"Things won are done; joy's soul lies in the doing."

By Meaghan Morrissey, First Stage Children's Theater

In the grand scheme of life, winning clearly isn’t everything. Life is about the journey. It’s about the experience. It’s about learning new things. It’s about meeting new friends. It’s about receiving constructive criticism. It’s about determination and courage.

But as the First Stage Young Company learned this weekend, a giant trophy (or four giant trophies!) in recognition of your hard work is pretty awesome too!

The team of fifteen juniors and seniors from the First Stage Theater Academy’s pre-professional training program attended the Tony Award-winning Utah Shakespearean Festival’s High School Shakespeare Competition this weekend. The group spent four days taking acting workshops led by professional Shakespearean actors, performing for adjudicators and attending professional performances of Shakespeare’s work.

In fact, they had the opportunity to see a production of "Love’s Labour’s Lost" at Southern Utah University featuring Kelly Driscoll as Mariah, a former First Stage Young Company member and part of the original First Stage group to compete at Utah in 2007.  Kelly had the chance to chat with the students and share her own First Stage experience performing in an ensemble scene of "Macbeth," attending workshops, and eating at the infamous Lucky Chinese Buffett.

Impromptu rehearsal in a parking lot.  From left to right, Kelly Venable, Emily Daly, Kieran Kane, Rachel Schmeling, Anna Wolf, Eric Schabla, and John Maclay.  Photo by Meaghan Morrissey. 

The First Stage students participated alongside more than 2,500 young people from over 90 schools from Utah, Nevada, Arizona, California and Idaho. They rehearsed at every opportunity – in parking lots, in conference rooms, in hallways, on buses. And the rehearsal paid off!

Gretchen Mahkorn and Eric Schabla rehearse "Romeo & Juliet." Photo by Meaghan Morrissey.

The Young Company won first place overall in the Essex division. They placed first in the ensemble scenes for a stunning 10-minute scene combining Sonnet 145 and "Romeo & Juliet". They placed first in the monologue competition with senior Emily Daly’s outstanding performance of Volumnia from "Coriolanus". With this victory she also received a $1000 scholarship to Southern Utah University. And Eric Schabla (junior) won the Larry Lott Award for best actor in an ensemble for his performance as Romeo. Eric received a $500 scholarship to the Utah Shakespearean Festival’s 10-day intensive summer theater program in 2011.

But these students were there for more than just trophies – and that was apparent to everyone they came in contact with. In fact, in addition to the superior quality of their work, the adjudicator of the ensemble scene commented on the Young Company’s exceptional attitude, their discipline to wait calmly for their turn to perform, and the respect that each student displayed for their fellow actors.

They had such great attitudes, the group had a good, long chuckle at an ostensible Shakespeare army that felt the need to bellow this “tredonkulous” motto while warming up with jumping jacks on the university quad:

“Who are we?”
“John Doe School!” (name withheld to protect the identity of this group)
“What are we here to do?"

In stark contrast, the Young Company members were cool as cucumbers and went about their business of quietly amazing everyone with their talent.

They even befriended their competitors, a group of similarly talented and friendly students from Theatre Arts Conservatory in Salt Lake City. The young actors bonded immediately over dinner at The Bard’s Pub & Grill and proceeded to rehearse and perform their work for each other. Many of the core values of First Stage, like respect, teamwork, leadership skills and professionalism were demonstrated in the camaraderie between the students. It was a joy to watch!

Congratulations to each of the following amazing young actors:
  • Eric Schabla and Emily Daly, both seniors at Rufus King High School
  • Rachel Schmeling and Haley Olig, both seniors at Brookfield Central High School
  • Gretchen Mahkorn and Kira Gaudynski, both seniors at Pius IX High School
  • Garrett Hanson, a junior at Nicolet High School, Emmy Tisdel and Anna Wolfe, both seniors at Shorewood High School
  • Laura Troshynski, a junior at Divine Savior Holy Angels High School
  • Allie Babich, a senior at Arrowhead High School
  • Kelly Venable, a junior at University School of Milwaukee
  • Kelley Annesley, Kieran Kane, and Kyle Connor, all seniors at Wauwatosa East High School

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