By Teresa Monaco
17 year-old Junior Theatre student Molly Nilsen makes almost-yearly trips to New York City—but this trip was different. The primary purpose was to scope out colleges for Molly to attend next fall. A close second, of course, was to see a few Broadway shows.
“I’m lucky enough to have access to Broadway-quality live theatre in San Diego, but there is something so magical and surreal about being in New York and seeing a show, which I’ve listened to over and over at home, come to life right in front of my eyes,” Molly explains. “This trip, I was lucky enough to see Oklahoma!, Waitress, and Alive by Heart, all of which were absolutely incredible.”
Oklahoma!, in particular, was a highlight of Molly’s trip. Ali Stroker, the first actress who uses a wheelchair to appear on a Broadway stage and win a Tony Award, was playing Ado Annie in this production. “I’ve been following Ali Stroker’s career ever since she performed on the Tony’s with the cast of Deaf West Theatre Company’s Spring Awakening,” says Molly. After contacting Ali’s management (and not expecting a response), Molly found out that she’d be meeting Ali Stroker in the lobby after the show.
“Meeting [Ali] was so surreal, I was absolutely star-struck. I have known for a long time that I want to pursue theatre, but I never saw myself represented on the stage. I didn’t know if it was possible for someone like me,” Molly describes. She uses crutches and leg braces to help her walk, dance, and move through life, as a result of being born with spina bifida.
“When I saw her on that stage, I started crying, because I finally realized that this isn’t impossible—that I can do this if I work hard enough. I am so lucky to have someone like her to look up to, and I hope to one day be that person for someone [else].”
When asked about her favorite part of being in Junior Theatre, Molly responds “It feels like my second home. I’ve been at JT since I was nine, and I believe it has made me the person I am today… right from my very first rehearsal at JT, I felt like I was accepted and loved. No matter what’s going on in my life, I know that for those two hours I can be in a place where people accept me and love me for exactly who I am.”
After graduating high school, Molly plans to earn her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre. Her top three dream roles are Jenna in Waitress, Anya in Anastasia, and Cinderella in Into the Woods. “Each of these characters has an inner strength that I admire, and go on journeys of self-discovery to become the best possible version of themselves. I think that’s really empowering to me and to young women.”
IT’S TEACHER APPRECIATION WEEK! Meet Teaching Artist, Levi Kaplan. Levi is a graduate of the MFA Directing Program at The Theatre School-DePaul University. He is also a Teaching Artist with La Jolla Playhouse, and Arts for Learning San Diego. Recently Mr. Kaplan was the Director of Theatre at Woodward Academy in Atlanta, GA, and a board member of Curtain Call Youth Players in Marietta GA. Additionally, for the past 20 years Mr. Kaplan has worked as a director and lighting designer for a variety of companies in Chicago, Atlanta, and across Florida, and served as the Artistic Director of The Acorn Theatre in Tampa Fl. Welcome Levi!
Matt Haupert returns to Junior Theatre this summer as the director of The Hunchback of Notre Dame! Matt’s production of The Crucible wowed audiences on the Casa del Prado Stage last fall. Matt holds a BFA in Acting and a BA in English from Drake University and an MA in Urban Education from Loyola Marymount University. He currently teaches Humanities and runs the musical theater program at High Tech High North County, where he directed Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods. As an actor, Matt has worked with companies such as Berkeley Playhouse, TheatreFirst, Contra Costa Musical Theater, Tibbits Summer Theater, and Hope Summer Repertory Theater. Auditions for Hunchback are April 29, 30 and May 1, from 4:00 – 6:00 pm. For more information and to secure your appointment time, please call the Junior Theatre Education Office at 619-239-1311.
Growing up I had two passions. Swimming and theatre. I went to Mesa College where I completed the two-year theatre program and two years after that I returned to work there as the scene shop foreman. I realized there that teaching and introducing elements of theatre was another passion of mine. I have worked at several theatres as an electrician and lighting designer: San Diego REP, New Village Arts, Cygnet, Moxie and Point Loma Playhouse.
San Diego Junior Theatre is proud to welcome Susan Jordan DeLeon as director of Seussical! Susan is thrilled to be joining the Junior Theatre Family in a new capacity. As a parent of a former student she had the opportunity to see first hand the quality of theatre education Junior Theatre provides. Susan has been teaching and directing in a variety of venues from collegiate to professional theatre here in Southern California and abroad and holds an M.F.A. in Musical Theater as well as a B.A. in Theater from SDSU.
Students should make note of some key dates:
Pre-audition meeting: January 24, 4:00 – 5:00 pm in Room 102.
Auditions: February 8 6:00 – 8:00 pm Room 102
February 9, 9:00 – 12:00 pm in Room 102
NOTE: Students must be enrolled in a spring class to audition. Spring enrollment does not open until January 24.