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From the gym to the stage

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From the gym to the stage

Harry Brooker and Ryan Zickel, freshmen, act in

Harry Brooker and Ryan Zickel, freshmen, act in "The Merry Wives of Windsor."

Kelley Cochran

Harry Brooker and Ryan Zickel, freshmen, act in "The Merry Wives of Windsor."

Kelley Cochran

Kelley Cochran

Harry Brooker and Ryan Zickel, freshmen, act in "The Merry Wives of Windsor."

By Lilly Anderson, Kirkwood High School

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Walking onstage, the smell of hairspray still tingling in his nose, he reaches a new set with a new audience. This is not his first show, but high school productions are not the same. The lights hit his eyes as he gazes upon the crowd filling the 200-seat Keating Theater: a step up from his smelly middle school gym. A lot has changed, yet Harry Brooker, freshman, still has the familiar sensation of comfort as he begins his first high school production.

“The first show [I did] at the high school is ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor.’ It was an amazing cast, [and] they were great people,” Brooker said. “Performing with the actors that are already here, it’s like they are professionals. It is just terrifying not being as good as them.”

High school is a built in opportunity to find your passions and learn more about your strengths. These freshmen hold their place of being new in the high school theatre family, and have learned from the seniors quickly.

“[The seniors] are definitely something to look up to.” Brooker said. “The best way to learn is by doing, but I’ve learned more watching them perform than I have actually performing on my own.”

KHS already had its fall play in October.  Last year, the cast of the fall play, “You Can’t Take it with You,” featured two freshmen when this year, they featured four.

“For high school [auditions], they just have a cold read so you do it on the spot,” Imani Noel, freshman, said. “You don’t have time to rehearse at home or analyze it. That was a difference that was really challenging coming from middle school.”

Kristi Gunther is a director who has been working with the KH Players for 5 years. Gunther is a director outside of KHS as well, who has worked with mostly 8th, 9th and 10th graders. She directs the KHS freshman-sophomore show every fall.

“[The transition between middle to high school theater] is kind of amazing.” Gunther said. “The freshmen are good at learning to watch what’s happening around them. [They] pick up from others and a lot of maturity comes from being around older students.”

According to Brooker and Noel, a huge factor in theater is the family-like environment. Middle school theater provided a source for automatic friendships and comfort from being able to have another family.

“At Nipher, the reason I liked doing [theater] was because all of us made it feel like family, like we were all together.” said Noel. “It was cool being able to have another family I could depend on away from home. “[The middle school] shows aren’t as connecting to the cast.”

Madison Charleville, senior, has spent her past 4 years at KHS in theater. She has acted in plays, performed in musicals and has even written and creatively directed a one-act play put on by freshmen and sophomores.

“[When I was a freshman], I don’t think I realized it was going to be as impactful on my life as it has been.” Charleville said. “[The freshmen] start out just where we started out, a little anxious, little unfamiliar but I can see how they have potential to keep going in the program.”

Along with working with the freshmen and sophomores in “She Kills Monsters,” Charleville is also currently acting in this years Black Box show. As Charleville’s KH Player career starts to come to an end, she is reassured she is leaving behind something inspiring.

“Knowing as a senior that after I leave we are leaving [KH Players] in the hands of this class and the classes after them?” Charleville said. “We are leaving it in great hands.”

Brooker plans on continuing his KH Player career throughout his KHS journey. He believes this family KHS theater has already welcomed him into is here to stay.

“I hope to keep performing in these shows and seeing this family through the years and watching them grow, “What happens when I’m the senior on stage [performing]?”  said Brooker. “[I just think] what happens when I get to that point? That might happen one day, and that’s terrifying.”

This story was originally published on The Kirkwood Call on December 12, 2018.

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