The iconic opening scene of The Sound of Music grabbed Ann Stegman by the heart and soul and set her on a course toward theatre choreography. That was on a sick day home from school in fifth grade when her dad found the DVD of the movie for her to watch. 

Ann, now a recent graduate of Hayden Catholic High School and Thespian Troupe 7275 in Topeka, Kansas, says of the film, “The music, the story, the dancing, the life on the screen. That was the first time I thought to myself, ‘This is something I need to be a part of.’”

The following summer, Ann performed in her first show. The stage wasn’t completely new to her, though. She’d been dancing since she was 3 years old. “There are a million things to love about dance, but to me, dance was always something that felt very freeing. If I had a bad day at school or didn’t do well on a test, I always found myself dancing around my kitchen when I got home from school,” says Ann.

Theatre Choreography Ann Stegman headshotAnn, who graduated from Hayden Catholic High School and Thespian Troupe 7275 in Topeka, Kansas, says that watching The Sound of Music one day when she was in fifth grade changed her life.

She explains, “The music, the story, the dancing. That was the first time I thought to myself, ‘This is something I need to be a part of.’”

Theatre Choreography – Her Two Loves

Ann connected her lifelong love for dance with her newfound passion for theatre when she entered high school. She auditioned for the fall play, and immediately felt right at home. There she learned that theatre itself is a whole world of multidisciplinary arts.

“Theatre is about telling the story, and there are truly no small roles,” says Ann. “It’s easy to look at the actors and think they do it all. But where would the actors be without costumes, makeup, lighting, direction, movement, and even audience reactions? Everyone that’s involved drives the story. We’re all pieces of the puzzle!”

Ann soon set her sights on a different piece of the theatrical puzzle. She approached Hayden Catholic theatre director, Mark Radziejeski, about choreographing their next musical, Merrily We Roll Along. Already impressed by her talent, he said yes.

Embracing Leadership

“Ann is a very creative person. She understands how bodies move in space and has a good sense of how to put those bodies together to create her vision,” says Mark. “She’s not afraid to try different things. She considers and integrates the input of others and adapts well to the level of the talent of the performers.” Theatre choreography clearly was a place for Ann to shine!

The ensemble of Merrily We Roll Along included students of four grade levels who had varying levels of performance abilities.  It was a large undertaking for a freshman, and Ann admits she was terrified at first.

“I was a tiny freshman in charge of artfully arranging 20 ensemble members, most of whom had never danced before,” says Ann. “The rehearsal process turned out to be a blast. I was working with the most supportive and encouraging group of students. I fell in love with the art I was creating and the people who were helping my vision come to life.”

The Project that Stands Out

Ann says one of the most memorable productions she was a part of in school was during her junior year when she choreographed the classic musical Bye Bye Birdie. The show was presented at a local performing arts center which was a huge step up from the black-box theatre and cafeteria spaces that Troupe 7275 used. And a big stage calls for a big performance. Ann embraced that artistically.

She says, “The show itself leaves so much room for creative mobility. I took every opportunity I could to drive the story through dance whether it was having the ensemble dance with real telephones in ‘The Telephone Hour,’ play out a dream sequence that represents the excitement of traveling through womanhood in ‘How Lovely to be a Woman,’ or having two dancers mirror the love Kim and Hugo share in ‘One Boy.’ The list goes on!”

Mark says Ann’s creative skills and talents fostered a creative four years of theatre. Her skills also positively influenced her peers: “Other students were witness to how a member of their peer group can be a good leader. Her positive attitude throughout the process of creating theatre has had an impact on each of them. I know this because it has had an impact on me.”

Envisioning an Artistic Future

For aspiring theatre students, it’s no surprise that Ann recommends trying new things and not being afraid to fail. She learned these lessons through the process of making herself a choreographer.

“I think in theatre and in life, it’s important to take the leap, push past your comfort zone, and commit 100-percent to what you’re doing,” she says.

Ann will be attending Kansas State University in fall 2021 with plans to double-major in elementary education and theatre, with a minor in dance. She says, “I cannot wait to get involved in the theatre and dance programs and continue to combine my two loves. I know choreography and the arts will continue to be a huge part of my life, and I cannot wait to see where they take me.”   

Natalie Clare is a Cincinnati-based writer who composes original content for brands, organizations, and publications. As a storyteller, she writes fiction and nonfiction, and she directs and produces works of film. Visit her at

  • Like What You Just Read? Share It!

  • Other Related Articles You May Enjoy

    The Making of an Imagineer

    The Making of an Imagineer

    Discover how the magic happens!

    Aug 09, 2021

    Tory Vagasy: From Thespian to America's Got Talent

    Tory Vagasy: From Thespian to America's Got Talent

    This Thespian brought the house to its feet on AGT!

    Aug 11, 2021

    How to Pick Your Best Audition Monologues

    How to Pick Your Best Audition Monologues

    7 Tips for Success!

    Aug 12, 2021