Each month, FVR Performing Arts Academy selects an outstanding student to be featured in the Student Spotlight of the Month. The selected student is featured in the FVR Playbill and on the blog. Our current Student Spotlight recipient is Madeline Hotham.
Madeline Hotham is an 8 year old 2nd grader from Batavia. She showed an interest in performance at a very young age, often acting out scenes from her favorite fairy tales. “She took ‘pretend play’ to another level”, explains Mom.
Madeline’s Mom also recalls how Madeline’s interest in musical theater was sparked. “Madeline’s older brother was involved in a school musical so she would sit in on rehearsals while I helped out. She absorbed everything that was going on during rehearsal like a sponge. She came home from rehearsals knowing many of the songs and the lines from the show! It was then that I knew that I needed to find something for a child her age.” Madeline’s family found Fox Valley Repertory.
Madeline started her journey at FVR two and a half years ago, taking her first class, The Sound of Music Tots Performance class at the age of 5. Her Pre-K teacher at the time shared that Madeline had taken it upon herself to teach the class songs from her theater class, such as DO-RE-MI, during break times!
Madeline went on to take two more musical theater performance classes; The Little Mermaid and The Wizard of Oz, gaining more confidence with each class. One year after her first class, she auditioned for the Kids’ Advanced Musical Annie Jr. and was cast as Molly, the littlest orphan, one of her favorite roles to-date. Later that year she was cast as Gladys in the Youth Play, Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
Madeline then had the unique opportunity to reprise her role as Molly in the FVR Youth Ensemble Production of Annie Jr. Although the role was the same, the Youth Ensemble Production provided new challenges for Madeline. The youngest cast member, Madeline had to learn difficult choreography while working with older, more experienced students. Despite the challenge of the role, Madeline loved the experience and was sad to see it end, even asking her Mom if there was any possibility that she could do just one more performance with the same cast! After Annie, Madeline went on to play Chip in the Kids’ Advanced Musical Beauty and the Beast Jr.
This summer Madeline was cast in the Kids’ Advanced Musical The Wizard of Oz as Dorothy, her dream role! She is so grateful for the opportunities and experiences that FVR has given her and can’t wait to get back on the FVR stage! In a recent school writing piece describing her, Madeline exclaimed “I live on stage!” According to Nicholas Davis, Madeline’s elementary music teacher, “Madeline was born to be on stage. Her ability and talents far exceed her young age. In my 10 years of teaching I have not encountered someone so young with her singing talent. I won’t be surprised to see her on Broadway some day.”
Madeline is especially thankful to have Tracy Whiteside as a teacher and mentor. In addition to her training at FVR, Madeline works with Dawn Harkins, a private vocal instructor and acting coach, who remarked, “Madeline is a joy to work with! She is intuitive beyond her years and boldly acts on her instincts. Madeline is bright and very quick to learn anything that comes her way. She is a firecracker – the spark that lights up the stage!”.
Madeline’s first grade teacher, Marsha Stierwalt, adds, “Madeline is a beautiful girl both inside and out! She is a pleasure to work with because she puts her heart into all that she does.”
Besides singing and acting, Madeline also studies piano and Jazz dance. Madeline hopes to have a career in the Performing Arts when she grows up and it looks like she has gotten a good head-start on fulfilling that dream!
Each month, FVR Performing Arts Academy selects an outstanding student to be featured in the Student Spotlight of the Month. The selected student is featured in the FVR Playbill and on the blog. Our current Student Spotlight recipient is Kaitlyn Crowell!
Kaitlyn is 8 ½ years old, in 3rd grade at St. Peter Elementary School in Geneva, and a natural entertainer. Her teacher at St. Peter’s, Mrs. Barbara Drury, commented, “Kaitlyn is a dynamic young lady. She brings joy and life into any room!” She has a big, strong voice and adores making people laugh. The stage encouraged her to use these skills—a perfect fit!
Her first role was in an FVR showcase in fall of 2010, where she débuted as Ursula the evil sea witch from The Little Mermaid. The chance to use her big voice thrilled her, and she savored playing such a satisfyingly horrible villain. She eagerly participated in two more showcases, Wicked and The Wizard of Oz.
Kaitlyn quickly flourished. Her FVR academy instructor, Tracy Whiteside, noted, “Kaitlyn is always full of energy and smiles. I love that she embraces character roles, and is absolutely fearless on stage—a rare quality at her age. Kaitlyn has grown so much as an actor over the years with us. She works hard and the results show. I am looking forward to working with her again and again, and seeing where her talent takes her!”
Last summer, she auditioned for her first advanced production, Annie. She played the roles of the Usherette, an Orphan and New Yorker, and Bundles McCloskey the Laundry Man (her favorite, because she got to wear a moustache). After Annie, Kaitlyn encouraged her older sister, Anna, to join, too, and they both auditioned for Alice in Wonderland. They loved rehearsing and performing together, and they can’t wait to share the stage again. Meanwhile, Kaitlyn moved on to Seussical Jr., playing a Bird Girl (pictured above).
Recently, the FVR production of Beauty and the Beast cast her in her favorite role to date: the big, loud villain, Gaston. She fills the boisterous part with gusto, even donning chest hair and learning to fake a punch. Kaitlyn balances the manly-man role with a quick change into a girly-girl Napkin dancer for the big number, “Be Our Guest.” She hopes that this prominent, involved role will prepare her for future shows and even greater opportunities.
Kaitlyn’s experience with FVR has encouraged her growth as a performer. With her newfound skills and confidence, she enthusiastically pursues singing. Her vocal instructor, Kyle Donahue, remarked, “Kaitlyn is a great voice student! She comes to lessons ready to work with a positive attitude. She has a powerful voice and continues to use proper vocal techniques and musical knowledge to grow as a singer. Her bright personality and excitement for the performing arts are very promising in such a young student!”
Alongside swimming and horseback riding, Kaitlyn hopes to take dance lessons to become an even better performer. She plans to audition for the FVR academy summer production of The Wizard of Oz in June.
Each month, FVR Performing Arts Academy selects an outstanding student to be featured in the Student Spotlight of the Month. The selected student is featured in the FVR Playbill and on the blog. Our current Student Spotlight recipient is Robert Keldani!
Photo by Tracy Whiteside Photography
Robert is 8 years old and is a second grade student at Wild Rose Elementary in St. Charles. When he was just 5 years old, he took his very first Lion King class and was cast as the mighty and courageous “Mufasa”. Robert enjoyed his first class so much that he signed up for his next class, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and played Charlie’s best friend, “Linus”. It was after these classes that Robert knew he wanted to do more and auditioned for an advanced performance class of Snow White, winning the part of “Sneezy!” This role was more demanding, having many lines and many songs, but he loved it and loved working with FVR Education Manager and Teacher, Tracy Whiteside. He continues to take her classes and thanks her for being such a great influence, teacher and friend.
“Robert is one of the sweetest kids I have ever met. He is also one of the most conscientious. A very serious performer, Robert works very hard to learn his lines and songs, and sets an excellent example for the other cast members,” says Tracy Whiteside. “This boy has real talent, and continues to amaze me with each performance. I am delighted to have him as part of our Performing Arts Academy!”
His energy and enthusiasm isn’t only recognized on the stage, but at school as well.
“Robert is an enthusiastic learner who is eager to share his thinking with the class. He is a friendly, polite, helpful student who actively participates in all subject areas. It is a pleasure to have Robert in class,” says Lori Algrim, his second grade teacher at Wild Rose Elementary.
Robert went on to audition for the production of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown where he had a chance to reprise his role of “Linus,” this time with a dancing and singing solo, well….. more like a duo with his infamous blanket! Since then he played “Drake”, the butler in Annie, the “King of Hearts” in Alice in Wonderland, “Charlie Bradley” in Best Christmas Pageant Ever and recently “Mr. Mayor” in Seussical Jr.
“Playing Charlie Bradley in Best Christmas Pageant Ever has been my favorite role so far,” says Robert. “Seeing the audience react and hearing them laugh really made it fun. I hope I get to do more comedies at FVR soon!”
In addition to the musicals and theatrical productions that Robert partakes in, he also studies piano and sings lead in student rock bands at his music school and has performed several times at Chord On Blues in St. Charles, the Riverfest in South Elgin, the Scarecrow Fest in St. Charles and was part of a children’s vaudeville company that performed at various places.
Mrs. Debbie O’Cull of Music Eductation Centers of America has been Robert’s piano teacher and occasional vocal coach since he was just 5 years old.
“He is very bright and has a natural ability with music, and he really puts the time, effort & practice in and get he gets better every week. His performances at our recitals and MECA Creates rock band shows ALWAYS bring the house down!”
Robert’s Wild Rose Elementary School Music Teacher, Lynda, Clementz, couldn’t agree more. “Robert is a highly focused student who is always positive and eager to learn and do more. He is a joy in music class.”
He also LOVES soccer and is on the “Rebel Alliance” soccer team and is a Cub Scout from Den 4, pack 156, St. Charles.
And if you were to ask Robert what his favorite memories have been so far at the Fox Valley Rep Performing Arts Academy, he would tell you that getting together with all of his cast mates and friends at the Annual Masquerade Ball Academy Fundraiser was simply “awesome” and can’t wait for this year’s event again in October. He hopes to see you all there, too!
Each month, FVR Performing Arts Academy selects an outstanding student to be featured in the Student Spotlight of the Month. The selected student is featured in the FVR Playbill and on the blog. Our current Student Spotlight recipients are sisters Erika and Keira Denker!
Ever since nine-year-old Erika Denker took her first performance class at Fox Valley Rep in 2009, playing the Bookseller in Beauty and the Beast, she has thoroughly enjoyed the craft of putting on a play. After two more classes, she auditioned for the Youth Ensemble’s production of Sleeping Beauty where she was thrilled to be the youngest ensemble member and play the role of Goon Blather. Erika had a “great experience because there is a costume designer and a lighting designer, just like a professional play!”
Youth Ensemble rehearsals were long and hard, but Erika’s pursued by auditioning for the next YE show, Beauty and the Beast, and getting cast as the acrobatic Footstool/Dog. Other Youth Ensemble shows include: Munchkin Barrister in the Wizard of Oz, a Who and Jungle Citizen in Seussical, and most recently in All Shook Up. Erika continues to keep in contact with her cast mates from all shows!
Erika also loves the Kids Musical Performance classes. Roles include Sleeping Beauty/Briar Rose in Sleeping Beauty, Snoopy in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Recently, she played Alice in Alice in Wonderland, which was a challenging role in her mind because of the difficult songs and the walking pneumonia that plagued her throughout most of the rehearsals.
Erika’s favorite thing in the whole world is reading. She also enjoys dance classes since age three, piano lessons since age five, playing viola, and voice lessons. She also loves making up plays, writing out the scripts, and horseback riding.
“Erika is a dedicated and inquisitive student, always looking for a way to go above and beyond the expectation,” says Teacher Mrs. Alvis. “Erika is also kind hearted, she is quick to offer assistance to any of her classmates and brings a joy of learning to the classroom.”
Erika’s goal is to someday play the role of the villain, although as people generally consider Erika a “gentle soul,” she knows she has her work cut out for her. When she grows up, Erika plans to be a singer, actress, or a scientist.
After watching Erika on stage, little sister Keira signed up to take a Wizard of Oz class at age five. Now eight years old, Keira loves every minute of her FVR theater experiences. She took two more classes (Gabriella in High School Musical and Ella in Camp Rock), and then was able to play the Coroner Munchkin in the Youth Ensemble’s Wizard of Oz alongside her sister. She then started auditioning for advanced classes She was thrilled to be the Pest Goon in Sleeping Beauty where she “got to be funny, wear black lipstick, and my hair was a mess!” Other roles include Bashful in Snow White, Lila in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and Small Alice in Alice in Wonderland .
“Keira is an independent and spirited individual, who applies herself enthusiastically and creatively to any task she undertakes. Though she enjoys all manner of theatric productions, and relishes the roles she has had the opportunity to bring to life, as her teacher I particularly treasure her attributes as a writer,” says Teacher Beth Robins. “For one so young she has an assured ability to express herself in a lively and invitational manner. One day indeed maybe it will be one of her plays or stories that we will see dramatized in theaters!”
Like her sister, Keira has been dancing since she was three. She plays the piano and takes singing lessons, and has taken interest in Beatles songs. Keira plans to take up the cello and continue her horseback riding lessons. She enjoys writing stories, scripts, cartoons–anything!! For years, Keira has wanted to be a cowgirl/cheerleader when she grows up, but now intends to only be a cowgirl. Or an actress. Or a scientist.
Both girls consider themselves very lucky to have met so many wonderful friends through FVR. They also think the world of FVR Instructor Tracy Whiteside, who treats the kids with respect and patiently listens to Keira’s numerous directorial suggestions.
“Erika and Keira are two of the most delightful kids I have ever met. Not only are they talented, but they are both hardworking, kind and full of joy. They are always smiling. Their enthusiasm is infectious and lifts the entire cast,” says Tracy. “Erika and Keira bring such intelligence and understanding to their characters–especially for actors so young. I can’t wait to work with them in another show.”
Their mom always says that “the theater kids at FVR are truly the nicest kids I have met.”
Each month, FVR Performing Arts Academy selects an outstanding student to be featured in the Student Spotlight of the Month. The selected student is featured in the FVR Playbill and on the blog. Our current Student Spotlight recipient is Kayleigh Aleck!
Fox Valley Rep Student Kayleigh Aleck is a talented 16 year old from St. Charles, who, in just over a year, has spent her time and energy on the Pheasant Run Mainstage through many FVR Academy programs. Her training began with musical theater classes of Rent, Dr. Horrible, Les Miserables, as well as being accepted into the Teen Advanced Master Class Workshop, where select students were introduced to leading artists in the Chicago theater scene to learn about monologues, auditioning, and more.
Her maturity, professionalism and growing knowledge of theater landed her the opportunity to intern for several classes with many young performers. She most recently interned along Education Manager Tracy Whiteside during the fall session of the Annie Kids Musical Performance Class and worked with over a dozen young actors.
Through FVR Academy’s various performance programs, Kayleigh has had the chance to be quite versatile in the characters she has portrayed. From Carmen the Stage Manger in The Audition, Gertrude Berg in Fame, Mina Murray in A Night In Transylvania and multiple roles in the Christmas One Acts, to the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, Ms.Snip/Ensemble in Little Shop of Horrors, Sam in Secret Life of Girls, and Laura Dallas in Noises Off, Kayleigh feels prepared for other theatrical endeavors that come her way!
“I have gained so much experience at FVR, not just onstage, but offstage as well. I have also been blessed to be surrounded by such loving, caring, talented people and teachers who you can tell care so much for the arts and have so much talent and passion for it,” says Kayleigh. “It’s an honor to work with them all. Especially with Tracy Whiteside, who has worked so much with me this past year and done so much for me.”
“My favorite FVR memory would have to be with my fantastic Noises Off cast (Ally Carrino, Kelsey Skomer, Katie Jackovin, Faith Weitzner, JT Tracy, Drake Swift, Haylee Sippel, and Delaney Carani), which was directed by Tracy Whiteside and co-directed by Carolyn Knol,” explains Kayleigh. “We had such a small cast that we got things done fairly quickly, so we had a rehearsal where we had already run through the show a couple of times. Tracy actually let us perform the show again, but this time we each got to perform it as someone else’s role. It was extremely amusing and so much fun.”
Kayleigh’s other hobbies include drawing, piano, reading, and of course, seeing musicals. In fact, her goal for the future is to eventually be in a professional production. And after Professional Actor Andy Bero of Elgin worked with Kayleigh in Children’s Theater of Elgin’s recent production of The Phantom of the Opera, it seems that Kayleigh is on the right track of succeeding her goal.
“During our strenuous 9-week rehearsal and performance schedule, Kayleigh’s work ethic and attitude never faltered. In that time I realized that we share a common trait – we’re both theater nerds…down to the core,” exclaims Andy. “Kayleigh has the passion, ambition, and dedication required for a life in the arts. Kayleigh is a gifted, young professional, and I look forward to watching her accomplishments, both on and offstage, in the future. THEATER NERDS UNITE!”