Being involved in extracurricular activities is known to build confidence in students while teaching them valuable lessons about teamwork and communication, whether it’s participating in a sport, theatre or an on-campus club. The Mills siblings of Windermere know first-hand the benefits of school involvement, as they are all heavily involved in the esteemed theatre program at Montverde Academy.
Vanessa Mills, 17, joined the program to fulfill a graduation requirement four years ago and ended up falling in love with technical theatre. Her 16-year-old sister Maya’s involvement goes back six years to when she played a small role in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” in fifth grade. The role fed her passion for theatre, and she has been performing ever since.
“I’ve seen Broadway shows, and I just imagined myself on the stage,” Daniel, 14, says of what led him to join his sisters in the school’s theatre program three years ago.
Through their individual experiences, all of the Mills siblings have taken away specific lessons. Daniel found camaraderie as he became “one troupe, one family” with the students in the program. Maya learned about respect for her craft and her fellow thespians through the teamwork it takes to bring a show together. Vanessa’s biggest takeaway has been growing through her mistakes. They have also developed memories that will last a lifetime.
“I was able to sing a very meaningful song to one of my best friends, Wariboko Semenitari. This was the beginning of our friendship,” Maya remembers of her most memorable moment. “It was a little while ago, but singing with a friend is my favorite thing to do. I always love the connection you make with the other person and it makes it all feel so real onstage.”
In September, Montverde Academy’s theatre students impressed the community with their performance of “She Loves Me,” a 1930s-era romantic comedy that follows two coworkers, who are by no means friends, as they realize they are actually in love. Maya was cast in the lead female role of Amalia Balash, Daniel played Arpad Lazio and Vanessa was the show’s student technical director as well as a part of the construction and prop teams.
It was announced last month that “She Loves Me” was nominated for 20 Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts Applause Awards. Along with several other classmates, Maya earned a nomination for Lead Performer and Daniel for Supporting Performer. The production also received nominations for Outstanding Musical, Ensemble, Orchestra, Technical Achievement, Director, Choreographer, Stage Manager, Set Designer, Lighting Designer, Sound Designer and Costume Designer.
Next up for Montverde Academy’s theatre students is the International Thespian District Festival in Ocala on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, where they will perform individual pieces as well as a one-act of “Next to Normal.” The next school production will be “Into the Woods” in February.