By Dennis Green & Jen Boettger
Breanna Kenney and Zane Hadish, both of Cedar Rapids, are the recipients of the inaugural Gene Whiteman Follies Scholarship.
In its 37-year history, The Follies has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for organizations like St. Luke’s and the Cedar Rapids Symphony (now Orchestra Iowa). Now that The Follies is a standalone charitable organization, the Board of Directors recently approved a plan to focus the philanthropic activities of the Follies to invest in the future of the young performing artists in our community, many of whom get their earliest stage experience in The Follies.
“We call it The Follies Family,” says Dennis Green, past president of the Follies Board. “We have adult cast members today who started at eight or nine years old. And several of our alums, like Catherine Blades, Ron Livingston, and Megan Reinking, have gone on to successful stage and film careers.”
“We may not have articulated it before, maybe we didn’t even realize it. But providing opportunities for young people to learn about and participate in the performing arts has been our mission all along. It doesn’t matter whether the goal is to perform on Broadway, teach in a classroom, or to someday take the Follies stage beside their own kids. Follies insures the future of the arts in our community in a way no other organization does.”
Breanna Kenney, who will graduate in 2018 from Jefferson High School, has been clothing actors all four years of her high school career. She recently has also been hired by Giving Tree Theater and Theatre Cedar Rapids to design for their upcoming shows.
After college, Breanna hopes to return to Cedar Rapids and be a part of our vibrant arts community. “Cedar Rapids has a history of excellence in performing arts, and I want to be one of the people who keeps it going for years to come.
She’ll attend St. Mary’s University in Winona, Minnesota this fall, majoring in costume design.
Zane Hadish is a familiar presence to Follies fans, as he has been in the cast for the last two years. Also a Jefferson alum, Zane performed all four years of high school, and received Best Soloist awards in West Side Delegation. In addition to the Follies, he also sings with Chorale Midwest.
Zane credits Follies with being a big part of his artistic development. “(The) camaraderie and passion has made me grow as a performer and person. I am among so many who are privileged and eternally grateful to be (or have been) a part of Follies.”
Zane will attend Kirkwood in the fall with the intent of transferring to a four-year school to major in Music.
The Whiteman Follies Scholarship fund is named for legendary actor and educator Dr. Gene Whiteman. As the first principal of Taft Junior High (now Taft Middle School), Gene mentored dozens of students who later went into education themselves. As an actor and singer, he performed in countless Theatre Cedar Rapids productions, and twenty-five Follies. Gene performed his final Follies in 2016 at age ninety. Gene embodied the Follies ideal of being a lifetime participant in the performing arts, and supporting the goals of young people.
The inaugural scholars will be recognized and celebrated in the 2018 show, “Dancin’ Thru Life” March 24 and 25 at the Paramount Theatre in downtown Cedar Rapids.