As a member of the St. Mary Catholic Schools community, every student can explore their unique passions and curiosities through enriching experiences and a diverse selection of co-curricular opportunities. That is no different when it comes to the SMCS Fine Arts Program.

Over the past decade, the Fine Arts Program has made historical steps forward.

In 2012, the state-of-the-art Jane Bergstrom Fine Arts Education Center (FAEC) was added to the SMCHS campus. The FAEC is used by students and staff from the five SMCS schools, as well as alumni and community members for concerts, performances and events.

Fine Arts Director Hayden Kraus (’11) sees the FAEC as more than a magnificent facility, but also as a confidence booster for the students.

“With the addition of the FAEC, I think it for sure gave our students more confidence in what they are doing,” Kraus said. “They have their own space; they felt like they were at home. From there, we started working on ‘Okay, we want to build up this experience.’ We need to match the level of the building we’re working in.”

When Kraus joined the SMCS staff, he knew he had the opportunity to make SMCS an elite fine arts school.

“With my position as the fine arts director, that isn’t a position that has existed,” Kraus said. “The fact that our school has a fine arts director, really is a luxury. For us to even have that position.”

Kraus plans to keep the momentum growing in the right direction, due to the support of SMCS.

“For someone to oversee the department, not only the theater but the whole Fine Arts Program, has helped us find a new focus, a new energy.”

In January 2020, that new focus and energy involved the addition of theater classes to the school curriculum.

“We added intro to theater second semester last year, which helped us launch into three classes starting first semester this year,” Kraus said.

In total, six theater classes were added to the theater curriculum:

CAPP 161 – Introduction to Theatre

  • Overview of theater, drama, music theater and films. Students learn about traditional stage plays and Greek history.

Youth Theatre Stagecraft

  • Students in this class will take on creative team roles such as stage manager, choreographer, set designer, makeup artist, technical director, etc. The creative team then works on upcoming productions with SMCS elementary and middle school students.

Acting I

  • Students will gain an overview of the various techniques of acting and have the opportunity to exhibit their understanding of them in a final in-class performance.

Acting II

  • Students will be diving deeper into acting techniques for the stage, as well as exploring the art of voice over. The class will interview actors who have done Broadway and National tours. Actors in this course will perform in a final Showcase of scenes and monologues.

Acting III

  • Acting for film will be explored in addition to the stage techniques learned in Acting I and II. Students in this advanced course will have the chance to build a performance reel to submit to casting directors in the theater and television industries. Students interested in majoring in theater in college will be guided in building an audition portfolio.

Acting IV

  • After the stage, voice over, and film/television acting techniques learned in Acting I, II, and III, students in this final acting course offering will continue to hone their craft. They will have the opportunity to put together a scenes program OR a one act play for public performance at the end of the semester. Students interested in majoring in theater in college will be given further assistance finalizing their audition portfolios.

Jessica Wagner, SMCS theater teacher, says that four acting classes gives the students an advantage if they continue their theater career after graduating.

“Our goal is to prepare students, if they want to go into (acting) for a college major or professionally,” Wagner said. “They would be prepared with their monologues, song selections and portfolios. Taking those four (acting) classes would have them ready to go. Using class time for practical things like that is great.”

Kraus has acknowledged the growth in the theater department and is thrilled that it is now offered in the school curriculum.

“The kids who wanted to (to take theater classes) for so long and now have those classes, has helped us take the big step.”

Stay tuned for part two of the theater blog. It will publish next week and centers around Theater Teacher Jessica Wagner.