at least for the next four years. He recently accepted his official appointment as cadet from the United States Military Academy at West Point—the culmination of years of hard work and perseverance.

Whitton has constructed an impressive résumé: five AP classes, student council president, National Honors Society vice president, captain of three varsity sports, the Mayor’s Call to Service Award, and achievement in the arts. He was also crowned Hilton Head Christian Academy’s Homecoming King this spring, exemplifying the respect and admiration of both his teachers and peers. He credits these accomplishments for helping him matriculate at West Point, but also recognizes the value of his teachers’ encouragement and mentoring.

“Over the past five years, I have been involved with numerous clubs, teams and programs. Through these extracurricular activities, I have built strong relationships with coaches, mentors and teachers, who truly want me to succeed,” Whitton said. “Throughout the West Point application process, they guided me with their wisdom and experience.”

Part of the Military Academy’s mission is to graduate a leader of character, committed to the values of duty, honor, and country—values instilled by Hilton Head Christian Academy. Whitton is the fifth HHCA graduate to attend a service academy in the past two years. Mac Viljac (’16) and Mike Dillon (’15) currently attend West Point; Drew Robinson (’16) studies at the Naval Academy; and Joseph Lankowski (’16) trains at the Coast Guard Academy.

Many have inquired about the musical and theatrical interests of a young man with such a demanding schedule. “Theater has always had a special place in my heart. My mom says it’s my ‘stress reliever,’ but I see it more as my creative outlet,” Whitton said. “I knew the spring was going to be busy with baseball and completing my West Point application, but when I heard we were producing Tarzan, I couldn’t pass it up.”

Whitton’s favorite part about being involved in the production of Tarzan is working with the talented cast and crew. Never one to get too far from the athletic field, he compares it to a sports team. “It’s fun playing a sport, but even better if the team you play for is good and wins. The HHCA theater department has had a lot of success the past couple of years, and with this cast, Tarzan is shaping up to be the best yet. I’m definitely excited for my biggest role; it’s an incredible opportunity!”

Whitton is one of eight seniors in Tarzan’s cast of 36 students from sixth to twelfth grade. “We are graduating a huge group of kids, who have been pillars in our program,” director Michelle McElroy said. “It makes this a very special show for our HHCA theater family.” Other seniors include Olivia Williams (Kala), Cameron Qualls (Kerchak), John Carter Cross (Clayton), and Sarah Ogren (Leopard/Dance Captain). Rebecca Donaldson, Bryce Warthen and Ty Robinson are also seniors who have been key contributors to HHCA Theater over the years.

No matter, if he is swinging through the jungle, or swinging the bat on the varsity baseball team, in everything he does, its clear that Whitton swings for the fences!

Performances of Tarzan are at the Seahawk Cultural Center, 70 Wilborn Rd., Hilton Head Island at 7 p.m. on the March 16-18 with an additional 2 p.m. show on March 18. Admission is $18 for adults and $12 for seniors. For tickets, visit hhcadrama.eventbrite.com.

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