Discovering Broadway Inc. Features Local Talent in Season Finale

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August 2021

Earlier this month, the creative team of the new musical “Hamlet” participated in Discovering Broadway Inc.’s writers retreat program in Central Indiana. Discovering Broadway premiered songs in concert from the new musical, starring Jordan Donica (“My Fair Lady”) as Hamlet, Samantha Pauly (“Six”) as Ophelia, Adam Pascal (“Rent”) as King Claudius, and Bryonha Marie Parham (“Prince of Broadway”) as Gertrude in the Frank and Katrina Basile Theatre at the Indiana Historical Society. “Hamlet” is the third show to participate in Discovering Broadway Inc.’s writers retreat program, following May’s “Ever After” and February’s “The Devil Wears Prada.” The new musical is the final show of the nonprofit’s inaugural season.

A Local Pool of Talent

Founded by Carmel native and CEO Joel Kirk, Discovering Broadway Inc. hosts Broadway creative teams in Indiana so they can develop their Broadway-bound new musicals and offer the public educational opportunities to learn about the process of making a musical.

Discovering Broadway’s “Hamlet” featured eight performers and musicians from Carmel and Zionsville.

Indiana cast members include Eric Wiegand (“Plaza Suite”), Kelly Krauter (“Waitress” second national tour), Christina Barnes (“Frankenstein”), Kyle Caress (“Cinderella” national tour), Jenn Maurer (“Elf the Musical” national tour), Sophie Miller, Jack Ducat and Jake Letts.

When asked what the likelihood is of some of the Carmel cast members to end up in the finalized production of “Hamlet”—on Broadway—Kirk shared, “Discovering Broadway is a launchpad for shows, and it’s also a launchpad for talent,” Kirk stated. “Most casting comes down to availability, and it comes down to what the writers of the characters envision their characters to be. This is really our first examination of what the music that has been written for those characters and what these actors do with the characters that they are given. I’m a kid from Carmel who’s directing a Broadway-bound show, so I believe that anything is truly possible.”

Meet Some of the Cast from Carmel and Zionsville

CHS Director of Choirs Kathrine Kouns shared her thoughts on what it means to Kouns and her fellow directors to see seven of their former students continuing to develop their talents and follow their dreams.

“We are so excited to be able to have so many of our Carmel Choir Alumni involved with Discovering Broadway and this current ‘Hamlet’ project,” Kouns stated. “In addition to the actors [highlighted in this article], Grace Plaskett and Elie Anania [CHS Choir Alumni] are also interns with the [Discovering Broadway] organization. This is such a great way to recruit young talent, try out exciting new projects and bring a bit of Broadway to our hometown here in Indiana. We are so grateful to Joel Kirk and the entire team of Discovering Broadway for their willingness to maintain their connection to Carmel High School and this entire community.”

Jake Letts—Carmel High School (2017)

I love the idea of taking classic pieces like “Hamlet” and making them into more modern adaptations that would get younger audiences interested in the stories. 

I graduated from Carmel High School where I started as a sophomore. That was the same time I began doing theater and show choir. Performing in high school definitely assured me I wanted to take up a career as a performer. 

Discovering Broadway Inc. Hamlet

I did a production of “Newsies” at the Booth Tarkington, which was a great experience with an amazing team. My director was so supportive of letting me play around and create in the moment, which was very helpful with the stage I was at in my education at Ball State. My best friend and I starred in it together and always talk about how much that show helped us learn to trust our gut and to believe in what we have. 

Support of young artists is so important. I would say that the support the Carmel community gives young performers was very helpful in leading me to choose performing as a career.

I am very excited to work on this show with Discovering Broadway, not only because it is giving an opportunity to get back into a performing space but also because it allows me to meet and work with artists who I had always hoped to. For example, Cody Fry is one of the writers for the show, and I love his music, especially the song “Underground.” And Adam Pascal, who I’ve heard on so many albums and seen in videos, is playing Claudius, and he is such a respected performer in the Broadway community, so I am very honored to work with him. This place gives big opportunities to young performers, and that is really awesome. Just another way Carmel supports the arts! 

Eric Weigand—Carmel High School (2014)

I’ve known Joel Kirk since high school and have been privileged to watch him grow into this incredible artistic mind and leader. The passion and talent behind this show, along with the chance to work with Joel in our home state, make this a project I’m so grateful to be a part of.

I graduated from Carmel High School in 2014, and the experience there couldn’t have been more impactful. Jim Peterson, Maggie Cassidy, Lamonte Kuskye and Ann Conrad were just an unbelievably caring, passionate group of teachers to learn from. I’ve never stopped feeling deeply lucky I got to grow up in Carmel’s programs.

I’ve been so fortunate to have a lot of wonderful experiences in theater, from college to New York. But my mind goes back to being in “Les Miserables” at Carmel High School in 2012. Joel Kirk played Thenardier, my brother Ryan played Jean Valjean, and it felt like every friend I had was in the show. It was a huge example of how magic a production can be when everyone pours their love and commitment into it.

I’m so grateful and excited to work with Discovering Broadway. It’s such a privilege for any group of artists to get to gather in a room and dig into a piece, not just to make it to a curtains-up deadline but to be curious and discover how to get it to its fullest, most beautiful potential.

Jenn Maurer—Carmel High School (2010)

Joel and I went to Carmel High School together, and he was in Ambassadors with my younger sister! Joel and I have stayed friends through the years as we have both lived in New York. I’ve auditioned for a few of his shows before, but this is the first time we are working together in a professional setting. I grew up in Carmel, and when I heard about Discovering Broadway, I knew the city of Carmel would love an opportunity to support Broadway shows and performers. Joel is such a go-getter, and I am incredibly proud of what he has created! All that to say, as far as my interest in “Hamlet” specifically, I studied Shakespeare in London, so Shakespeare’s plays have been close to my heart since that experience. The music from this production captivated me instantly, and I was incredibly hopeful to have the opportunity to work on this project.

I graduated from Carmel High School in 2010. My experience in the performing arts program at Carmel as an Ambassador and performing in the musical every year gave me the confidence and inspiration to pursue this as a career. Lamonte Kuskye and Ann Conrad were the heads of the department at that time. They loved their jobs SO much, and it was evident in the way they passed to us, their students, a passion for the arts and performing. Ron Morgan was our choreographer back then, and I grew up dancing at his studio. The three of them put so much care into their jobs and really encouraged us to be the best performers we could be. They believed in us so immensely, and it made a lasting impact on me. I will be forever grateful for my experiences in the performing arts department at Carmel High School.

When I was on the national tour of “Elf,” I understudied Jovie and got to play the role. At that time, I had never experienced going on for a role that I understudied. It’s very unique because in no other situation would you go on for a lead role having not rehearsed as that part for weeks with the rest of the cast. I was incredibly nervous but so excited to perform the lead on a national tour. My instincts, preparation and castmates helped me give my best performance. I had so much fun and gained a lot of confidence in myself after that experience.

If my parents, family, friends and especially the community in Carmel had not respected the importance of the arts so immensely growing up, I’m not sure I would have pursued a career as an actor. Growing up in a community that appreciated the value of the arts on children and students allowed me to see firsthand how experiencing the arts in any way can make a lasting impact on our lives. How dreary would the world be without the opportunity to see a live musical, listen to a cast album, watch a play, etc.? I feel so fortunate to have grown up in Carmel, where I was encouraged to be creative and see where that path would lead me.

I think Joel is doing a wonderful thing bringing Broadway shows to Carmel. Without Discovering Broadway, Carmel has a booming performing arts culture. But with this addition, it can really bring some of the nation’s top talent to the city. I would have LOVED taking masterclasses with Broadway performers growing up, and I would have been beyond excited to watch a show before it went to Broadway. This is the perfect community to bring an organization like Discovering Broadway. Carmel has obviously already welcomed this endeavor with open arms, and I’m very excited to be a part of it all.

Jack Ducat—Carmel High School (2021)

Since I learned about Discovering Broadway, I always wanted to do a show with them. I’ve always wanted to see how a work grows and shifts as time goes by, and now I get to witness that artistic process firsthand. I also fell in love with the music in “Hamlet” from the first time I heard it. Every character in this new work has such a unique style, and every song creates moments that amplify and further build on the stories of these characters that Shakespeare wrote so long ago.

I just graduated from Carmel High School this year. In my high school experiences, I really honed my craft and used that time to prepare for college auditions and my future as an actor and performer. My high school opportunities, as well as many opportunities around Carmel and Indianapolis, grew my passion and interest in the theater. I was constantly encouraged to follow my dreams, and because of that, I am continuing to work towards a professional theatrical career. I had many new experiences in the theater during high school, including my first full straight play. Also, there are so many summer programs around Carmel, and I was able to learn from amazing teachers there as well. 

Discovering Broadway Inc. Hamlet

When I was in middle school, I got the opportunity to be in “Les Mis” at Grace Church. This was one of the first times I did a show with adults. The way that the cast treated each other and the work ethic and care every person put into their work showed me what being a professional meant. I also felt this way when I did “Billy Elliot” with Bobdirex and “Shrek” with Beef and Boards. These shows were some of my first professional productions, and I learned a lot from the actors who were working as pros in the theater about the craft and how to continue learning about this art throughout my entire life. I also just finished Chicago at Summer Stock Stage, and the cast was the hardest working group of high school talent I have ever been in a show with. We put the show together in three weeks, and I learned so much about being open and flexible in such a quick process.

As a young artist myself, I find it extremely important that communities support young artists like my community supported me. Because I was encouraged to continue working towards my dreams, I had the courage to go after my aspirations in the theater. That encouragement is why I get to do this awesome show with Discovering Broadway. I kept and will continue to work as hard as I can to make my dreams a reality, and this show is truly a dream come true, right in the place where I was always encouraged to follow my passions in the arts.

I am more than overjoyed to be working with Discovering Broadway. To have a place like Discovering Broadway right here in Indiana is something that I have never seen before. The incubation process of art is brand new to me, and I think that Discovering Broadway’s creation and support of new works will open more students up to all the possibilities in theater, whether that is on the stage or behind it. I feel so lucky to get to work for this nonprofit. Not only will it be benefiting and educating students, but it will also support actors and writers, and it will be giving a space for artists to interact, meet and create something bigger than themselves.

Sophie Miller—Carmel High School (2018)

This show caught my eye as Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” is already one of my favorite pieces of theater. I love the story and think that each of the characters has depth and a unique outlook on life. I was intrigued by the pop musical take on the story and really thought it would be amazing to take part in this new work, written by a team of incredible artists.

Discovering Broadway Inc. Hamlet

I graduated from Carmel High School in 2018, and already my performing arts experiences there have made a great impact on my college career at Millikin University. I participated in show choir at CHS, and that taught me the hard work that’s necessary to succeed as an artist. I thank so many of my teachers who pushed me in the classroom and beyond to become the artist I am today. I am honored and humbled to share the “Hamlet” stage with several CHS alumni.

Working with Discovering Broadway has been a dream and continues to provide me with so many opportunities to learn from and perform with some of the best and most hardworking talent in the business. Artists can truly benefit from working with this nonprofit organization, while collaborating with a greater community of fellow performers and artists.

Zionsville Showchoirs, Inc. Co-director/ZCHS Vocal Instructor Deana Broge shared her thoughts on Christina Barnes.

“Christina was an enthusiastic and talented vocal music student of mine at Zionsville Community High School,” Broge said. “It was clear that she had a passion for performing at a young age, and it has been a pleasure to watch her follow her musical theater and acting journey. The tenacity, continued growth and patience it takes to be an actor in the middle of a global pandemic cannot be understated. I am thrilled that Christina has connected with Joel [Kirk] at Discovering Broadway to continue her dreams in NYC. I am anxious to see what will be next for this amazing young woman!”

Christina Barnes—Zionsville Community High School (2015)

The first time I ever met Joel, he told me about this project, and I remember being obsessed with the concept immediately. Aside from the concept being genius, the music is gorgeous, the creative team is incredible and there’s so much passion behind this project!

I graduated high school from Zionsville Community High School in 2015. I was in the musicals all four years, Choralaires for one year, Royalaires for two years, Chamber choir for two years, and even took AP Music Theory my senior year. All these experiences helped me grow immensely in every aspect of my career as a musical theater actress. Aaron Coates and Deana Broge were in charge of the vocal music department during my four years of high school, and they were without a doubt a pivotal part of my life and my career. I’m forever eternally grateful for my four years training with them!

Discovering Broadway Inc. Hamlet

Young artists become professionals, so without community support for young artists, there are no professional artists and no future for this industry! It is a NECESSITY for the community to support our young artists.

I think Discovering Broadway is the greatest thing to come to the Indiana theater community. It has brought so many artists of all types/abilities/experience levels to Indiana and has really put our state on the map in the Broadway community. For artists like me, it creates amazing opportunities and connects us with these extremely successful, talented theater professionals.

For more information about Discovering Broadway and its programs, visit