High Hope(s): Theater student finds her voice on and off stage


Photo courtosy of Benita Kutsche

Kutsche played the role of the Witch in Writer Block. Goodner wrote the show himself and Kutsche helped him with the kids as the show continued.

Isabella Keaton, Reporter, Photographer

Young Actors Playhouse (YAP), a cradle for aspiring young actors and actresses, created a home and a workplace for Magnet junior Hope Kutsche. Kutsche, an international thespian, has gained over 320 points in the past three years by participating in NC shows and helping students direct shows at YAP. Thespians only need ten points for induction into the Thespian Society, and collecting 60 points provides the student with a thespian cord at graduation.

I’ve been doing theatre since I was nine. Nothing ever comes close to the feeling of stepping onstage and letting go of all other thoughts for two wonderful hours. I love being in that bubble, where it’s just you in your head behind your character, building up energy as your closest friends act with you and the audience laughs and sighs and applauds. Theatre is not my escape from life, it is my life,” Kutsche said.

Photo courtesy of Hope Kutsche
Young Actors Playhouse (YAP), a place where kids can experience theatre, creates a healthy and encouraging environment for aspiring actors and actresses. Don Goodner, head director, started the company on his own while also writing his own shows and music.

In addition to conducting summer camps for kids ages 5 to 14 to perform shows, YAP teaches kids the fundamentals of acting and performing. During the school year, head director Don Goodner puts on shows for all age groups. Goodner also incorporates older students in his high school troupe and held auditions for the troupe on March 10.

Falling in love with theatre at eight years old after watching her first live theatre performance of Oliver, Kutsche never stopped pursuing her passion. She saw beauty in the show’s dancing and singing and instantly wanted to involve herself in what would soon become her favorite hobby.

“When I was maybe eight, my mom took me to a mable house production of Oliver and as I was sitting there watching—we had front row seats—I was just in awe of all the dancing and singing and how much fun they seemed to be having. I just sat there [thinking] I want to be a part of that, and that’s all that I talked about for about two months until I finally auditioned for something,” Kutsche said.

When Goodner first started YAP, Kutsche began performing with him and started the journey of his business. Goodner, a poet and writer since six years old, wrote a variety of shows for YAP, one in particular named Jack and Jill and the Crown of Wonder. She played her first role as Tom the Cat in that production, but shortly after rehearsals began, the theatre they operated out of shut down. The team of aspiring performers moved to a room in a strip mall for rehearsals while Goodner completed the show.

When Kutsche reached age 14, she passed the age limit for YAP productions. This occured right after Goodner finished writing his sequence of shows, so he made an exception for Kutsche and allowed her to star as the witch in Writer’s Block.

Now, Kutsche and Goodner work side by side, and Kutsche lends a helping hand as much as possible. After Kutsche reached the age limit for participation, Goodner kept her in YAP as a student director.

“I have always liked the idea of teaching and giving the kids at YAP my passion for theatre,” Kutsche said.

Kutsche assisted in directing a number of YAP’s shows, including The Snow Princess, Goldilocks and the Curse of the Porage, Writer’s Block, and Hansel and Gretel (all written by Goodner). Kutsche assists with the lights, sound, and music for shows and gives current YAP students advice on scene work and acting techniques.

Photo courtesy of Benita Kutsche
Kutsche works the sound board and lights during shows for YAP. After many years of participating in theatre, Kutsche loves both technical and performance theatre.

“Working with the older kids is really fun because I can give them pointers on acting and go more in depth with the actors, and they get it. You can really see them taking the advice to heart and working with it in the scenes,” Kutsche said.

The memories of one specific show stay near and dear to her heart. Goodner wanted to put on his rendition of Charlotte’s Web,  incorporating  both high school and elementary school actors and actresses. Goodner casted the younger children as the farm animals and the high schoolers as the adults in the show. Kutsche and four other NC actors and actresses spent last summer working with YAP students to create an unforgettable performance.

“It was really cool to be able to student direct, teach kids more about acting, and perform with four of my closest friends all at once,” Kutsche said.

Photo courtesy of Tina Shambaugh
Goodner, wanting to include high school students, casted five NC students as the adults in Charlotte’s Web. NC graduate Kat Shambaugh, NC graduate Jordan Warren, junior Chloe Vernex-Loset, NC graduate Jacob Jones, and Kutsche all participated along with other YAP students.

Kutsche also enjoys working with the younger kids at YAP because she sees them grow not only as people, but as actors and actresses as well. The younger children adore Kutsche, and she loves them just as much.

“Working with the younger students is especially fun because with any little kid, you know they look up to you. In Hansel and Gretel, there was this one little girl who I was teaching harmonies to, and she just couldn’t get it. We were running the show and she got the harmony and hit the note then looked right at me, and her eyes got so wide and she ran up and wrapped her arms around me like a koala bear and just screamed in excitement,” Kutsche said.

Fond of every second she spends in the theatre, Kutsche will now participate in NC’s upcoming performance of Hairspray and auditioned on March 10 for the high school troupe at YAP. Seeing the young actors improve as she watches them take her advice, her love for teaching children and theatre grows everyday.