The 2014 Summer Intensive Theatre Musical program is drawing to a close this weekend with three performances of Godspell performed by the junior class.
And one of the many dedicated young performers you will see onstage is Pulaski Academy 10th grader Elena McKinnis, 15, who hopes to continue her theatrical and dancing career beyond high school.
We had the chance to talk with this longtime ballet dancer about her experience with the summer program, her future goals in dance and how she has improved over the years.
Here is what she had to say:
When did you get started in theatre? I started in theatre when I was about 11– it was my first year in SMTI. I had gone to see Follie Holidays the year before and I decided to audition the next year.
How has SMTI helped your theatre skills? It has really opened me up a lot. I’ve gained a lot of confidence through this program. When I first started, I was more of a dancer–because I’ve been dancing since I was three– so I’ve seen myself before, but through SMTI, I realized I can sing and I can do a monologue and speak in front of people, so it’s helped me just open up to everything.
There are quite a few students in SMTI. Do you think you will have any lasting friendships from the program? Most definitely! A lot of the people I’ve met through SMTI I probably wouldn’t have met. One of my best friends lives in Cabot and I probably wouldn’t have met her without this program.
You’ve been rehearsing for last few days for the upcoming performances of Godspell this weekend. What role will you be playing? I’m mainly a part of the ensemble but I’m in a couple of the dance numbers and am one of the lead vocalists in the Godspell song “By My Side.” In the senior session production, I had a lot of dance solos.
What are some other productions people might have seen you in the last few years? I’ve done all the SMTI shows the last five years– Project elan and Singin’ on a Star were the most recent ones. I’ve also done Ballet Arkansas’ Nutcracker down at the Robinson Auditorium and I’ve also participated in the Arkansas Festival Ballet productions.
Do you plan on pursuing theatre or dance beyond high school? I plan on going to college [in California] and trying to make it as a dancer because I’ve been doing it my whole life and it’s just something I want to try and do. I’ve recently been taking a lot of hip hop classes, so I’ve been leaning toward that. Dance is my life– it’s what I do.
Are you excited about this weekend’s production? I am. It’s going to be so much fun! Doing the senior show with all of the older kids and then working with the juniors, it’s been such an amazing experience. It’s been an amazing opportunity for me!
Do you plan on being a part of SMTI throughout high school? I’m going to try to do SMTI throughout high school. Beyond that, I’ve thought about being a choreographer like Marisa Kirby– she’s the choreographer for director Nicole Capri. I’ve thought about doing something like that.
Why should young performers interested in theatre be a part of SMTI? It’s an amazing program. It’s a great opportunity for people to come and really work with a really good director and get that experience.
See her in this weekend’s productions of Godspell, alongside many other talented students! Call the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 to get your tickets for any one of the performances, which are at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 1, and 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 2.