Interview: Students Make an Impassioned Plea about the Importance of High School Musical Theater Programs in Advance of Triangle Rising Stars

By Grace Niesel

The first show I was ever in was at church. Every year, we’d put on a musical about the Birth of Christ and the salvation he brought, or something like that. Even when I had only one line, I’d pour over my script to make sure I got that one line perfect. And I loved it. I loved acting. I loved singing. I loved performing in front of people. Even after I stopped going to church, my passion for acting remained.

Today, my sister, who participated in theater in high school and has since graduated, my mom, and I are active volunteers with Heritage High School’s theater program. I even participate in their summer camp program every summer, singing and acting just like I did when I was younger.

My school, however, doesn’t have a theater program. We do have a chorus, but I can’t participate due to scheduling conflicts. We also have a dance program, but I didn’t get into that. It’s bad not having a class to partake in or a show to perform in because I can’t do what I love. Sure, I love doing this, writing about the theater, but it’s not what I’m truly passionate about.

And here’s the thing. When you are deprived of the very thing you’re passionate about, it takes a toll. You forget how it feels to experience that surge of blood to your heart and the way the muscles in your face ache after smiling for so long. I’m luckier than most though, I suppose. I still get to see shows and help out around a theater in whatever way I can, including providing moral support to the cast and crew of Heritage High School’s theater program, which is closing their production of Mamma Mia! this weekend. In my opinion, Heritage High definitely has one of the best high school theater programs in the state, if not the best high school theater program.

Here’s what two of the cast members, Maddie Lind, who plays Donna Sheridan, and Kathryn Poulsen, who is working on tech and performing in the ensemble, had to say about the production and theater program.

GRACE: Why do you believe theater is important in schools?

MADDIE: Specifically through high school, I have decided my career. Being in this department has helped me figure out what I want to do with my life. And what I want to do is sing and act. And also throughout this program, I’ve made a lot of friends, and I’ve found a place I feel like I truly belong in.

KATHRYN: Theater has finally given me a place to belong. Like Maddie said, this is my career. Mostly with the help of the director and other cast members, I finally know who I am. It also taught me to be a leader. This program, and theater, in general, has brought me a lot of joy I don’t think I could find anywhere else.

GRACE: Awesome. How long have each of you been involved in theatre?

MADDIE: Five years, I think.

KATHRYN: Since my sophomore year, so this is my third year.

GRACE: On a more controversial-ish topic, how do you feel about the sidelining of the arts in many public high schools?

MADDIE: Firstly, I feel like the arts are publicized in some schools way more than in others. Like here, for example, I know our shows are advertised a lot, you know. And our shows tend to bring in a lot of money. I think we’re definitely one of the lucky schools though.

KATHRYN: When that happens, I think it’s incredibly unfair. Everyone deserves to have their passions be treated equally. Whether it be math, science, sports, reading, or just about anything, no one’s passions will ever matter less than someone else’s.

GRACE: Aside from making friends and helping you both decide your career path, how has theater impacted you?

MADDIE: I think it is always going to impact me, no matter what stage of my life I’m in, by giving me an outlet to express myself. There really aren’t too many opportunities to express yourself. Plus, it’s usually entertaining other people, and me.

KATHRYN: Theater gave me a purpose, a real purpose, not some like, nine-to-five desk job that I’d probably end up in if I didn’t have the theater. With theater, there’s just always something to do. I’m never really bored anymore.

Please donate to your local or school’s theater or arts program. The arts are often pushed aside, and refusing to foster the spark in kids and teens can lead to an irreparable loss of passion and drive.

The Heritage High School production of Mamma Mia! closes this weekend. For more information visit:

The Heritage High School theater department is also nominated for Best Ensemble (Triangle Rising Stars program), for their production of Newsies. Triangle Rising Stars is a celebration of high school musical theater programs, productions, and performances in the Triangle. The local winners in the Best Actress and Best Actor categories will go on to compete in The Jimmy Awards this presented by The Broadway League this summer. The winners will be announced during the Triangle Rising Stars high school musical theater showcase on May 16th at the Durham Performing Arts Center. For more information visit: .

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