The musical “13” is about finding your place.
Taking a cue from the musical’s characters, the cast and crew of Olathe South High School’s production of “13” brought their individual talents to the show, onstage and off.
They found their places so well that the group was invited to perform on the main stage at next week’s Thespian Festival in Lincoln, Neb., and was honored as Outstanding Overall Production from the Starlight Theatre’s Blue Star Awards.
The festival is put together each year by the Educational Theatre Association to showcase the best high school theater productions from around the country. This year, Olathe South’s“
13” is one of only 14 shows to be invited to the festival.
“It’s been an emotional, powerful experience, and that’s what theater’s supposed to be,” director David Hastings said.
Hastings has taught acting at Olathe South for 10 years and chose “13” for its story of learning to find a place in the world, which is something people of every age can understand.
The show is a coming-of-age story that follows a boy who is forced to navigate a move from New York City to a small, Indiana town shortly before his bar mitzvah.
“It’s about finding what you want and where you fit in life, and that goes for everyone,” said Braden Clark, who will be a senior and plays Archie, an awkward outcast, in the show.
The group first began work on the show after auditions early last fall, and in October, the show’s composer, Jason Robert Brown, came to Olathe to work with the students. In November, the students first performed “13” for audiences, and that’s when judges from the festival and the Starlight Theatre’s Blue Star Awards attended and scored the show.
The Blue Star judges made a point after the show to tell Hastings how much they enjoyed the teens’ work.
To stay fresh over the past seven months, the students have met on the 13th of every month to rehearse, practice the songs or talk over lines and scenes, Hastings said.
“It was such a tough process, but it was so rewarding,” said Kristin Nycklemoe, who plays the show’s popular cheerleader and “dumb blonde,” Kendra.
The production is entirely student-run, from the singing, dancing and acting to the lighting, set design and stage direction.
“13” is loaded with award-winning talent, both onstage and off, Hastings said.
The show’s lead actor, Erick Patrick, won last year’s KC Superstars competition. This year, three students involved with “13” were honored with awards from Starlight Theatre’s Blue Star Awards and the Johnson County Shooting Stars Program. The Blue Star Awards honored Justin Dudzik for technical achievement, and Kaelyn Kreicbergs was honored for stage managing and named a rising star.
The Shooting Stars program honored Brooke Bosworth with a best actress award and Kreicbergs for technical achievement.
The success of “13” is built on that connection with the show’s message, Hastings said. And learning where you fit in is something everyone can identify with.
“It’s basically that we all have a little bit more homework to do,” Hastings said. “Everybody wants to find the answers in the back of the book, but they’re not there.”