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A chat with the ladies behind the High School Play

Posted by: Linda Hunter on Nov/13/2013

I have long been flabbergasted by the magnitude of work, the incredible talent and the unstoppable force that is behind Stowe High School and Middle School annual plays. Jane Harissis, Amena Smith and Lesley Anderson spearhead, motivate and corral an amazing group of young adults who pour their hearts and talents into a 3 night run of comedy, music and drama.  "Into the Woods" debuts on Thursday November 14th for a 3 night run.

I love that these dynamos always seem to pick projects that push the envelope – I still chuckle when I think of last years phenomenal “Spamalot” - and asked if this was a conscious choice?  All agreed that, while they appreciated the challenge, they saw Jane as the driving force behind challenging both themselves and the students.  Amena was quick to point out that the students loved being pushed out of their comfort zones and appreciated not being underestimated.

 I read recently that Broadway has had a massive resurgence in popularity and was curious to hear the ladies take on this.  Amena cited the incredibly popular TV show Glee, whereas both Lesley and Jane felt the growth reflected peoples need to escape.  Jane says, “entertainment has always been popular when the economy is in trouble.  Didn't Caesar give the masses Bread and Circuses?”

One of the most difficult parts of their work with talented teenagers is how to encourage them to strive for their dreams yet warn them of the difficult journey ahead.  As a parent, I was keen to understand how they navigate this difficult territory.  Jane always encourages students to follow THEIR passion, not their parents.  She adds the valuable caveat, “You can listen and learn from their mistakes….they've been there and done it.” but warns that divas will have great difficulty in the business!  Amena tries to be honest but avoids unsolicited advice, she believes you should always try if you really, really want it.  Leslie agrees that kids should be encouraged to follow their dreams but adds the advice, “Life will not always be a bed of roses; but you will get through the moment and SMILE!”

I am a great believer that your greatest strength is your greatest weakness – Leslie and Jane, not surprisingly declared their inability to say no -- which certainly explains their continued devotion to the Stowe High School Play.  Interestingly, Amena cited her inability to give up on people.  While the cynics might perceive both traits as weaknesses, they undoubtedly provide opportunities for true enrichment. 

Lastly, I was curious about who would play the title role in the movie of their lives and what the genre would be.  Amena foresaw a comedy starring Meryl Streep or Diane Keaton; Leslie cast Sandra Bullock in a comedic/coming of age story; and Jane had Meryl Streep portraying her in a dark comedy.  For me, no movie could possibly encompass the joy these 3 ladies continue to bring to hundreds of students and parents in this community.  We are truly blessed to have them!