Kristy Winkes

“It’s my mission to grow talent and students in their potential. You can’t only do that by putting on big shows. You have to provide more opportunities for that to happen.”

Theater | Middle and High School Drama

Kristy Winkes had not anticipated that she would one day be known as the beloved “Mama Winkes” by her theater students. For years, she had been an English teacher at GAC, cementing herself in a role that she loved. When her family relocated to Minnesota in 2003, Winkes was unaware then she would later return to GAC. However, when theater director Clif Jones retired in 2017, Winkes was a prime candidate for a role that would build on the program’s significant success as a leader in the arts in the Atlanta area.

According to Ms. Winkes, her career matured in the years away from GAC. A small Christian school in Minnesota offered her a blank canvas. Even with her extensive experience in theater, she recognized that growing the program would require even more from her.

"Up until then, I was having fun,” Ms. Winkes recalled. “That's when the actual hard work began. It propelled me to get more training." After professional training at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Winkes was able to elevate the scale even further, swelling the program from seven students to 150 over just a few years. It was her talent for growing artists that won the attention of her former (and future) employers at GAC.

"Our program that was exceptional, she's made even better," Dr. Morris, Director of Academics and Teacher Growth said.

Give them the tools. Watch what happens.

Whether it’s in a classroom setting or learning through experience, Ms. Winkes searches for the next learning opportunity. In class, she focuses on teaching skills that compound with practice: movement, pronunciation, comedic timing, etc. In rehearsal, she encourages the creative process in everyone, taking them from basic line delivery to embodying a full character with all of their experiences.

Though, no two learning experiences in drama look the same. “It’s my mission to grow talent and students in their potential,” Ms. Winkes said. “You can’t only do that by putting on big shows. You have to provide more opportunities for that to happen.” In creating roles for high schoolers to serve as student-directors, Ms. Winkes has crafted ways for them to refine their understandings of their skills through mentoring middle schoolers and she has grown a small army of specialized student-leaders who support productions. “I use my students with their own talents and strengths,” Winkes beamed. "It gives them more experience, leadership, and it builds their confidence...Plus, it helps me out a lot.”

One of the many student standouts include two-timer All-National Choir veteran, Gavin McDonnell, who acts as a vocal coach. He can absorb complex musical pieces and then aids his peers in learning and performing them. "He's a musical genius," Ms. Winkes said. On call for choreography, Winkes may look to emotive dancers Maya Jogekar, Jasmine Jones, and Rosemary Osbon for their eye for elegance on stage. In the award-winning One Act, “The Very Grey Matter of Edward Blank”, choreographed and played by Jones, the character only communicated through movement and was “one of the most exciting things I have directed,” Winkes said.

GAC's Tour de Force Performance of Les Misérables

Ms. Winkes most recently directed the show Les Misérables. This 70-person cast included students from K-12, making it the largest to date and an excellent contender for a competition show, the Shulers, which recognizes the most elite performers and programs in Georgia. GAC’s program won eight Shuler Award nominations for the show. Among the many nominations, Ms. Winkes received her own Shuler Award for Best Direction.

  • Best Overall Production
  • Direction: Kristy Winkes
  • Musical Direction: Regan Jones
  • Technical Execution: Kristy Winkes, Garner Harsh, Max Martin
  • Lighting Design: Kristy Winkes, JD Cooper
  • Best Performance by a Leading Actor: David Forsman
  • Best Performance by a Featured Performer: John Michael Vestal
  • Best Choreography: Kara Johnson
  • Honorable Mention: Kristy Winkes for Costumes
  • Honorable Mention: Bronwyn Bailey for Best Performance by a Leading Actress

The Shuler Award nominations follow a successful season of accolades. For the season-opening One-Act Competition, the troupe won four different awards for their performances in “The Very Grey Matter of Edward Blank”. As judges offered feedback, one judge commented that their performance was “one of the most artistic shows she had ever seen with such a compelling message”. These awards are a reflection of Ms. Winkes’ incredible skill as a director.

Ms. Winkes' high-expectations reap higher returns. As the newest addition to the legacy of talented and devoted leadership in the Drama Program, Winkes has primed the program for future seasons of success. For her, she loves supporting the kids and being known as “Mama Ms. Winkes”.