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Winnetonka High grads direct, perform in Starlight show

Francisco Javier Villegas
Francisco Javier Villegas

Two Winnetonka High School graduates are displaying their theater talents at the newest Starlight show opening Friday. The show is a part of the theater’s relatively new indoor series, which allows patrons to sit on the stage while enjoying smaller productions.

This show is an adaptation of the musical “First Date,” which follows a couple as they experience a blind date. It is the first show Starlight has produced for the indoor series and the largest show for the series to date.

Caroline Lakin Gibel is making her Starlight directorial debut with “First Date.” Gibel graduated from Winnetonka High School in 2001 before studying and working in theater in New York for a decade.

She returned to Kansas City and joined Starlight in 2012. Gibel serves as the theater’s director of indoor programming and company manager. She helped start the indoor theatrical series, which up to this date has featured touring shows.

The show’s cast of five includes 2005 Winnetonka graduate Francisco Javier Villegas.

Villegas, who works full time as a professional actor in the Kansas City area, credits his North Kansas City school district experiences with piquing his interest in the career.

“It’s where most of my influences are,” he said, adding that his Northland teachers and his time in the drama department at Winnetonka High steered him on his path.

An Eastgate Middle School speech and debate teacher’s encouraging words first made him think that storytelling and performing could be part of his future.

“I’ll never forget it. Mr. Riggs came up to me and said, ‘I don’t know if you’ve ever given it any thought, but performance and being on stage is something I think you might want to give some thought for the future, because it’s something you could do for a living,’” Villegas said.

After high school he was cast in a play at the Coterie and has worked there for 10 years, performing year-round in the dramatic health education department. In that program, which is a partnership between UMKC Schools of Medicine, Pharmacy, Nursing & Health Studies, and the KU School of Nursing, he acts and does STD and HIV/AIDS education for students in eighth grade and up.

Villegas has also worked at the Unicorn Theater and Musical Theater Heritage in Crown Center. This is the first time he has performed at Starlight.

The show’s two leads also have strong Kansas City ties. Shea Coffman and Lauren Braton are both graduates of the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Coffman graduated from Raymore-Peculiar High School and Braton graduated from Lee’s Summit High School.

“First Date” is scheduled for 25 performances starting Friday and running through Feb. 26. The show is performed in the “black box” of the theater stage, where risers are brought in to accommodate about 300 to 500 people inside for the shows. Tickets can be purchased at www.kcstarlight.com.

Where, when

“First Date” is scheduled for 25 performances starting Friday and running through Feb. 26. The show is performed in the “black box” of the theater stage, where risers are brought in to accommodate about 300 to 500 people inside for the shows. Tickets can be purchased at www.kcstarlight.com.

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