Kalamazoo is a rich town when it comes to theatrical productions, with places like Miller Auditorium, The Gilmore Theatre Complex, The Civic Auditorium, The Parish Theatre, Farmers Alley Theatre and Fancy Pants Theater bringing out the best in local and national talent. But local high school and youth theatre is alive and well in the area, as well.
Portage Northern High School recently wrapped up their presentation of “Lend Me a Tenor,” after a successful November run of “Avenue Q: School Edition.” Kalamazoo Central High School is preparing for their presentation of “Almost, Maine”–set to run on Feb. 28, March 1 and March 2 at 7 p.m. and March 3 at 2 p.m.
Loy Norrix High School is in the final weekend of their production of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” with one last performance tonight at 7:30 p.m. And Portage Central High School has extended their hit production of “Beauty and the Beast,” with performances still to come tonight at 7:30 p.m. and tomorrow at 3 p.m.
Kathy Mulay, the director of “Beauty and the Beast” and a teacher at Portage Central, said that on average, about five to ten of her students go on to pursue theatre in college–or beyond–each year.
“I don’t always necessarily encourage students to do musical theatre,” Mulay said. “Not everybody who is in a play should become a professional performer.”
Still, in Mulay’s 15 years teaching advanced musical theatre, many of her students have gone on to achieve collegiate or professional success. Portage Central grads with an interest in theatre have gone to colleges such as Syracuse University and Butler University.
Some of them go to Western; quite a few, actually,” Mulay said. “The majority probably go to U of M or Western.”
Mulay noted that, even for those who don’t go on to do theatre after high school, their time in high school theatre can enhance life experience, build self-esteem and boost confidence.
“If they want to go into a career in the arts, I’ve given them the tools to equip them for doing so,” Mulay said.
Elizabeth Stone, a social work major at Western Michigan University, is looking to get into Western’s musical theatre program. She’s hoping her experiences at Portage Northern will help her with her audition.
“I was in the musicals for four years and then I did the play for four years,” Stone said. “Then I did forensics–it’s like competitive speaking and acting–for all four years as well.”
Stone said that Portage and Kalamazoo are both really arts-fulfilled areas.
“There’s a lot of people who love doing what they do,” Stone said. “There’s a bunch of talented people and that’s what it takes for people to come together to make really wonderful things.”
Stone said she doesn’t think it’s hard to continue with theatre after high school in Kalamazoo and Portage.
“There’s so many opportunities in Kalamazoo and Portage to continue if you stay,” Stone said. “There’s so many great theatres downtown.”
Stone said she thinks that supporting the arts is good, even in high school shows.
“Everyone’s trying to get rid of the arts, but they’re just so important to the kids and they help you grow so much,” Stone said. “If I didn’t have the arts in high school, I don’t know what I would have done.”