Tags Articles tagged with "MHS Theatre Company"

MHS Theatre Company

Photos by Kyle Norby

Showing off the theatrical, dance and musical talents of nearly 100 students, Maricopa High School Theatre Company won in its opening-night performance of “Newsies.”

The cast and crew were joined by a dance troupe from the school’s Performing Company as well as MHS orchestra members in a robust production that continues Friday and Saturday. The addition of full-length dance numbers that involved most of the cast was particularly invigorating in its choreography by junior Taya Johnson and its execution.

With songs by Alan Menken and Jack Feldman and a book by Harvey Fierstein, MHS Theatre Company is tackling a Broadway hit inspired by real-life events in 1899 New York. The show demands high energy, and the performers deliver.

Emma Schrader as the central character Jack doesn’t have to carry the entire production, being surrounded by so many gifted performers, but she could. While she has to act, sing and dance, she must cross genders and affect the New York accent of a street tough, all at the same time. She has to pull that off for the show to work, and she definitely does.

As the softer-spoken Davey, Joey Russoniello has some occasion to expose his superior singing voice, as does Haley Raffaele, who plays the spunky reporter Katherine and does a fine job manufacturing chemistry with Schrader. Speaking of vocals, Lindsey Coms has a great solo as Medda Larkin.

Derek Blakely is a weasely Joseph Pulitzer, the bad guy of the piece, who isn’t seen much but leaves an impression. The company’s many reliable character actors like Julie Goodrum, Jae Luna and Princess Jimenez bring a lot of life and color to the production.

Riley Bell and the dance crew shine every time they are on stage, and what’s more remarkable is the level of dance performance by the actors to allow them to meld seamlessly as one performing unit.

A tip of the hat to music conductor Ivan Pour and the MHS orchestra keeping it real under the stage.

Showtimes are 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday as well.

A portion of the cast of "Newsies" in rehearsal. Photo by Kyle Norby

What: Newsies
Who: MHS Theatre Company
When: Feb. 27-29, 7 p.m.; Feb. 29, 2 p.m.
How much: $12 adults; $10 students

In 1899, newsboys across New York City went on strike, refusing to sell the New York Evening World or the Evening Journal after Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hurst raised prices the boys had to pay for a bundle. The boys forced the media magnates into a compromise deal. True story.

This month, Maricopa High School Theatre Company is staging the musical Newsies based on that influential boycott.

“It’s about the 1899 newsboy strike. So, there’s people that you know – Joseph Pulitzer, real person; Teddy Roosevelt, real person,” said MHS Theatre Director Alexandra Stahl. “It’s about kids overcoming injustice.”

Newsies started as a Disney musical starring Christian Bale in 1992, a movie that struggled to get noticed despite a score by Alan Menkin and Jack Feldman. Twenty years later, it was converted to Broadway and was a big hit, running for 1,004 performances and winning a Tony Award for its score.

In the musical, leading the strike is the rough-and-tumble Jack Kelly, based on the real-life Kid Blink. While many of the supporting roles are gender-neutral, Jack has fairly steadfastly been portrayed by a male actor, until now.

“I didn’t even imagine that I could get this role. I was shooting for Davey,” said junior Emma Schrader, who played Golda in last year’s Fiddler on the Roof. “It’s the first time I walked out of an audition feeling good about how I performed. Then callbacks came out, and I got called back to play Jack. And I thought, ‘That was not even a possibility in my book.’”

Because the part involves a kiss – “They made it very clear that it had to be a stage kiss” – Stahl took the issue to Principal Brian Winter, who told her to cast the kid who most deserves it.

“Emma came in and blew our socks off,” Stahl said. “Every day since, she has proved that was the right choice. And Haley was always going to be Katherine.”

Emma Schrader and Jae Luna rehearse from atop the set. Photo by Kyle Norby

Haley Raffaele, a sophomore, plays a newspaper reporter for the New York Sun. “She gets tangled up in the newsie drama when she meets Jack Kelly,” she said. “She’s kind of follows their story and helps them out. she really ends up caring about all these boys and wanting to bring their story to light and help them figure out this problem.”

Raffaele played the lead in Maricopa Community Theatre’s Freaky Friday The Musical last year. For the school musical, she has worked to find connection with Katherine.

“She’s special character. I love her,” she said, but she’s also discovered the challenges of “balancing personal, school and theater life and being in AP honors classes.”

Like Schrader, senior Derek Blakely was surprised with the part he landed. Often cast as comic relief, he now plays Joseph Pulitzer, the primary nemesis of the newsboys.

“He’s a real dude and definitely the bad guy in this one,” Blakely said. “He raises the price the newsies have to pay for newspapers just to steal an extra nickel or dime off of them. I’m basically the reason they’re rising up.”

Photo by Kyle Norby

Blakely said he wanted to challenge himself in his senior year, and the part moved him out of his comfort zone. He would like a career in the animation industry in production and as a voice actor.

“This is the first time I’ve had a proper singing part up to this point. I was actually very scared to sing,” he said. “Like a year ago, if you’d asked me to sing, I definitely would have cried because it stressed me out so much. I got to this one, and I was like, ‘I want to end my senior year with the biggest part that I can, and I know that I’m going to have to sing.’”

Stahl said the company had worked through almost all the available musicals that did not require a lot of dancers. Newsies demands a lot of dancing. Stahl made junior Taya Johnson her student choreographer, and they brought in students from the Performance Group, the school’s dance troupe.

Johnson plays Splasher, as well. While the other actors have had to work hard at choreography – “again and again and again,” Schrader said – even the dancers were not all honed for Broadway style or tap. And while working on their lines, the actors are also working on their vocals. Some are even taking voice lessons.

“Bringing it together at the end is what’s really crucial for us,” Schrader said.

Photo by Kyle Norby

And then there’s the character development.

“Sometimes musicals don’t tend to be a lot of character work because it’s so showy and flashy, but Jack goes through quite the journey,” Stahl said. “We had the conversations: What is shame? What does that look like?”

“Jack is, on the surface, very cocky, very confident in his own abilities, but on the inside he just seeks a family, and that drives him throughout the show, to find people that he feels safe around and can truly show his inner self,” Schrader said. “A major character arc is Jack’s shame and him dealing with it. I didn’t know how to play that. I had to learn what courage and shame are in myself.”

Photo by Kyle Norby

This is Stahl’s second year as head of the company, which had already won state High School Musical Theatre Awards and was shaping up as a formidable force under Cynthia Calhoun.

“Well, I came in and told them, ‘Let’s make a name for ourselves.’ And then we won at Nationals, and I was like, ‘OK! Here we are,’” Stahl said. “I think we’re heading down the right track. When they’re on, and it’s not a hot mess running through, they’re very good. You fall in love with the characters; you believe the story they tell.”

MHS Theatre Company is preparing for national and state adjudications next year and has learned to adapt to the natural cycle of performers in and out of the program.

“They see what shoes they have to fill, and they just seem to fill them,” Stahl said. “We’re building up a company of strong actors and singers. I think we’re going to keep making a name for ourselves.”

Photo by Kyle Norby

Jae Luna (left) as Smee and Julie Goodrum as Black Stache in "Peter and the Starcatcher." Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa High School Theatre Company debuted its production of the Tony Award-winning play “Peter and the Starcatcher” at the Performing Arts Center. Imagined as a backstory to Peter Pan, the whimsical and often funny play continues Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., with an additional Saturday matinee at 2 p.m.

With great performances all around from a cast taking turns in the spotlight, the production features Joey Russoniello as the nameless Boy who hates grownups (for good reason), Taya Johnson as the intelligent, adventurous and motherly Molly Aster, and Julie Goodrum as the hilariously preening villain Black Stache.

The production is supported by a set that serves as ship and island, great sound effects and witty stagecraft. The play is directed by Alexandra Stahl, with Princess Elisa Jimenez as student director. Kevin Piquette is technical director over the tech theater crew.

Cast member of "Peter and the Starcatcher" include (from left) Emma Schrader, Ricky Raffaele, Taya Johnson and Joey Russoniello. Photo by Victor Moreno

What: Peter and the Starcatcher
Who: MHS Theatre Company
When: Oct. 24-26, 7 p.m., matinee Oct. 26, 2 p.m.
Where: MHS Performing Arts Center, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave.
How much: $5 students; $7 general admission, $10 VIP
ASL interpretation available

Despite a late changeout of the entire show just before auditions, Maricopa High School Theatre Company is making fast work of its fall production, “Peter & the Starcatcher.”

An origin story for “Peter Pan,” which the troupe performed last fall, “Peter and the Starcatcher” became celebrated for its sets and costuming in its Tony-Award-winning run in 2012.

“It’s the prequel, so it has so many sweet moments that tell you how Peter Pan came and how the story they fell in love with last year exists,” said theater instructor Alexandra Stahl, who directs the play.

Stahl had wanted to wait another year or two before producing “Starcatcher” because of the close proximity to last year’s production. MHS Theatre Company planned to perform “She Kills Monsters,” a nerd comedy drawing inspiration from Dungeons & Dragons, but in mid-July the administration asked Stahl for something less controversial for now.

What made “Starcatcher” work well in the shortened timeframe was the fact many in the company were already well-versed in the basic story and were excited about the project. There is lots of word play and definitely pirates.

“It started out with some of the same characters, and that made it a little bit easier,” Stahl said, “but I didn’t want to bring back the red Hook coat, because I didn’t want people to be like, ‘That’s Hook!’”

Stahl was looking for “youthful innocence” in the casting of the orphan known only as Boy for much of the show. That turned out to be sophomore Joey Russoniello.

“Honestly, I love the show,” Russoniello said. “We saw the show when we went to Nationals over the summer. I never thought it would even be a possibility for me to play this role. And then we ended up doing the show.”

A singer before joining the company as a freshman, Russoniello has had to step up his acting skills.

“It’s a really good challenge,” he said. “That was something I really needed to develop, and this show is really pushing me to do that.”

Junior Taya Johnson plays Molly, who eventually is revealed to be

the Starcatcher. In “Peter Pan” last year, she played Michael.

She describes Molly as a 13-year-old Victorian with an unusual educational upbringing and independent character. She watched a bootleg version of the original show on YouTube a couple of times and also fell in love with the story.

“It’s my first lead role, so I’m very nervous,” Johnson said. “I’m really happy I have the opportunity to do this play.”

The play does not lean heavily on either of the titular roles.

“It’s basically storytelling theatre. There’s no one person who is the star,” Stahl said. “They’re all telling the story together. Many play multiple characters throughout the show. There’s some points where these characters are listed in the script as ‘Narrator Molly’ or ‘Narrator Boy.’”

Cast: Boy (Peter) – Joey Russoniello; Prentis – Emma Schrader; Ted – Ricky Raffaele; Lord Leonard Aster – Simon Ty; Molly Aster – Taya Johnson; Mrs. Bumbrake – Haley Lemon; Captain Robert Scott – John Jackson; Grempkin – Aliyah Garcia; Bill Slank – Douglas Moulton; Alf – Derek Blakely; Mack – Angelina George; Black Stache – Julie Goodrum; Smee – Jae Luna; Sanchez – Mary Brokenshire; Fighting Prawn – Mary Brokenshire; Hawking Clam – Grace Goodrum; Teacher – Haley Raffaele; Ensemble – Morgan Cutrara, Gracee Clark, Ashton Crosniak, Isabella Netro, Astraya Ellyson

This story appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.

Photo by Victor Moreno

Submitted photo

 In Lincoln, Nebraska, members of the Maricopa High School Theatre Company participated in the International Thespian Festival last week and were one of the highlights of this year’s event. Their group number “Welcome to the Rock” from the musical Come from Away was one of just seven to receive a callback after their initial performance and then went on to perform in the Showcase on Friday and Saturday, a rare honor. Troup members earned their spots at Nationals with top marks in the state competition. The ITF has grown to almost 4,500 performers, so big it has to move from Nebraska, where it has been held since 1995, to Indiana University next year.

by -

Cast members of Maricopa High School’s production of Fiddler on the Roof performed “Tradition” from the musical on the ASU Gammage stage Saturday for the High School Musical Theatre Awards. MHS Theatre Company was among 26 troupes competing for prizes. It was the third straight year they have participated. Three performers – Antonio Gonzales, Douglas Moulton and Taryn Story – were Top 10 finalists in their individual categories, and MHS Tech Theatre was a finalist in sound design and set/prop design. The night was dominated by Mingus Union High School’s “Newsies,” a Broadway musical schedule to be performed next spring by MHS Theatre Company.

by -
Doug Moulton (left) and Antonio Gonzales are both finalists in this year's ASU Gammage High School Musical Theatre Awards. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa students are among the honorees at the statewide High School Musical Theatre Awards, to be presented May 25 at 7 p.m. at ASU Gammage.

Taryn Story

Nominated finalists from Maricopa High School’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof” include Antonio Gonzales as best male lead, Douglas Moulton as best supporting male, Taryn Story as best dancer and MHS Tech Theatre for best sound and best sets/props.

Gonzales, a senior who played Tevye in the production, is also a state officer for the Arizona Chapter of the International Thespian Society. Moulton, a junior, played Lazar Wolf and is also a choir member. Story, a senior, is a Theatre Company cabinet member and a member of the National Honor Society. The musical was under the direction of instructor Alexandra Stahl. Kevin Piquette leads tech theatre.

Judges watched nominated fall and spring musical productions across Arizona to decide the finalists.

Awards night includes nominated performances of musical numbers or medleys by the state’s best high school theater departments. Winners of best male lead and best female lead earn a trip to New York City for the national Jimmy Awards.

Previous MHS students have claimed prizes at the ASU Gammage awards, including best male vocalist (Carlos O. Venegas) and best supporting male (Nikolas Mase).

MHS Tech Theatre was nominated for the sets/props.

Antonio Gonzales, an MHS senior, leads "Fiddler on the Roof." Photos by Raquel Hendrickson

A hearty, energetic and often very touching rendition of “Fiddler on the Roof” opened Thursday at the Maricopa Performing Arts Center.

The latest production of the Maricopa High School Theatre Company hit all the big, showstopper expectations as well as the intimate notes of family, love and faith. The cast of over 100 was accompanied by an under-stage orchestra of student and adult musicians.

There’s solid story-telling, there’s singing, there’s dancing, there is a faux dream and a living nightmare. It’s a heck of a show.

“Fiddler” inherently lives or dies on the shoulders of whoever plays Tevye the dairyman, around whom everyone in the Russian village of Anatevka seems to revolve (literally at one point). In this case, senior Antonio Gonzales is at his best, carrying his scenes with authority and conveying the complexities of a simple man being tossed about by changes he cannot control.

He and Emma Schrader as Tevye’s wife Golde have some particularly strong sets together. They are a poor couple with five daughters, three of whom are of marriageable age and are portrayed by three of the company’s most accomplished actresses. All are excellent.

Aidyn Curtis as the oldest daughter Tzeitel must accept an arranged marriage to a much older but well-off Lazar Wolf (Douglas Moulton) or defy her father for a poor tailor she has loved since childhood (Brandon Korittky). Kjirsten Lemon as Hodel falls for a scholar with revolutionary ideas (Ricky Raffaele), which does not please Papa at all. Taryn Story as Chava commits the almost-irredeemable sin of marrying a Gentile (Derek Blakely), a break from faith and tradition that Tevye cannot bear.

Korittky as Motel the tailor rounds out four years as arguably the troupe’s most reliable character actor. He’s terrific here. Mary Brokenshire is a scene-stealer as Yente, as is Fallon Fruchey as long-dead Grandma Tzeitel.

The set is top-notch, effectively using small parts to convey larger scenes. The Fruma-Sarah entry with Astraya Ellison in the very funny dream sequence is a tour de force. The live orchestra was a good call on the part of director Alexandra Stahl. It was also transforming to have the actors choreographed into dancers by MHS dance teacher Alexandra Biggs.

Performances continue Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., plus a 2 p.m. Saturday matinee. Tickets can be purchased online or at the box office.

Playing sisters in “Fiddler on the Roof” are (from left) Hannah Panter, Taryn Story, Aidyn Curtis, Kiki Lemon and Alexia Esquivel. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

What: “Fiddler on the Roof”
Who: MHS Theatre Company
When: April 25-26, 7 p.m., April 27, 2 p.m. & 7 p.m.
Where: MHS Performing Arts Center auditorium, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave.
How much: $10/general admission; $7/staff & students
Info: Purchase tickets online

The big spring musical this year for Maricopa High School Theatre Company is a big Broadway show.

“Fiddler on the Roof” is April 25-27 at 7 p.m. plus a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m.

This production will have music performed live by MHS orchestra members and teachers. While teacher Alexandra Stahl directs the play, MHS music director Ivan Pour conducts the music.

Stahl said she’s wanted to direct the musical since she was 18. “It’s beautiful, and it has good themes,” she said. “It’s a beast of a show.”

One of the longest-running shows in Broadway history, “Fiddler” is memorably scored by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick with a book by Joseph Stein. Among the well-known tunes are the title song, “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” “Tradition,” “If I Were a Rich Man” and “Sunrise, Sunset.”

In the story set in 1905 Russia, a poor, Jewish couple Tevye (played by Antonio Gonzales) and Golde (Emma Schrader) are struggling to get by while their daughters are coming of age to marry. Yente the matchmaker (Mary Brokenshire) sets up the oldest daughter Tzeitel (Aidyn Curtis) to marry the wealthy but old butcher Lazar Wolf (Douglas Moulton). Tevya agrees to this, not knowing Tzeitel is in love with childhood friend Motel (Brandon Korittky).

Other cast members:
Hannah Panter – Bielke
Alexia Esquivel – Shprintze
Chance Batton – Mordcha
Kade Cruse – RabbiSimon Ty – Mendel
Ashton Chrosniak – Avram
Julie Goodrum – Nachum
Fallon Fruchey – Grandma Tzeitel
Astraya Ellison – Fruma-Sarah
Miles Starks – constable
Zephanie Colppeman – Shaindel
Alex-Ann Velasco – the fiddler
Alex Hurley – Sasha
Joey Russoniello – Yussel

Tyler Hanks, Kasey Cowert, Aleyna Call, Brenna Fitzpatrick, Ash Porras, Eonna Mooney, Zariah Marsh, Lindsey Coms, Olivia Kurpaska, Mia Gross, Destiny Shane, Emme Borthe, Katie Hanks, Scotland JanFrancisco, Morgan Cutrara, Gracee Clark, Emma Carr, John Jackson, Alex Haywood, Haley Raffaele, Nick Perez, Faith Ayala, Princess Jimenez

Meanwhile, second daughter Hodel (Kjirsten Lemon) is falling for Bolshevik tutor Perchik (Ricky Rafaele), and third daughter Chava (Taryn Story) has befriended gentile Fyedka (Derek Blakely). The breaks from traditional behavior cause tumult in the family. Meanwhile, the Russian authorities are pushing to drive out all the Jews.

The cast is peopled with several young performers who have qualified for the International Thespian Society National Competition and are familiar talents from previous productions. Learn more about them here.

Antonio Gonzales plays Tevye the dairyman in “Fiddler.” Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

“It just inspires me,” Stahl said, “because I think of it as in today. There’s the whole theme of Tevye disowning his daughter, and I think of parents today who have gay kids. So, it breaks my heart, but it’s definitely a very real thing that happens in society today.”

Many of the cast members had at least heard of “Fiddler,” and Stahl did not have trouble selling them on the production.

“There’s a lot of really good roles,” she said.

Community members, too, have told her they are champing at the bit to come see the show, “so I’m hoping we do it justice.”

Tickets can be purchased at the box office the day of show or purchased online here.

Seniors Brandon Korittky and Aidyn Curtis rehearse for “Fiddler on the Roof.” Photo by Raquel Hendrickson


This story appears in the April issue of InMaricopa.

by -
The group musical piece "Welcome to the Rock" from the show "Come From Away" earned Maricopa kids a superior score in Regionals. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa High School students who rated the top score of “superior” at Arizona Thespian Regional competition in January have been trying to raise funds to make the trip to Lincoln, Nebraska for nationals.

Emme Boothe

The students – Emme Booth, Keara Burke, Genevieve Burno, Aidyn Curtis, Alexia Esquivel, Fallon Fruchey, Antonio Gonzales, Julianna Goodrum, Alex Hurley, Princess Jimenez, Brandon Korittky, Kade Kruse, Kiki Lemon, Hannah Panter, Haley Raffaele, Joey Russoniello, Emma Schrader, Chloe Seekings and Taryn Story – qualified in musical performances, monologues and duet scenes.

Find out how you can help through the Maricopa High Theatre Boosters:
• On Facebook @MaricopaHighTheatreBoosters
• By phone at 520-371-4146

Learn more about some of the young people:

Emme Boothe

Age: 16
Grade: 10
Years in Maricopa: 10

Keara Burke

National-qualifying performance: Monologues from “Quiche Isn’t Sexy” and “The Children’s Hour”
MHS Theatre Co.: “Taming of the Shrew,” “The Baker’s Wife,” “Fiddler on the Roof”
Future plans: “I want to go to New York University for art and theatre.”


Keara Burke
Age: 17
Grade: 11
Years in Maricopa: 7
National-qualifying performance: Stage management of “Peter Pan”
MHS Theatre Co.: “Beauty and the Beast,” “Taming of the Shrew,” “The Baker’s Wife,” “45 seconds from Broadway,” “Silent Sky,” stage manager for “Peter Pan”
Future plans: “My future plans are to go to ASU and get a BFA in theatre production in hopes to one day work on Broadway as a technician or be a stage manager for Disney theatrical productions.”


Genevieve Burno







Aidyn Curtis

Aidyn Curtis

Age: 17
Grade: 12
Years in Maricopa: 9
National-qualifying performance: “Welcome to the Rock” from “Come From Away” group musical and two monologues
MHS Theatre Co.: “Pirates of Penzance,” “Taming of the Shrew,” “Peter Pan,” “The Baker’s Wife,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” stage manager for “Narnia,” musical director for “Beauty and the Beast,” director of “[Title of Show]”
Future plans: Attend ASU in the fall


Alexia Esquivel

Alexia Esquivel
Age: 18
Grade: 12
Years in Maricopa: 2
National-qualifying performance: “Welcome to the Rock” from “Come From Away” group musical
MHS Theatre Co.: “Narnia,” “You Can’t Take It with You,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Taming of the Shrew,” “45 Seconds from Broadway,” “The Baker’s Wife,” “Peter Pan”
Future plans: “I am going to be attending the University of Arizona in the fall, majoring in marketing with the Eller College of Business.”


Fallon Fruchey

Fallon Fruchey

Age: 15
Grade: 10
Years in Maricopa: 15
National-qualifying performance: “’night, Mother” duet scene, “Mystery of Edwin Drood” solo musical
MHS Theatre Co.: “Taming of the Shrew,” “The Baker’s Wife,” “Fiddler on the Roof”
Future plans: Attend New York University to study psychology and theatre



Antonio Gonzales



Antonio Gonzales
Age: 18
Grade: 12
Years in Maricopa: 3.5
National-qualifying performance: “Welcome to the Rock” from “Come From Away” group musical, “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical” duet musical and two monologues
MHS Theatre Co.: “Beauty and the Beast,” “You Can’t Take It with You,” “The Baker’s Wife,” “Peter Pan,” “Silent Sky,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” director of “Silent Sky”
Future plans: “I plan on going to ASU and studying theatre, either the acting side or tech side of things.”


Julianna Goodrum

Julianna Goodrum

Age: 16
Grade: 11
Years in Maricopa: 2
National-qualifying performance: “Dear Evan Hansen” duet musical
MHS Theatre Co.: “Peter Pan,” “[Title of Show]”
Future plans: Remain in the Theatre Company until I graduate and help out wherever I can, pursue education and creative arts, music, theater, etc.”




Alex Hurley

Alex Hurley
Age: 17
Grade: 12
Years in Maricopa: 5
National-qualifying performance: “Welcome to the Rock” from “Come From Away” group musical
MHS Theatre Co.: “Narnia,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Spring Awakening”
Future plans: Musician and/or actor/performer








Princess Jiminez

Princess Jimenez

Age: 16
Grade: 10
Years in Maricopa: 3
National-qualifying performance: “’night, Mother” duet scene
MHS Theatre Co.: “Silent Sky,” “The Baker’s Wife,” “Peter Pan”
Future plans: “Social worker, open my own bakery, university”






Brandon Korittky

Brandon Korittky
Age: 17
Grade: 12
Years in Maricopa: 17
National-qualifying performance: “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical” duet musical
MHS Theatre Co.: “Pirates of Penzance,” “Narnia,” “The Baker’s Wife,” “Peter Pan,” “The Curious Savage,” “Fiddler on the Roof”
Future plans: “Live my life to the fullest”






Kade Kruse

Kade Kruse

Age: 17
Grade: 12
Years in Maricopa: 9
National-qualifying performance: “Welcome to the Rock” from “Come From Away” group musical
MHS Theatre Co.: “And Then There Were None,” “[Title of Show]”
Future plans: Community college and then university






Kiki Lemon

Kjirsten “Kiki” Lemon
Age: 17
Grade: 12
Years in Maricopa: 12
National-qualifying performance: “Welcome to the Rock” from “Come From Away” group musical
MHS Theatre Co.: “Les Miserables,” “You Can’t Take It with You,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Baker’s Wife,” “Peter Pan,” “The Curious Savage,” “Fiddler on the Roof”
Future plans: “Study at university for theatre education, serve an LDS mission, eventually become a theatre instructor for high school.”



Hannah Panter

Hannah Panter

Age: 17
Grade: 12
Years in Maricopa: 4
National-qualifying performance: “Welcome to the Rock” from “Come From Away” group musical
MHS Theatre Co.: “Les Miserables,” “The Philadelphia Story,” “Rumors,” “Narnia,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” director/stage manager of “Silent Sky”
Future plans: Bachelor’s degree in elementary education at a four-year university with a minor in music



Haley Raffaele

Haley Raffaele
Age: 14
Years in Maricopa: 9
National-qualifying performance: “Welcome to the Rock” from “Come From Away” group musical
MHS Theatre Co.: “Peter Pan,” “[Title of Show]”
Future plans: “Continuing with the theatre company and the International Thespian Society. Maybe trying to get on the company cabinet.”




Joey Russoniello

Joey Russoniello
National-qualifying performance: “Welcome to the Rock” from “Come From Away” group musical
MHS Theatre Company: “[title of show]”
Future plans: Vocalist/Actor






Emma Schrader

Emma Schrader

Age: 15
Grade: 10
Years in Maricopa: 13
National-qualifying performance: Two monologues
MHS Theatre Co.: “Taming of the Shrew,” “The Baker’s Wife,” “Peter Pan,” “The Curious Savage,” “Fiddler on the Roof”
Future plans: “I dunno! Either actress, journalist or music creator”







Chloe Seekings

Chloe Seekings

Age: 17
Grade: 11
MHS Theatre Co.: “The Bakers Wife,” “Taming of the Shrew,” tech for “45 Seconds to Broadway,” assistant stage manager for “Peter Pan”
Other theater: Stage manager for “The Good Doctor” – Maricopa Community Theatre
Future goals: “I want to go to college and hopefully stage manager for a Broadway show one day. Also start a band.”






Taryn Story

Taryn Story

National-qualifying performances: “Me & the Sky” from “Come From Away” solo musical, “Welcome to the Rock” from “Come From Away” group musical
MHS Theatre Co.: “Pirates of Penzance,” “Les Miserables,” “Narnia,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Taming of the Shrew,” ‘Tracks,” ‘Rumors,” “The Baker’s Wife,” ‘Peter Pan,” “The Audition,” “[title of show]” (director)
Future goals: Bachelor’s degree at ASU, major in theatre

MHS Theatre Company will present “Fiddler on the Roof” April 25-27 at Maricopa Performing Arts Center.

Photos by Raquel Hendrickson

MHS Theatre Company presented a trio of plays with student-directed productions for its winter showcase in the Black Box Theatre at the Performing Arts Center. The students presented “Title of Show,” “Curious Savage” and “Silent Sky.” The showcase was part of a fund-raiser to send 19 students to the International Thespian Festival in Nebraska. The troupe’s big spring musical is “Fiddler on the Roof,” scheduled for April 25-27.

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa High School Theatre Company launched “Peter Pan” Thursday night for its weekend production. Starring Taryn Story as Peter and Antonio Gonzales as Hook, the play puts its actors and stage crew to the test with very fun results. The well-known story follows the Darling children as they take up with an ageless boy for a bit of adventure. Using a bit of fairy dust, they fly to Neverland and have a jolly old time with its inhabitants of Lost Boys, warriors and pirates. While there are plenty of opportunities to ham it up for the high-energy cast, there are moments of genuine pathos with the worried Mrs. Darling (Kjirsten Lemon) and the core yearning of the Lost Boys for a mother.

This is Story’s first time in a starring role for the company, and she excels as the petulant, boasting, lonesome child that is Peter. As Hook, Gonzales is a preening, scene-stealing pirate captain, a role that is a near opposite of his previous lead role in last spring’s musical “The Baker’s Wife.” Tots in the opening-night crowd loved him, which is high praise. The Darlings getting to fly with Peter Pan are Genevieve Burno as Wendy, Simon Ty and John and Taya Johnson and Michael, and all are just as they should be. The play is full of action and colorful characters, and the cast goes at it with enthusiasm.

The play is directed by Alexandra Stahl, who draws from her cast a high level of performance that is now expected of MHS Theatre Company. Technical Director Kevin Piquette and his crew put together complicated set pieces that sometimes upstaged the actors with their cleverness. Sound and lighting were near perfect. “Peter Pan” continues Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., and there is also a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5.

Antonio Gonzales is Hook and Taryn Story is Peter Pan in the play to be presented by MHS Theatre Company Nov. 8-10.

One of the first curiosities Alexandra Stahl noticed on becoming the theater teacher at Maricopa High School this year is the affinity the MHS Theatre Company had with Peter Pan without producing the play.

Peter Pan or The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up
When: Nov. 8-9 at 7 p.m., Nov. 10 at 2 p.m. & 7 p.m.
Where: Maricopa High School Performing Arts Center, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave.
How much: $5
Who: Taryn Story (Peter Pan), Genevieve Burno (Wendy), Antonio Gonzales (Hook), Simon Ty (John), Derek Blakely (Smee), Aidyn Curtis (Princess Tiger Lilly), Taya Johnson (Michael), Kjirsten Lemon (Mrs. Darling), Douglas Moulton (Mr. Darling), Brandon Korittky (Curly), Chief Great Big Little Panther (Nicholas Perez), Emma Schrader (Nana), Alexia Esquivel (Liza), Jae Luna (Slightly), Cannon Jones (Tootles), Julianna Goodrum (Nibs), Zephanie Coleman (Omnes), Hannah Panter (first twin), Alex Hurley (second twin), Kade Cruse (Gentleman Starkey), Tommy Dryden (Cecco), Miles Starks (Bill Jukes), Matthew Ferguson (Noodles), John Jackson (Cookson), Francis Trast (Skylights), Alex-Ann Velasco (Mullens), more than 50 others.

In past performances, company members have performed pieces from musical off-shoots of the J.M. Barrie story like Finding Neverland and Peter and the Starcatcher.

“They just seemed destined to do it,” Stahl said.

The troupe performs the play Nov. 8-10 as its fall production. It is not a musical but the play that originated in 1904.

Though it is her fifth year teaching (she was previously at Poston Butte High School in San Tan Valley), this is Stahl’s first with MHS Theatre Company. She worked to get familiar with the program and the students during spring semester.

“Casting was a real process. These kids are insanely talented,” Stahl said. “I’ve never been so proud of a cast.”

Senior Taryn Story plays the title character.

“I really like how it’s written,” she said. “It’s written for kids, but there’s a lot that adults can take out of it.”

Aidyn Curtis is Princess Tiger Lily. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Junior Genevieve Burno, who just finished a production of Cabaret with Maricopa Community Theatre, plays Wendy, the eldest daughter in the Darling household.

“It’s timeless,” she said. “So much can be taken from it.”

Theater tech teacher Kevin Piquette brought in ZFX Flying Effects to mount rigging and teach four of the cast members how to “fly” and the tech crew how to fly them. All had to sign letters of indemnity.

“Logistically, it’s a nightmare,” Piquette said of soaring students, “but I don’t think you can do Peter Pan without it.”

The cave of the Lost Boys is part of the complicated tech for Peter Pan.


Theater teacher Alexandra Stahl talks to the cast during rehearsals. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

This story appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.


The first Peter Pan, in 1904, was Nina Boucicault.

Nina Boucicault (1904)
Maude Adams (1905)
Zena Dare (1914)
Jean Forbes-Robertson (1927)
Eva LeGallienne (1928)
Mary Martin (1954)
Sandy Duncan (1980)
Cathy Rigby (1990)

Genevieve Burno goes up as flying director Wesley Miller of ZFX Flying Effects provides guidance during rehearsals for “Peter Pan.”

by -
Britney Montgomery in "The Baker's Wife." Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

A Maricopa High School student is among the finalists announced for the ASU Gammage High School Musical Theatre Awards.

The MHS Theatre Company’s production of “The Baker’s Wife” was among 26 shows nominated for best musical.

MHS senior Britney Montgomery was named a finalist for outstanding supporting female performance as Denise. She was also nominated for best vocal performance.

The school’s other nominees included junior Antonio Gonzales as best male lead (Aimable), junior Kjirsten Lemon as best female lead (Genevieve), junior Brandon Korittky for outstanding supporting male performance (Dominique), and senior Chaienne Zoller for outstanding dancer (Simone).

Ten to 12 finalists were chosen from around 20 nominees in each category. This is the second year MHS has participated, walking away with two of the top awards last year. The ceremony is May 26 at 7 p.m. at ASU Gammage.

Learn more about Britney

MOBILE USERS GET NEWS FIRST. Download InMaricopa for Apple and Android devices.

Opening night for the Maricopa High School Theatre Company’s spring musical, “The Baker’s Wife,” was Thursday. Met with a warm reception, the production features an entertaining if challenging score for a talented cast. The show stars Antonio Gonzales as the baker and Kjirsten Lemon as his wife, who becomes the center of a village scandal. Both give touching performances amid a town of comically feuding neighbors who will do just about anything to get their daily bread – even learn to get along. In support are Britney Montgomery, Collin Martin, Brandon Korittky, Carlos Aguilar, Douglas Moulton and many more. Performances continue Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. with a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m. Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for students.

Theater students from Maricopa High School have written and will perform a play in Florence about the "Baron of Arizona." (File photo)

Students from Maricopa are getting into the act for the Historic Florence Home Tour.

Maricopa High School Theatre Company was asked to perform a bit of history for the 33rd annual event. When local drama clubs were not able to participate, the Florence recreation superintendent knew who to call.

John Nixon was Community Services director in Maricopa before taking the job in Florence. He approached MHS drama teacher Cynthia Calhoun with the committee-chosen title, “The Baron of Arizona,” about infamous fraudster James Reavis. The MHS students jumped at the chance.

“The kids are performing an original script that they wrote about the people of Florence and how they reacted to and banded together against Reavis’ phony Peralta Land Grant claim,” said Calhoun, a master teacher.

She met with Pinal County Historical Museum staff for background to give the theater students solid footing for their storytelling.

“We are excited that a talented high school drama club from Pinal County is willing to come to Florence to perform,” Nixon said.   

The Florence Home Tour started incorporating live plays last year. The drama club from San Tan Foothills High School presented “The Trial of Pearl Hart; Lady Bandit.” Nixon said it was standing-room-only for both performances.

This year, the tour committee asked Calhoun’s troupe to perform three shows for 20-25 minutes each. Nixon said the additional performance would give more visitors the opportunity to view the play.

“The Baron of Arizona” will be performed Feb. 10 at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. at McFarland Historical State Park, 24 W. Ruggles St. The home tour runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Learn more about the tour at www.florenceaz.gov/hometour.

by -
Maricopa High School students performing in Gila Bend. Submitted photo

Saturday, the Maricopa High School Band, Theater Company and Technical Theater programs participated in the Town of Gila Bend’s Light Parade and “Santa in the Park” event.

The event was planned and overseen by former MHS Assistant Principal Krista Vandermolen, now director of Parks and Recreation for the Town of Gila Bend.

The MHS programs were the spirit of the event. Technical Theater, along with teacher Kevin Piquette, built a float and mobile sound station for the parade and provided sound and announcements for the event. The Theater Company performed “Twelve Days to Christmas” from She Loves Me, and the Marching Rams marched in the parade and also performed a 20-minute concert of pep band and holiday music as part of the evening’s festivities at the park.

“We want to thank the Town of Gila Bend for inviting us to be a part of this wonderful event,” Music Director Ivan Pour said. “It was great to be able to share the success and wonderful programs we have at Maricopa High School with our neighbors in Gila Bend.”

Earlier this semester, the Technical Theater program competed at the Arizona State Thespian Festival. The team took third out of 60 schools. In the Skills USA competition, MHS placed second.

Marisa Lopez won the “quick knot tying” portion of the competition by tying all three knots in 5.56 seconds.  This was over 1 second faster than her nearest competitor. Other team members were Hyrum Sherwood, Connor Paine, Eric Bennett, Skylar Dugan, Ashley Piet, Yazmin Calleros and Keilani Hlebasko.

Technical Theater students were third out of 60 schools at the state Thespian Festival.

MOBILE USERS GET NEWS FIRST. Download InMaricopa for Apple and Android devices.

Aidyn Curtis is the fractious, reluctant bride in MHS Theatre Company's "The Taming of the Shrew." Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa High School Theatre Company debuted its version of William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” Thursday at the Performing Arts Center. The Bard’s popular battle of the sexes and battle of wills is softened just a bit but is still a crackling commentary on human relations.

Director Cynthia Calhoun has her cast of students whipped into Shakespearean shape, and the result is an entertaining comedy. In a post-Weinstein world, what could be tricky passages are handled with aplomb without losing innuendo.

In the lead roles, Aidyn Curtis as the head-strong Kate and Collin Martin as bombastic Petruchio are exceptional in a solid cast that is clearly having a good time with ancient text. Other standouts include Porter Jones as Hortensio, the phony music tutor, Ivie Keene as Petruchio’s overly literal servant, and Taya Johnson, who turns the small role of Biondella into something memorable.

The production runs through Saturday, with nightly performances at 7 p.m. plus a 2 p.m. Saturday matinee. Tickets are $5.

Aidyn Curtis and Collin Martin play Kate and Petruchio in a modernized version of “The Taming of the Shrew” created by Maricopa High School Theatre Company. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

For its fall production, the Maricopa High School Theater Company is performing William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew.” But it won’t quite be the standard interpretation.

What: “The Taming of the Shrew”
When: Nov. 9-11, 7 p.m., Nov. 11 2 p.m.
Where: MHS Performing Arts Center, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave.
Info: MHS.MaricopaUSD.org

In fact, a scene and characters have been added, and the ending goes in a different direction. The play will be performed Nov. 9-11 at the Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m. with a 2 p.m. Saturday matinee.

Considered a classic yet problematic play for modern audiences, “The Taming of the Shrew” is a battle of the sexes that can be interpreted as either misogynistic or liberating. A central scene has the main character, Katharina, being psychologically and even physically tormented.

“Of course, with the whole abuse thing – oooh,” said senior Collin Martin, shaking his head. “But of course, we changed that.”

Collin plays the co-lead Petruchio, who woos Katharina – initially to gain her fortune. She’s not the only woman being wooed, but few of the women have much say in their futures. Because Katharina speaks up, often forcefully, she’s labeled a shrew.

“Some versions go to the major extreme where she’s like crazy, but we didn’t want to go so far as that,” said junior Aidyn Curtis, who plays Katharina. “It’s not that she’s crazy; she just wants to be heard. She wants to get her voice out, especially in a time when women couldn’t be heard as well.”

Theater instructor and play director Cynthia Calhoun, who also wrote additional content, made that silence literal in this interpretation. With the major exception of Katharina, many of the female characters communicate only through sign language. For the benefit of the audience, another actor provides the voice.

“Both are seen on stage, but one of the girls does the sign language for it. They both work together to portray the role,” Aidyn said.

Aidyn said she sees Katharina follow an arch similar to Petruchio’s, aggressive and fractious at first and then eventually insightful.

“I’m a rich dude. I even have a line, ‘I want to wive and thrive as best I may,’ so that line gives away my personality,” Collin said. “Petruchio’s really bold, but he does it so that he can get to an objective. He’s very straight-forward. He wants to have a wealthy wife. He doesn’t care how she looks; he’s just trying to get a wife.”

In the plot, wealthy Baptista (Britney Montgomery) has two daughters of very different temperament. Katharina is out-spoken and opinionated, not what any man of the time wants to deal with. Her younger sister Bianca (Autumn Fausz) knows how to win a man over, but she is not allowed to wed until Katharina is married off, a seeming impossibility. Lucentio (Stirling Luckey) falls for Bianca and concocts a scheme of confused identities to court her. Also vying for Bianca’s hand, Hortensio (Porter Jones) and Gremio (Logan Spaulding) plot to find a willing suitor for Katharina to get her out of the way. What arrives is Petruchio, who soon gets Baptista’s permission to marry Katharina despite all her loud objections.

Petruchio then sets off on an elaborate plan to win over his bride, or at least “tame” her. In the middle of this, students of the Bard might notice some additional text, especially a new wedding scene. 

“In Shakespeare, there are a lot of things that happen off stage that a messenger or someone just tells you about, and Calhoun didn’t like that so much,” Curtis said. “So, she added those scenes back in so you can see that action unfolding.”

Collin was previously seen in MHS Theatre Company’s “Les Miserables,” “You Can’t Take It with You” and “Wit.” Aidyn has been in “Pirates of Penzance,” “Les Miserables” and “Beauty and Beast” and has been stage manager. This is the first lead role for both of them.

Petruchio – Collin Martin
Katarina – Aidyn Curtis
Lucentio – Stirling Luckey
Bianca – Autumn Fausz
Bianca’s Voice – Taryn Story
Tranio – Carlos Aguilar
Biondello – Taya Johnson
Grumio – Ivie Keene
Gremio – Logan Spaulding
Hortensio – Porter Jones
Baptista – Britney Montgomery
Pedant – Kade Kruse
Vincentio – Douglas Moulton
Widow – Hannah Panter
Widow’s Voice – Angelina George
Margarita – Alexia Esquivel
Margarita’s Voice – Joycelyn Cabrera
Camila – Kjirsten Lemon
Camila’s Voice – Haley Lemon
Tailor – Genevieve Burno
Haberdasher – Rachel Knight
Friar – Emily Goncalves
Curtis – Azeri Hansen
Nicolette – Francis
Philippa – Brianna Hollingsworth
Josefa – Alex-Ann Velasco
Petra – Emmeline Boothe

Ensemble – The People of Merida:
Evelyn Bates, Grace Becking, Keara Burke, Isabella Chitwood, Zephanie Coleman, Harrison Delap, Madison Delap, Madison Ewald, Fallon Fruchey, Aubree Goettl, Dallas Grimm, Wynnie Grissom, Haley Gross, Tamara Hanania, Katie Hanks, Makayla Horn, Scotland JanFrancisco, Savannah Jones, Alexis Price, Caterina Rizzi, Emma Schrader, Chloe Seekings, Katelyn Stroschein, Lauryn Yazzie, Chaienne Zoller

This story appears in the November issue of InMaricopa.

by -
Senior Ivie Keene (from left), teacher Cynthia Calhoun and junior Kjirsten Lemon. Submitted photo

At the recent Arizona High School Drama Coach Convention, Maricopa High School drama teacher Cynthia Calhoun was elected to be one of two representatives working with the director for the Central Region of Arizona Thespians, which is a state chapter for the Educational Theatre Association and the International Thespian Society.

Calhoun’s responsibilities will be to coordinate and organize events, including the regional festival, which qualifies high school students for national competition.

Two Maricopa High School students were also elected as Arizona State Thespian Officers: senior Ivie Keene and junior Kjirsten Lemon. These students will work with Calhoun to promote the development of thespians and thespian leaders throughout the state.

“This is a huge jump forward for our theatre program,” Calhoun said.

Maricopa High School Theatre Company performed a scene from "Beauty & the Beast" at the ASU Gammage High School Musical Theater Awards June 3. Lillian Chitwood and Carlos O. Venegas were nominated for lead performances, and Venegas won for Outstanding Vocalist. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

It was as close as most Arizona high school students will get to the Tony Awards.

Maricopa High School students showed off just a bit of their production of “Beauty & the Beast” Saturday and walked away with two of the top honors at the ASU Gammage High School Musical Theater Awards.

The evening offered a revue of 19 of the top high school musical productions in the state this school year. Troupes performed a number or a medley of songs from their big musicals, which had been adjudicated by a panel comprised of teachers, ASU faculty and theater students.

Nikolas Mase, now an MHS graduate, played Lumiere in “Beauty & the Beast.” Out of 31 nominees, he received the award for Outstanding Supporting Performance – Male.

Nikolas Mase receives the award for Outstanding Supporting Performance. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said.

In a field of 46 nominees, Carlos O. Venegas was named Outstanding Vocalist for his performance as the Beast. Having to run to the stage from the back of the hall, he was in shock.

“I didn’t think I was going to get anything,” he said.

It was a unique experience for MHS students. It was the third year of the GHSMT awards but the first year Maricopa had participated.

“It was a lot of work, work, work, but we just had to make sure that we were in our places at the right time,” Mase said. “We took a tour of the Gammage to get us aware of where we were going to be running around.”

Director Cynthia Calhoun selected “Something There” for her students to perform from the show because it included most of those who had been nominated.

After having mixed with several of the other actors at other state competitions and hearing them talk about their musicals, Venegas said he liked being able to see the troupes “in action.” It was a learning experience for Calhoun as well.

“I get to see what other high schools are doing and learn from that,” Calhoun said. “I have validation that we’re on the right track, that what we’re doing is really good and we’re doing what we should be doing.”

Still in full makeup from his performance, Carlos O. Venegas receives the award for Outstanding Vocalist. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa High School’s other individual nominees:
Best Lead Male: Carlos O. Venegas
Best Lead Female: Lillian Chitwood
Outstanding Supporting Performance (Male): Jeron Hlebasko
Outstanding Supporting Performance (Female): Tyler Curtis, Brook Perona
Outstanding Vocalist: Tyler Curtis, Nikolas Mase
Outstanding Dancer: Stirling Luckey

Lillian Chitwood plays Belle in the upcoming production of "Beauty and the Beast," with Carlos Venegas (left) as Beast and Jeron Hlebasko as Gaston. Photo by Mason Callejas

It is sheer coincidence that brings the Disney musical “Beauty & the Beast” to the Maricopa High School stage as the live-action film version is in movie theaters.

What: “Beauty & The Beast”
When: April 20-22, 7 p.m., April 22, 2 p.m.
Where: Maricopa High School Performing Arts Center, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave.
How much: $5

“I didn’t even make the connection until a few months ago,” said MHS theater instructor Cynthia Calhoun. “I think it’ll all work out OK.”

The musical is the MHS Theatre Company’s effort to “go big again” for its spring production.

After the troupe metaphorically blew the roof off with “Les Miserables” last year, returning players felt they needed to follow up strong.

“I was actually thinking about another show,” Calhoun said. “But I had a couple of actors come to me and suggest this one. I always loved this show and wanted to do it.”

The plot is based on the French tale of a beautiful girl, Belle, who agrees to stay in an enchanted castle at the whims of its beastly proprietor in order to save her father (and escape a handsome but pompous suitor Gaston). The show originated as a 1991 animated film by Disney with songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. When it was later adapted for Broadway, more lyrics were added by Tim Rice.

CAST: Belle – Lillian Chitwood; Beast – Carlos Venegas; Gaston – Jeron Hlebasko; Maurice – Camron Loomis; LeFou – Erick Livingston; Mrs. Potts – Tyler Curtis; Lumiere – Nikolas Mase; Cogsworth – Mahkai Ball; Babette – Kjirsten Lemon; Chip – Adrian Perdomo; Madame de la Grande Bouche – Brook Perona; Monsieur D’Arque – Corey Simmons; Silly Girls – Setera Miller, Hannah Panter, Sarah Ledbetter; Beggar/Enchantress – Kari Bejmowicz; Prince – Jacob Loomis; Villagers – Morgan Lee, Taryn Story, Alex Hurley, Antonio Gonzales, Azeri Hanson, Logan Spaulding, Lindsey Matos, Rebekka Harris, Porter Jones, Aleyna Call, Dylan Stradling, Caleb Wilson, Emily Goncalves, Jacob Loomis, Skylar Trast, Harrison Delap, Francis Trast, Thiraphat Kongeinta, Hannah Crean, Patrice Perrone, McKenzie Durovka, Kaylin Griffin, Brianna Hollingsworth, Landin Thomas, Madison Ewald, Britney Daniels, Alana Daniels, Kayla Matos; Enchanted Objects – Kari Bejmowicz, Evelyn Bates, Chaienne Zoller, Stirling Luckey, Evelyn Young, Haley Lemon, Hailey Gross, Brychelle Jackson, Freya Abraham, Britney Montgomery, RyAnn Liermann, Derek Blakely, Keara Burke, Ivie Keene, Fides Bernales Joie Guela , Lindsay Hubbard, Alexia Esquivel, Savannah Jones, Ethan Stradling, Autumn Fausz, Alexis Price, Heidi Smith, Julia Edens, Tamara Hanania, Dallas Grimm, Justin Atkinson, Wynnie Grissom, Zephanie Coleman, Makayla Horn, Mikayla McLaughlin; Male Swings – Porter Jones, Stirling Luckey; Female Swings – Britney Montgomery, Aidyn Curtis.

In auditions, senior Lillian Chitwood stood out, though she was accustomed to supporting roles. Her work landed her the role of Belle.

“She’s grown so much as an actor,” Calhoun said.

Chitwood said she has been singing her whole life.

“I thought it would be cool to finally get the lead,” she said. “It’s hard being confident in myself, that I can do this.”

Belle sets the stage for the production by singing the song “Belle” with the villagers, and that happens to be Chitwood’s favorite. To pick up tips for creating different chemistry with different characters, she has studied other productions on YouTube.com.

The Beast is played by senior Carlos Venegas. He was also the lead in “Les Miserables” and scored a “superior” at Central Arizona Festival of Theatre this year with a highlight number from that musical to qualify for international competition.

“I’ve always wanted to do the show of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ since I was younger,” Venegas said. “Like in my mind I thought, if I ever did ‘Beauty and the Beast’ I really, really want to be Beast. And so when I finally got the opportunity I went for it. I wanted it really bad.”

Jeron Hlebasko was just as eager to play the arrogant Gaston. Calhoun pointed out the senior was used to playing romantic love interests, like Marius in “Les Miserables.” He wanted a change, and Gaston fit the bill.

“He wasn’t always on stage but he was someone big, someone important, someone just powerful,” Hlebasko said. “I prefer power over calm.”

Like Belle and Beast, his character is well-known, and Hlebasko wants to add his own flair. “I want to be able to add a little more of who I am into it,” he said.

Calhoun is working with a cast of around 80 students. Technical and construction students are vital to the production as well, building a castle and village. Art students are creating 3D objects to complete the set.

This story appears in the April issue of InMaricopa.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning play "Wit" will be on stage Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

As the human body shuts down, the mind can race into strange territory. The battle between the intellectual and the physical, poetry and science in the last days of life is at the center of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Wit,” to be performed Saturday by the Maricopa High School Theatre Company.

If You Go
What: “Wit”
When: April 1, 2 p.m. & 7 p.m.
Where: Black Box Theatre on west side to MHS Performing Arts Center, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave.
Who: MHS Theatre Company
How much: Free (donations encouraged)

“Wit” is the second student-directed production of the season, following the entertaining whodunit “And Then There Were None.”

Directed by senior Carlos Venegas, “Wit” has a cast of students and teachers. Performances are at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. in the Black Box Theatre at the Performing Arts Center.

“I’ve wanted to direct a show ever since my sophomore year, and this year it’s actually become a reality,” Venegas said.

He and “Wit” have something of a history.

“I’ve done projects on it since my sophomore year, and it kept coming up,” he said. “Finally, we were like, ‘Let’s just do it.’”

The partnered project two years ago included creating a technical design with which he was not satisfied. He tackled it again his junior year and was much happier with the results.

“That’s when I really grew attached to the show,” Venegas said.

First performed in 1995 and written by Margaret Edson, the play has appeared on and off-Broadway, winning Obie and Tony awards.

The central character, Vivian Bearing, is a professor of English literature in the final stages of terminal ovarian cancer. She is undergoing relentless tests and has become the subject of study by medical students in the hospital. And she is not exactly likeable.

“She is a very cold, uncompromising, very highly-motivated, driven professor,” said MHS drama instructor Cynthia Calhoun, who plays Vivian. “She comes across as actually incredibly mean. For her, knowledge is everything.”

The script is comprised of many monologues for Vivian as she tries to approach her fate cerebrally at first. Her specialty is the 17th century poetry of John Donne, whose metaphysical work plays a big part in her mental exercises as she deals with bad news after bad news.

A clinical fellow on the oncology team is one of her former students (played by Collin Martin), but it is soon clear he is not very different from Vivian – sentiment-free – and his interest in her is only as a scientific study rather than a dying human needing kindness.

Not just a keen portrait of the cancer experience, “Wit” is intellectual, stark, transforming and often bitingly funny.

“I majored in English when I first found this play when I was doing my master’s degree in English, and I wrote about it and loved it,” Calhoun said. “Something struck me about this character. She’s having to live with this illness, and it’s terminal, and she knows it’s going to kill her; she knows it’s going to affect her quality of life, and she knows they’re trying to do research. Me personally, I live with chronic illness, and there’s no cure, no treatment for it. I completely understand that feeling like a little piece of her body is giving up as she goes through this. Each new scene, it’s like another piece is done.”

Venegas said directing has been an education.

“I had no idea about a lot of the stuff that happens behind the scenes because I’ve always been on stage,” he said. He’s been helped out by assistant director Rachel Blakely, who also stepped in to play a role.

While Calhoun has enjoyed not having the burden of directing “And Then There Were None” and “Wit,” it has been a challenge keeping her fingers out of the decision-making process.

“I know all of the little pieces of things that need to happen for it all to come together, and the hard part for me is not jumping in and saying, ‘You need to do this and this and this,’” she said. “Carlos is perfectly capable of that, but there’s a point where he has to figure out how he’s going to get certain technical things done, how he’s going to make set changes happen.

“It’s been kind fun to watch.”

Students auditioned for most of the roles, but Venegas directly asked Calhoun and teacher Tyler Miller, who plays Dr. Kelekian. It is his stage debut.

Rounding out the cast are Kari Bejmowicz, Nikolas Mase, Ivie Keene, Chaienne Zoller, Aleyna Call and Mahkai Ball.

Admission is free, but donations are encouraged to help defray costs of sending state-qualifying student-actors to national competition this summer.

Still to come April 20-22 is the MHS Theatre Company’s big spring musical, “Beauty & the Beast.”

by -
Photo by Mason Callejas

Maricopa High School Theatre Company debuted its production of the classic comedy “You Can’t Take It With You” in the Black Box Theatre at the Performing Arts Center Thursday. Performances continue to night at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are $5.