First Stage touches hearts, engages minds, and transforms lives by creating extraordinary theater experiences for young people and families through professional theater productions that inspire, enlighten, and entertain; unparalleled Theater Academy training that fosters life skills through stage skills; and dynamic Theater in Education programs that promote active learning in our schools and community.
Thursday, April 30, 2015
Theater Academy alumni return to First Stage in full bloom
Heading into its 24th summer, First Stage Theater
Academy has fostered life skills through
stage skills to thousands of young people.
These students have learned acting, musical theater, improvisation, and
much more, developing the creativity, confidence, and self-esteem needed to
achieve one’s dreams both on the stage and beyond.
For some, those dreams have continued on stage. Beginning their theater studies at First
Stage, three of our adult actors have come full circle, returning for our
production of BIG FISH.
J.T. BACKES’ (Fisherman/Male Understudy) story starts
back when he began Academy classes at age 8, and had roles in several shows
including MIKE MULLIGAN AND HIS STEAM SHOVEL (2002). Now as an actor, J.T.
summarizes what he learned over the years in one phrase – “to make
choices.” “First Stage is a safe place
to be ‘you’ and take incredible risks without fear of consequence. The teachers and students choose to treat
others with respect and give to each other wholeheartedly without need of
incentive,” said J.T. This helped him
build confidence and self-worth, allowing him the dedication, resilience, and
an open mind into pursuing the craft of acting as a career. J.T. left us with
this advice, "Whatever the situation, always be you! That is something nobody
else can replicate. Take risks, fail big, and be you.”
For SUSIE DUECKER
(Mermaid/Understudy Jenny Hill),
coming home to First Stage for BIG FISH is “living life in full bloom.” Susie began as an Academy student in the
fourth grade, was a member of First Stage Young Company in its inaugural year,
and was a young performer in four First Stage plays including THE LITTLE
DRUMMER BOY (1999). Not only did her love of theater grow, but many strong
friendships bloomed, which Susie credits to the encouraging, inclusive
atmosphere First Stage continues to nurture today. Susie remembers what her First Stage teacher
Aaron O’Rear told her, “if there’s anything else you can see yourself being
happy doing, do that.” Susie always knew she would pursue theater as a career,
and taking Academy classes confirmed that the dream could be a reality.
First Stage “provides a place to be one’s self, to be goofy
and fun, and not have to worry about being ‘cool’ or looking cool to others. It
was a very special experience growing up,” says NATE LEWELLYN. During his years as an Academy student, Nate
appeared as a young performer in ARTHUR – THE BOY WHO WOULD BE KING (2001) and
THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL’S CHRISTMAS GIFT (2002).
Through these formative First Stage experiences, Nate knows how many
life skills can be learned through the theater, such as responsibility,
empathy, and collaboration. Importantly, being present each moment is a vital
skill not only for an actor, but in dreaming bigger and living life to its
fullest. “Be present in the moment,
value the time that we have with the people we have in life,” says Nate. “Don’t take anything for granted.”
See J.T., Susie and Nate in First Stage’s BIG FISH, May
8-31, 2015 at the Marcus Center’s Todd Wehr Theater.