The legendary performers we see on stage and screen have one thing in common: They were born to bring stories to life that touch our hearts. That’s certainly the case for Kaden Hughes, a member of Antilles School’s International Thespian Honor Society in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The 16-year-old Thespian of Troupe 8166 is making his mark on the global stage in theatre, television, and poetry competitions. See how Kaden’s star is on the rise, and check out his tips for aspiring actors.

“If you were to ask my mom, I think she’d tell you that I’ve always loved to perform,” Kaden says. He spent much of his childhood finding different ways to find the spotlight. He always found ways to perform for his family, like lip-syncing the latest songs, using everyday objects as microphones, and engaging in impromptu speeches and improv sessions.

It wasn’t until a community theatre production of Aladdin that the then 8-year-old Kaden truly fell in love with acting.

“It [Aladdin] was my first experience being on stage, and I loved every minute of it,” Kaden says. “The onstage dynamic of commanding an audience at such a young age, the camaraderie between fellow actors, the stage design, costume and set design, and seeing how it all came together into one big color production that wowed the audience both young and old … I was hooked.”

Kaden has begun taking his talents outside of school, performing in local and national television commercials. He’s performed in the independent films Heaven’s Hill and Who Framed Tommy Callahan. He also played the lead character in the television pilot for Cherri RED Sweet Escape. Kaden recently completed work on a theatrical adaptation of the book Up Mountain One Time by Willie Wilson.

Making the Leap to TV

Playing the character Callum Hartwell, Kaden brought to life a multifaceted personality in the popular CBS series Bull. The episode, titled “Under the Influence,” aired in early May 2021.

Kaden explains, “It’s the story of a young man who’s a diamond in the rough, living in a low-income neighborhood and trying to do right by his family. When his writing teacher steps up to vouch for him to help him out of trouble—highlighting the kind, thoughtful nature of his character— it shows that there’s hope for young men like Callum to be seen.”

Kaden sees many similarities between himself and Callum. He says, “Like me, he’s a creative person who finds comfort in focusing on creative things like poetry and drawing—which for him, serve as ways to drown out the noise and focus on his future goals and dreams.”

Embodying Great Poets

Recently, Kaden competed in the 2021 Poetry Out Loud competitions. Poetry Out Loud (POL) is a national arts education program in which high school students recite and perform poetry. The competition features students from America, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa. Kaden became the U.S. Virgin Islands state champion in March and a national finalist in April. He competed in the national championship at the end of May.

You can view his performance of George Gascoigne’s “And If I Did, What Then?” here.

Looking to the Future

Currently, Kaden is working with CESD Talent to audition for many different projects. He hopes to book more roles that’ll stretch his range and allow him to further explore screen performance.

As far as long-term dreams, Kaden aims to become a screenwriter and director. He sees directing as an ever-evolving task that allows you to think on your feet and see things in ways that others may not have thought of. He’s also inspired by a director’s ability to be creative, forward thinking, and innovative. He credits the International Thespian Honor Society as a major influence in his growing career.

“Being a part of the International Thespian Honor Society continues to offer wonderful opportunities for support for all theater kids in the school setting. Its programs and affiliations help to support and uplift the creative arts both locally and nationally, and for that I’m very grateful,” Kaden says. “I’m proud to be a newly initiated member and look forward to further exploring the opportunities available. In fact, I’ll be participating in a leadership workshop later this month that I’m looking forward to.

Kaden’s Dos and Don’ts for Aspiring Actors


1. Embrace hard work. While it hasn’t been easy to juggle and balance school responsibilities along with my acting pursuits, it’s an awesome feeling when the hard work begins to pay off. I continue to hone my craft, to train, perform, and learn to ensure that my skills are fresh and to be sure that I’m ready when additional opportunities come my way. Nothing worthwhile comes easy and being willing to put in the work really pays off in the end.

2. Keep your eye on the goal. Stay focused on developing yourself, working to improve, and moving forward. While we all need time to relax, unwind, and lighten up sometimes, getting back on track and continuing to move toward your ultimate goal without distractions is key to ensuring that you stay focused.

3. Do be open to hearing “no.” In this business, “no” will come, but you have to put yourself in a position to accept the feedback if offered and continue to work until you hear the “yes.”


1. Don’t be put off by haters. If you know that you’re skilled and are truly passionate about what you do, don’t let others dim your light or pull you away from your positive energy.

2. Don’t be afraid to think big. Although I lived in a small community in the U.S. Virgin Islands, I didn’t let my location and lack of proximity to major projects, producers and casting agents limit my goals. I was confident that I could deliver, and with the help of my awesome team at CESD Talent, worked to showcase my skills.

3. Don’t underestimate NYC rush hour traffic. I’ll never forget the time that my mom and I had to jump out of a yellow cab stuck in the middle of standstill traffic on a Manhattan roadway on a sweltering summer afternoon and literally run down 8th Avenue approximately 10 blocks to an audition, in order to make it on time. While it was an extremely memorable experience that we laughed about as we hustled down the busy NYC road, I wouldn’t recommend it. While the audition went well, it certainly made for a little extra pre-audition stress. 

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

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