WCSPA auditions underway for 2021-2022

Cast prepares for two upcoming productions

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published February 24, 2021

 Warren Consolidated School of Performing Arts costume and drama teacher Mark Sharrow works with a group of students.

Warren Consolidated School of Performing Arts costume and drama teacher Mark Sharrow works with a group of students.

Photo provided by Warren Consolidated School of Performing Arts

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STERLING HEIGHTS/WARREN — From “Beauty and the Beast” to “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” Warren Consolidated School of Performing Arts, or WCSPA, students have entertained audiences for 30 years.

The program, located inside Sterling Heights High School at 12901 15 Mile Road, is a gathering place for students studying all aspects of live theater. The two-hour class is offered during the school day as part of the high school curriculum. Working under several teachers, students must audition and, if accepted, they immerse themselves in acting, dancing, music, scenery design, sound effects, set construction, costumes and more.

The program is open to WCS ninth through 12th grade students and school of choice students. This year, the students met virtually because of COVID-19, but were getting ready to return to school via hybrid the week of Feb. 22.

The cast is rehearsing for the upcoming online production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown!” to debut in April. Teachers plan to bring “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical” live in person this June, possibly in an outdoor setting. For more information on performance dates, visit www.wcspa.net.

The WCSPA members bring their own talents and experiences to the program, and are graded in class as well. Because of COVID-19, auditions for the 2021-2022 school year will be held virtually with prerecorded auditions Feb. 22 through March 7. For details, visit www.wc spa.net/ad missions. Due to limited spots, entrance is granted by audition only.

“We’re looking at admitting 60 to 70 students for next year. We accept a broad range of students,” Artistic Director Jonathan Gillespie said. “It isn’t always that they’ve had training or they’re coming out of a dance studio or they’ve been in theater for a long time. Sometimes we get kids that have had a desire to do it for years and just never had the opportunity, so we’re looking for attitude and desire as much we are training. We love getting the kids from the studios and from children’s theater. They’re a great addition to the program, but I also love the student that has wanted to do this for years and never had the chance.”

Gillespie, who is retiring this year, said many students also do well academically and some are involved in sports and other activities outside WCSPA, as the goal is to educate the whole student.


Center stage
While senior Macay Smith has acted in WCSPA, after falling in love with sound design, she prefers the scene backstage. To prepare for each show, Smith reads the script several times to determine what sound effects and music will be needed and when in the show. Setting up body microphones, making sure the performers have their mics on correctly and working with the orchestra to get the correct sound levels are among her many responsibilities.

“It’s a lot of moving pieces because there is a lot happening at one time,” she said, but she loves it. Smith is so skillful at her craft, she has been accepted into the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music beginning next fall.

Sophomore Janellyn Woo has been involved in theater since age 4. In WCSPA, she has been a performer and wants to learn more about the technical end.

“I’ve just always been pulled to the stage, just the thrill of the costumes, the lighting and dancing. It’s all just such a fun time,” Woo said. “It can be, at times, very overwhelming to remember your lines and to also be in character, but I think that when you have good people you’re working with and you’re really passionate about what you’re doing, performing onstage is just something that comes naturally. The more experience you have the easier it can get. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any trip-up moments at times.”

Dance teacher Cori Callahan, a member of the precision dance company Rockettes for seven years, has two goals for the students.

“One is to teach them when they leave high school that they’re prepared. If they’re going to college or if they’re going to go out and start auditioning for things, that they’re prepared for that,” she said.

Callahan’s other goal is to teach everyone they can dance, even those who think they can’t.

“We do get a lot of nondancers. I want to let everyone know everybody’s a mover,” she said. “I try to make everyone feel comfortable in the dance class. I love unique movers so I like pulling that out of the students.”

Senior Ethan Holmes’ mom was an influence on him. She hosted an elementary school drama club and “shoved me in there and I fell in love with it then.”

“I came in as a performer. Through WCSPA I’ve come to learn all about the different sides of theater and kind of just sunk my teeth into all of it,” said Holmes, now a district employee who works occasionally as a theater technician. “While we haven’t been putting anything on as of late because of the quarantine, we rent out our theater to gain money for the shows, so they employ a few students that are currently enrolled in WCSPA to help out with the technical side when other people come.”

The players all have their favorite productions, including Mark Sharrow, costumes and drama instructor, who is a WCSPA alumnus.

“We did ‘42nd Street’ when I was a junior in high school. I was in the chorus in that,” Sharrow said. “I felt like I was really a part of something.”

For Gillespie, it’s whatever show he’s working on at the moment.

“The show that got me to want to be a performer and I saw the movie version with Barbra Streisand, which was ‘Funny Girl,’” Callahan said.

Woo’s all-time favorite is “Les Misérables.” “Little Shop of Horrors” is Smith’s best-loved production. For Holmes, performing as Benjamin Franklin in “1776” was tops. He’s also a fan of “The Book of Mormon” musical comedy.   

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