DO YOU REMEMBER the moment you fell in love with theatre? We asked Thespians to share their stories about the shows, roles, crew assignments, and classes that set them on their high school theatre journey.

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It was my freshman year of high school, and I wasn’t an inducted Thespian yet. My primary focus was mixed media art, but I was fascinated by special effects makeup. I took a stage makeup class disguised as a special effects class, and the teacher liked my skills so much that she had me rush designs for the school’s production of 42nd Street. I was hesitant because I had never been involved with theatre. After seeing the show and knowing that I was part of what made it happen, I became obsessed. I made my parents sign me up for tap lessons, and the following year I signed up for drama and was inducted into the International Thespian Society. I have fallen in love with this art and all its complexities. My only regret is not discovering it sooner.

— Ashley Cendere, Braden River High School’s Troupe 8474, Bradenton, Fla.

I remember watching The Sound of Music at my grandparents’ house when I was about 6 years old. My grandpa was flipping through channels on TV when that iconic opening scene with Julie Andrews singing in a field popped up. I sat there, completely captivated by Andrews and the Von Trapp children. When it finished, I immediately wanted to watch it again. I was fascinated by the idea of singing, dancing, and acting at the same time and with the idea of using solfege [assigning names to scale pitches, such as do, re, or mi] to create songs. It inspired me to join an afterschool theatre program in second grade. I wanted to be just like Julie Andrews. I’m a sophomore now and have had the opportunity to play two of Andrews’ roles: Mary Poppins and Polly Browne. I adore her, and The Sound of Music is still one of my favorite musicals. I’m so thankful to my grandfather for showing it to me and for sparking a love of theatre that grows stronger every day.

— Lauren Olarte, Franklin Academy High School’s Troupe 8037, Wake Forest, N.C.

I’ve known I love to act even before I got the chance to do so officially. I would put on miniplays with my cousins, write and perform scripts, and play pretend. In seventh grade, I finally got my chance to be onstage. We were doing two one-act plays: Zombeo and Juliet and Archie of the Amazon. I played Mickey in Zombeo and Juliet and Minnie and Dorothy in Archie of the Amazon. All my characters got a lot of laughs. It made me so happy to know that I had the power to make people laugh. That’s when I decided I needed to do theatre for the rest of my life.

— Abby Starkey, Spring Hill High School’s Troupe 7730, Spring Hill, Kan.

When I was 5 or 6, I went to see a local production of Les Misérables and fell in love immediately. The passion and emotion captivated me, and I knew that I would be onstage one day. I have yet to be cast in Les Mis, but my ears are always open.

— Liv Courtright, Plano West Senior High School’s Troupe 6101, Plano, Texas

The show that made me fall in love with theatre was my first, The Wizard of Oz, when I was 5 years old. My mom surprised me with the audition, and they made me the miniature jitterbug. I remember being backstage and telling everyone when they should enter and helping them with costume changes. … When I’m onstage, I feel so comfortable and happy, and I’m always sad when I finish a show (like every other theatre kid). I plan to study theatre and vocal performance in college and, hopefully, one day be on Broadway.

— Tenley Edvardsen, Lake Central High School’s Troupe 2536, St. John, Ind.

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My first and favorite show was Jesus Christ Superstar. I was a freshman and had been recruited to the school’s lighting crew. I love the soundtrack so much that it brings tears to my eyes. I would love to go back and do it all over again.

— Cecelia Puckhaber, Mercy and Xavier high schools’ Troupe 8479, Middletown, Conn.

The show that made me fall in love with theatre was my first-ever production in seventh grade, Shrek. I had never thought of doing theatre before, but when I was onstage, singing and dancing my heart out, I knew I had found my place. The friendships I created started to become my second family, and theatre became a part of my life. I will never forget Shrek for all it gave me. Let your freak flag fly!

— Abby Johnson, Tuscarora High School’s Troupe 7925, Leesburg, Va.

When I was little, I was always on the outside. I found an audition for a stage workshop. I was not expecting to get in, but to my shock I did. I get a rush every time I perform. I have never stopped.

— Nathan Halpert, Mountainside High School’s Troupe 8602, Beaverton, Ore.

In the seventh grade, I was in a parody production of High School Musical. We called it Middle School Musical. We knew we were cool. I played Ms. Darbus. It was very clear to me after lip-syncing “I Will Always Love You” behind Gabriella and Troy Bolton that I was going to do theatre for the rest of my life.

— Sienna Abbott, Blanchet Catholic School’s Troupe 8806, Salem, Ore.

My entire family was involved in theatre in high school or college. When I was in fifth grade, I auditioned to be in the children’s ensemble in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Since then, I’ve been in love with theatre. I got to be friends with great people, and they are all a big part of my life. Theatre is my home. I feel accepted and that I belong because every person in the theatre department is so friendly and loving. I plan to continue theatre throughout high school and college and hope to do something in the future with theatre.

— Sarita Akwa-Philbin, Niles West High School’s Troupe 1714, Skokie, Ill.

King Artie and the Knights of the Rad Table was the show that made me fall in love with theatre. I played Morgan La Fey and had an amazing time making the character my own and developing my scenes. As soon as the show was over, I could not wait for the next one to come around so I could perform with my friends again.

— Jayla Coulombe, Blanchet Catholic High School’s Troupe 8806, Salem, Ore.

My brother (who is not a big fan of theatre) took me to a production of Newsies. We were sitting next to the middle aisle, and I saw tape lines on the floor. I had no idea what they were and forgot about them. During “Brooklyn’s Here,” Spot walked off the stage with a few of his buddies and sang almost directly to me. That was when I knew I wanted to do that for other people and make them feel the way I did.

— Delaney Kigerl, V.J. & Angela Skutt Catholic High School’s Troupe 6897, Omaha, Neb.

Mamma Mia! made me fall in love with theatre. The music was amazing, and I love the way it is performed.

— Hailey Reynolds, Leesville Road High School’s Troupe 5540, Raleigh, N.C.

The show that made me fall in love with theatre was The Phantom of the Opera in sixth grade. My mom was watching it on television. I was in awe with the emotion they could portray through song, and I felt so connected as I watched. I’ve been singing and dancing since I can remember, but I was just getting into theatre. Once I watched that show, I knew that musical theatre was exactly what I wanted to do with my life. Since then, I have done many musicals, such as Footloose, The Addams Family, The Drowsy Chaperone, Gypsy, and more. I plan to pursue musical theatre as a career and perform in so many more shows. I am thankful for theatre every day for showing me who I am and what I’m meant to do.

— Amber Woollcott, Grand Blanc High School’s Troupe 2517, Grand Blanc, Mich.

I’d always had an appreciation for theatre — that’s what happens when your mom blasts Phantom and Les Misérables when you clean the house. My middle school productions were fun, but when I moved to my second high school, I played the servant Joseph in The Taming of the Shrew. I only had a handful of lines, but being in that goofy scene trying to please Petruchio while he makes a mess of dinner, catching food as he throws it, was one of the highlights of my sophomore year. I had the time of my life performing, but the bond I made with my cast was incredible. The upper-class girls I looked up to the entire show talked to me about what musicals I liked and told me they hoped I would stay in the company. My servant group became my best friends. The production changed my view of theatre from something fun to do after school to somewhere I felt loved and included. It may be cheesy and clichéd, but my troupe became my family in that show, and that family bond gave me something to love.

— Alex-Ann Velasco, Maricopa High School’s Troupe 7172, Maricopa, Ariz.

The first show to set off theatrical fireworks in my heart was a high school production of The Phantom of the Opera, which to my sixth-grade eyes was the most amazing thing I had ever witnessed. I wanted to find a way to perform on that stage too. Not long after, I saw a production at Indiana University of South Pacific, and I was further starstruck. Songs got stuck in my head and played on a loop relentlessly. Seeing these shows led me to join theatre groups that made my dreams a reality. Since then, I have performed in theatrical productions on the same stage where I saw Phantom. It’s a pleasure to be a part of theatre, and I’m so glad for what I’ve achieved so far.

— Rachel Waite, Bloomington South High School’s Troupe 5583, Bloomington, Ind.

I know I’m supposed to talk about a show that drew me into theatre, but I didn’t have a show that did. My story was fate showing me what I was meant to do. It was my freshman year of high school, and we were nearing the end of the second semester and choosing classes. It was the first year I got to choose an elective. Although excited, I had no clue what I wanted to do. I put all 20 available electives into a hat and chose three: engineering, Japanese, and drama. I was indifferent, so I put them back in the hat. As fate would have it, I selected drama. I was nervous about the class. … I walked into the first period of my first day of my sophomore year and did not recognize a soul. I immediately hated the class and emailed my counselor for a schedule change, but my counselor never responded. I decided to make the most of it and have enjoyed every moment since. I consider myself a lucky man. Lucky that I chose drama not once but twice from that hat. Lucky that I decided not to listen to everyone who said it would be weird. Lucky that my counselor never responded. And lucky that I have the most amazing drama teacher. I am infinitely lucky, because without drama I would probably be going to college for engineering or Japanese.

— Corey Sabhlok, Amador Valley High School’s Troupe 1188, Pleasanton, Calif.

They say peer pressure is bad, but in my case, it was the best step in my life. Everyone told me I should audition for my first show, Narnia the musical. It was one of the best experiences of my life. So, I kept auditioning for every show that came my way. Here I am, a freshman in high school, with 14 shows under my belt, each special in its own way. People who choose theatre are the best people on the planet. They are quirky, yet they bring something to the table that makes the stage feel like a second home. … It is funny how, when you pretend to be someone else, you feel most like yourself. I have a million stories from the shows I have participated in, one being during A Christmas Carol when we had so much fog onstage that fire alarms went off. These mishaps create fond memories that you will cherish forever. You eventually may leave the stage, but the stage will never leave you. It will always be a piece of you wherever you go.

— Avery Thorpe, Lenawee Christian School’s Troupe 4414, Adrian, Mich.

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