CAMDEN — Local residents enjoyed a one-act play directed by a Preble County native with an extensive theatre background in the Preble Shawnee Junior and Senior High School auditorium on Friday, May 21.
Polly Heinkel, a 1997 Preble Shawnee graduate, first became involved in theatre when she was a junior in high school, and would go on to study at the prestigious East 15 Acting School at the University of Essex in London. She also earned an MA in Theatre at Miami University.
Heinkel found herself motivated to direct a play at Shawnee a few years after returning from her stint overseas.
“I moved back to the states in 2016 and thought, How can I get involved?” Heinkel said. “And then, early in 2020, the opportunity arose. It was brought to my attention by a friend, and I knew at that moment that I wanted to give back to the place that had started my career. “
After last year’s production was canceled due to COVID-19, however, Heinkel was unsure whether she’d get the opportunity. But then she received a message from Junior and Senior High Principal Dianna Whitis.
“They were, indeed, hoping to do a show, and she said she would like me to take the helm,” Heinkel said. “I met with the school about when would be an ideal time to do the production, and asked if there were any caveats about what I should produce. They left that to my discretion, and I found this silly one-act that on the surface seems to be all about not wanting to be in a play, when the whole time the play is actually bringing a group of students together.”
Titled “15 Reasons NOT to be in a Play,” the production Heinkel chose is “about the fact that no matter how we fight it, once you complete one performance you want to do it again and again,” according to a Director’s Note included in the show’s program.
“I quickly learned that I enjoyed directing and being backstage after a stint in front of the lights,” Heinkel said of her experience as a theatre student at Shawnee. “Preble Shawnee theatre is where I was first bitten by the bug, so to speak, and I have Bev Garrett to thank for that.”
Garrett was a former Theatre instructor at Shawnee.
“We would do a yearly musical when I was a student here, and I auditioned, and also volunteered to be her rehearsal assistant,” Heinkel said. “I went on the following year to be Mrs. Gibbs in the fall play, which was a production of Our Town, and then the Deck Stage manager and props master for our next musical.”
Heinkel found that working in theatre gave her a sense of belonging.
“It was the place I could be myself,” Heinkel said. “We created a family on the stage, and it was a time I will never forget.”
While in London Heinkel worked at Shakespeare’s Globe, as a stage manager at Theatre503 and as a producer at The Drayton Arms Theatre. She currently works in the Global and Intercultural Studies Dept. at Miami, and also volunteers as Assistant Artistic Director for The American Legacy Theatre, a non-profit theatre company in Cincinnati.
“I’ve had so many amazing opportunities to explore different types of theatre with many different mentors,” Heinkel said.
Heinkel had high praise for the cast and crew she worked with at Shawnee, which included students Lexi Lebsack, Jozelyn Sperry, Clay Graham, Casey Lyon, Jillian Tackett, Maggie Montgomery, Jae Bailey and Taylor Maddox.
“Working with the students has been great. I have gotten to know them and cannot wait to work with them again,” Heinkel said. “They have all grown immensely, and I am proud of all that they’ve achieved.”
Heinkel also expressed gratitude to those residents who came out to support the play.
“I am very happy with the outcome of this weekend’s performances. The students did amazing, and we had a terrific audience at both. Thank you to all those who attended!” Heinkel said. “I hope to return in the fall.
Shawnee’s next production, Little Women, is slated to hit the stage in early spring 2022.
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook @mproperenglish