The cast of Legally Blonde: The Musical at Middle Park High School.
Jay Stewart/ Photo courtesy

When I started at Middle Park High School in 2017, my goal was to create a theater program that encompassed more than just putting on one-off shows after another. I wanted to develop a program that engages and keeps students – a place where they can learn from each other and hone their skills over a number of years. We restored the school’s theater company, which had been inactive for many years. We started the tradition of attending the Colorado Thespian Conference for high school students in Denver each year, and we initiated the acting and performance class as an elective for all students interested in theater. This class also offers students the opportunity to direct their peers in a one-act play.

Now we have a program that produces three major shows a year and that attracts more than 35 students for each “season”. I have adjusted the performance schedule to coincide with sports seasons, allowing students to participate in both sports and drama.

Going into this school year, with so many theater students graduating in 2021, I could count on two hands the number of students I was pretty sure would be attending the show this fall.

That meant we had to plan a show that would be doable with a small cast. In other words, we had to find a show that could run with little to no ensemble, but could accommodate more students as new students came along. As it turned out, there were a lot of new students joining the program — both freshmen and students new to Middle Park High School or the theater — so we were lucky enough to have picked one show, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which could include everyone.

Our winter show this year, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, was our first full-length play and gave us the opportunity to star one of our students who is on the spectrum. It was a great learning experience for the cast and crew!

Elle’s triumph in the Middle Park High School production of Legally Blonde: The Musical.
Jay Stewart/Photo courtesy

This spring we took on Legally Blonde: The Musical – a show we knew would be challenging because of its heavy reliance on dance, but we knew would be a blast.

I am incredibly proud of the students who have participated in Middle Park’s theater program over the past five years. Seniors have graciously and seamlessly assumed leadership roles, and younger students have taken on new responsibilities and challenges. Both as individuals and as a group, these students have helped create an enjoyable space to learn, stretch, and work harder than they ever imagined—all while trusting, teaching, and caring for one another enter.

Perhaps senior Sam Hoyhtya put it best: “Throughout high school I tried many different activities and social groups, but when I joined the drama group this spring, I felt like I had finally found my home. I wish it hadn’t taken four years.”

Here’s what other students had to say about their experiences, prompted by questions from Sky Hi News:

How have the events of the last few years – the fire, COVID-19 – impacted theater at the high school and how have you all overcome the challenges?

Many Middle Park High School drama students say that theater has helped them overcome difficulties over the past two and a half years.
Jay Stewart/Photo courtesy

“It was difficult to do theater because it slowed down the production of plays. The entire theater environment was closed for a while, but with the amazing group we created, 2020 was a lot easier to navigate.” – Sarah Lantermann

What role did theater play in the students’ lives in helping them through these difficult times?

“I know that for me personally, the theater was a safe place that I could always rely on in difficult times. The environment has always felt so safe, warm and welcoming and I’m so glad it continues.” – Olivia Kendziorski

In general, what does it mean to you to be in the MPHS theater?

“The MPHS Theater has a very different environment than the MPHS as a whole. The MPHS theater department is a welcoming place where people can be themselves and not hide. In general the theater is a safe, warm and beautiful place with many amazing and talented people.” – Sarah Lantermann

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