Christine Pollnow receives Lois Lowry Scholarship

By Mallory Elver

On Saturday, May 18, First Stage awarded high school senior Christine Pollnow with the Lois Lowry Scholarship.  This award, created in 2007 as a merit-based scholarship, is given annually to a worthy student who has participated throughout the year in First Stage Theater Academy.  The scholarship pays for any Academy courses in which the recipient enrolls during the coming year.  For Pollnow in particular, the presentation of the award was very timely, as she received the scholarship in between weekend performances of Gathering Blue, a play based on one of Lowry’s most renowned books.  The play, which featured Young Company actors collaborating with Marquette University theater students and two young performers, ran at Marquette’s Helfaer Theater May 10-19, 2013.

First Stage caught up with Pollnow to learn her thoughts about earning this prestigious scholarship and about First Stage on the whole.

What is your reaction to receiving this award?
I was so surprised and honored when John [Maclay] announced my name.  I certainly never expected this award.

You played Kira, the protagonist of Gathering Blue.  How does it feel to earn this award while performing as one of Lowry’s most well-known characters?
It was such an honor to be offered the role of Kira in the first place.  She is a beautiful character: so strong and yet so vulnerable.  I learned so much from Kira, from Todd’s direction and from the challenge of working with such an incredibly talented cast.  I was challenged in ways that I could only grow from and I appreciated that.  On top of all of this, to be offered the Lois Lowry Scholarship with Lois Lowry herself in the audience was amazing. 

What was it like to meet Lois Lowry?
It was incredible.  My mom has been reading Ms. Lowry’s books to my siblings and me for many years.  When I was cast in Gathering Blue, I was thrilled, but then to actually meet the woman who wrote every one of those books—to shake her hand and have my picture taken with her—was a wonderful feeling.  It certainly made my final performance of Kira extra special.

What are your plans for next year and for the future?
I am so excited to be heading off to New York University this fall where I will be working toward a BFA in acting from their Tisch School of the Arts.  I don’t know where I will go after college, but I guarantee you that it will be something involving the arts. 

How has your involvement at First Stage influenced you as a person?
When I started First Stage three years ago, I was a different person than I am now.  I don’t know who I would be today if First Stage hadn’t been a part of my life.  First Stage has helped me to be sure of myself; it helped me to develop self-confidence.  It has reinforced the values my parents taught me: treating everyone with respect and looking for the good in everyone.  When you spend time with good people, it is difficult not to mirror that behavior yourself. My involvement at First Stage has exposed me to people from all over. I think I have friends from every school district in the greater Milwaukee area.  Through First Stage, I have been challenged both as an actor and a human being and have grown so much from those challenges.

Do you have a favorite moment from any of your First Stage performances?
To pick one moment from all of the wonderful times I have had at First Stage is very difficult.  The memory that springs to mind is not, however, something that happened onstage in a performance but actually something that happened during the rehearsal period.  It was during the first week of rehearsals for my first First Stage Company Class.  We had all received our parts, and one of the girls had just learned that she did not get the part that she had wanted so badly.  We walked out of the room heading off to End of Day, and this girl turned to the other girl in the group who had gotten that part, gave her a big hug, told her how proud she was and how wonderful she knew that girl would be.  And she meant it.  That kind of love is something that can only be seen in an environment as accepting and supportive as First Stage is, and it is seen at First Stage all the time.

What do you think makes First Stage so important to the community—in particular, to other aspiring young actors like you?
First Stage is important to young actors because of the many opportunities it offers.  I don’t know of anywhere else where I could have received college level theater instruction as a highschooler.  We are so fortunate to have teachers and directors who are professionals.  They constantly pushed me to go a little farther and try a little harder. Because it was also a safe and supportive environment, we were able to take risks we might not have taken somewhere else. I was constantly challenged. First Stage also offered me the chance to work with other young actors like myself who were passionate about this art form.  We challenged each other and learned from each other.   
Aside from all of the wonderful opportunities First Stage provides for the students who want to partake in classes, it also exposes community children to quality artistic performances.

Way to go, Christine!  For anyone who wants to experience firsthand the First Stage environment that Christine appreciates so much, learn more about Summer Theater Academy.

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