How much does Olympia High School sophomore Hallie Schmidt love musical theater?
Schmidt, 16, has been taking the bus to Seattle four days a week to participate in the 5th Avenue Theatre’s Rising Star Project. As part of that project, she’s starring as the Lady of the Lake in “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” being produced, developed and marketed by teens from across the state.
The opportunity is well worth the commute, said Schmidt, who has appeared in a number of Kids at Play productions in Olympia and starred as Fiona in “Brigadoon” at Olympia High last spring as a freshman.
“I’m enjoying being treated like a professional,” she said. “I’ve never done professional theater, so this is the closest I’ve ever gotten. I love it.”
Schmidt — who studies opera and musical theater with noted coloratura soprano Cyndia Sieden and with Christie Murphy — was chosen for the musical’s only lead female role.
“They had us do really intense dance auditions and vocal auditions, and we came back for multiple callbacks,” Hallie said. “They gave me different styles to sing. The role is very vocally diverse.
“It was really different than what I’d ever experienced before.”
Given the callbacks, the commute and the rehearsal schedule — 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, plus eight hours on Saturdays and six hours on Sundays for the past four weeks — it’s not too surprising that Schmidt is the only Thurston County student participating.
“Hallie is one talented and very determined young lady, and I think it’s that determination that sets her apart,” said Kathy Dorgan, the drama teacher at Olympia High School. “I don’t know many students who would leave school and make the daily trip to Seattle to be in a student show at the 5th Avenue.”
Schmidt has had to leave Olympia at about 1 p.m. on the bus to get to Seattle in time. She rearranged her schedule this semester, taking some classes online so she can be at school only in the morning.
Her mother or a family friend have been driving her back to Olympia after rehearsals, but she still hasn’t been getting home till 10 or 10:30 p.m., making for a long day.
“They are really intense rehearsals,” she said. “But it’s fun. You wish you were there more.”
The Rising Star Project is one of a kind.
“What makes this project truly unique is the opportunity young people have to be mentored by professional artists, staff and crew, at no cost to the student,” Bill Berry, the theater’s producing director, said in a news release.
The program gives students the experience of staging a professional musical. The production uses the sets and costumes from the 5th Avenue’s professional production of the show.
“The kids in the program are so focused,” Schmidt said. “That is one thing we all have in common. We all want this so bad, and we are all so into this show.”
She found out about the Rising Star Project last year, when her work in “Brigadoon” was nominated for one of the 5th Avenue Theatre’s statewide high school musical awards.
“It looked really fun,” she said. “It looked like an incredible program, and I wanted to be part of it.”