For more than a quarter of a century, Dana McAfee has taught theater and directed high school plays, with some of her students going on to Broadway and television.

Saturday night, the Warsaw Community High School drama teacher was surprised when she was inducted into the Indiana Thespians Hall of Fame at the state conference in Indianapolis. By Monday she still didn’t know who nominated her.

The plaque states the honor is “in recognition of career achievements and a strong commitment to educational theatre” and that McAfee “is hereby inducted into the Indiana Thespians Hall of Fame, January 2018.”

“Educators can be nominated if you have 20 years or more experience,” McAfee said Monday afternoon, adding that this is her 26th year of teaching.

“Somebody from the state has to nominate you for all of the state of Indiana, and then they choose two or three people every year. So there were three of us and I was one of the nominees.”

McAfee takes her students to the state conference annually to compete in individual events, attend workshops and hear speakers. It begins Friday night and concludes Sunday afternoon.

“It’s a big long weekend,” she said, and the Hall of Fame induction was part of the Saturday night ceremonies.

“We’ve gone every year. So far, I would say 18 years, I’ve taken a group from Warsaw to either do a play competition or compete in individual events. We go every time,” McAfee said.

WCHS Assistant Principal Terry Roe attended the state conference and gave a speech about McAfee.

“It was really nice and I was really surprised,” she said. “There was only one other teacher – Thomas Hall – who gave a lot of comments about stuff, so he knew, and then (WCHS Principal) Troy (Akers) and Terry knew. That was it. I think Thomas told one of the students because she recorded everything, and she said, ‘Yeah, he told me he wanted it recorded so I was the only one who knew.’”

\Akers said, “For 17 years, Mrs. Dana McAfee has been a mainstay at WCHS and an innovator of the Performing Arts Department.  Her musicals and plays have been fantastic. Dana has the special gift of always casting our young thespians in the right role for every show.  She is very passionate about her work, her colleagues, but most of all, her students past and present. Warsaw Community High School is so proud of Mrs. Dana McAfee’s induction into the Indiana State Thespian Hall of Fame.”

McAfee has served on the state executive board for the Indiana Thespians for about 10 years, helping mostly behind the scenes with the organization.

She wasn’t the only person to receive an award over the weekend. Seven of her students’ events received excellence ribbons and up to eight were deemed superior, which is the top of the awards.

“We came away with 14 or 15 ribbons,” she said.

McAfee got her degrees in communication and theater from Grace College. She then taught eight years at Lakeland High School in LaGrange, where she was a speech coach and director. In 2000, she started working at WCHS, teaching theater and directing productions.

Emily Behny, a 2005 Warsaw graduate and former student of McAfee’s, has appeared in national tours and regional productions of “Wicked,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Rock of Ages.” She’s also appeared in an episode of “Mr. Robot” on USA network and “Blue Bloods.”

Another one of McAfee’s former students, Skye Scott, a 2006 Warsaw graduate, has appeared in Broadway national tours of “Jersey Boys” and “Million Dollar Quartet.” Off-Broadway and regional credits include “Baz: Star Crossed Lovers,” “Miss Saigon” and “Les Miserables.”