From seats to stage: Senior finds community, safe space within theater


Matthew McGehee

BUILDING COMMUNITY. Senior Sammy Fackenthal, left, rehearses a scene with his castmates for their upcoming performance of “Seussical: The Musical.” According to Sammy, the theater provides him with a space in which he can creatively express himself with a community he trusts. “Seussical” performances will be May 19, 20 and 21. Tickets, available in the high school lobby, are $10.

Adrianna Nehme, News Editor

With delicate and intricately made costumes around him, young Sammy Fackenthal would act in front of the crowd, hoping to make at least one person smile. This is what he envisioned as he sat in the audience to watch his first play, “Romeo and Juliet,” at age 7. However, his lack of self-confidence and shyness always pulled him back to the chairs where he could only watch. 

Since then, Sammy has transitioned out of the audience and onto the stage, and now as a confident and experienced senior is part of the theater community and has a role in the ensemble for U-High’s spring musical, “Seussical.” 

His first part was in the “Schoolhouse Rock Live!” play in eighth grade.

“I think I enjoyed ‘Schoolhouse Rock Live!’” Sammy said. “I think I felt OK on stage, but I don’t think I actually felt confident being on stage until sophomore year when acting in ‘Mamma Mia.’”

As a part of the ensemble in “Mamma Mia,” Sammy did work offstage, which helped him gain more confidence. Before this play, Sammy’s lack of confidence in his acting ability dissuaded him from participating in the fall and winter performances.

The people in theater didn’t make me feel like an outsider even though I didn’t have the biggest roles in the shows. I was still considered a member of theater, and they noticed me.”

— Sammy Fackenthal

Theater teacher Lucija Ambrosini witnessed Sammy’s growth during his four years participating in high school theater.

“He used to be very, not exactly shy, but really questionable about trying things and always questioning himself about whether he was doing it right,” Ms. Ambrosini said. “Now, he’s out there, and he does everything I ask. He, like, throws himself into it.”

Sammy attributes his transition from middle school to high school to his lack of certainty regarding acting.

“I was really anxious about going into high school theater because everything is so different,” Sammy said, “but after a few weeks, I felt pretty comfortable with a lot of the people.”

An aspect of Sammy’s love for theater stems from the theater community and individuals’ willingness to be helpful. 

“The people in theater didn’t make me feel like an outsider even though I didn’t have the biggest roles in the shows,” Sammy said. “I was still considered a member of theater, and they noticed me.”

Ms. Ambrosini highlights how within the theater community, everyone is always accepting.

“Every contribution inside the theater is highly valued by the rest of the theater community,” Ms. Ambrosini said. “They see how everything interlocks and how dependent everyone is on everyone doing their job to make a success.”

The theater community has also been a primary factor in helping Sammy build confidence.

“Sometimes during intermission, when music is playing, people just stand in the wings of the stage and do the Macarena,” Sammy said. “You’re on stage, so it’s scary, but you’re with the people you know and trust.” 

When it’s not the theater community, it is the audience that keeps Sammy wanting to act. He enjoys making and witnessing each member smile.

“At the end of each show, we talk to the audience. It is such a great feeling to hear people state how great the show was,” Sammy said. “I don’t care if you are skeptical coming in or don’t think it will be good, but it is great at the end to feel like you left an impact on people.”

While Sammy’s time taking part in high school theater is ending, he values all the memories he has made and looks forward to participating in his final production. 

“It’s difficult because I just met some people this year and still feel so close to them,” Sammy said. “It’s going to be difficult to say goodbye. I plan on coming to see their shows during my breaks from college, and I want to continue to support them however I can.”