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Students compete for spots on the stage at Interlochen

There are seven productions every year. With nearly 80 students in the theater program, isn't the competition stiff?

Over the past five weeks, we've taken you inside Interlochen Center for the Arts. Now, we're heading to the stage.

The Theater program prepares young actors and actresses for futures in the industry, and has a proven track record of success.

"It's really exciting to see just right now, there's a couple of my former students on Broadway," said Bill Church, the program's director for the past ten years. "One in Phantom and one about to open in a new musical called Waitress. So that's such a thrill to see."

It's not just actors who leave the program for bigger and better stages.

"We also have students that come here to be stage managers and really learn artistic leadership skills. We have students who come to be designers. We actually had a student have his Broadway debut as a costume set designer this year doing two shows on Broadway right across the street from each other. That's a real thrill. People don't often see those designer production students. They tend to wear black and stay behind the scenes drawing in their studios, but they're incredibly talented."

There are seven productions every year. With nearly 80 students in the theater program, isn't the competition stiff?

"It's a lot of competition," admitted Maya Lagerstam, a senior in the Theater department. "There's a lot of high-stakes going around. I think the people sometimes forget that it's just a high school show and it's not Broadway."

Lagerstam recently played Penelope Pennywise in the school's production of Urinetown.

"It's this crazy, crazy show and she is a crazy, crazy character," she explained. "I had so much fun doing that because it was getting out of my comfort zone. I'm more of a reserved, quieter person and Pennywise is loud, brassy, and big. So it was a lot of fun to let myself go and be this character. It was so much fun and I learned so much."

In addition to their regular high school classes, students take five or six hours of theater classes every day.

"They choose their elective," explained Church. "That could be acting Shakespeare classical acting, acting for the camera, or advanced musical theater workshop, or voice and diction, stage movement, mask, or world theater. So we really give them a core training in realism and then also work to expand their boundaries so they can realize all that an actor is capable of doing."

"Learning all of these different techniques is a lot more tools you can put in your toolbox as an actor," said Lagerstam. "I feel like going into the real world I'll never be challenged by anything because I've been exposed to so much here. The people that I get to work with are just so extraordinary and passionate about what they do and what their art is and I think there is so much respect for everyone here because we all are passionate even if it's not about the same thing it's about the arts it's about something and we all have that drive. So that pushes me to do better."

In April, The Eccentricities of a Nightingale by Tennessee Williams will take the Harvey Stage. Later in the month, students will perform the Laramie Project 3, Ten Years Later. In May, performers will tackle rock musical RENT.

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