All the world’s a stage: Senior finds family, direction through theatre troupe

Danica Mendes

The curtain rises. The lights shine down on the stage. Senior Katie Svatek walks out and begins to sing as the crowd falls silent. Opening night can shake a performers nerves, but knowing there is a support group backstage can make all the difference both on stage and off.

Recently, Katie’s mother became paralyzed from the waist down due to transverse myelitis-swelling which occurs in the spinal cord and makes nerve transmissions difficult.

“My mom was in Houston for about three months, so balancing that with school was difficult,” Katie said. “I poured myself into school and compartmentalized. When I’m at theatre, I’m there to act and perform. When I’m with my mom, I’m there to be with her. Not letting stuff overlap too much helps because [if it does] it can completely take over and cause you to lose focus.”

Even though school was sometimes a distraction, theatre has provided a support system that helped Katie through this difficult time.

“This whole experience has made me thankful for [my theatre family],” Katie said. “They’ve been very supportive of me the entire time – not just in helping me during school, but spiritually too. I know that they’re there for me and my mom and praying for us.”

The support Katie has received is something that the theatre department strives to bring to everyone who is involved in the program.

“Our theme for our One Act play this year was a home-away-from-home because at the end of the day, we are each other’s support system,” theatre teacher Katie Cross said. “Since Katie’s mom was sick, we’ve really rallied to help her because we know she needs the help. That’s just what we do. We’re like a family, we’re a crazy dysfunctional family, but we’re a family nonetheless. When one of us is in need, we make sure to step up and help them.”

Despite the trials of her mothers sickness Katie is still able to be an important part of the team by being a positive influence.

“Katie is a very bright, energetic, and confident student,” Cross said. “She works extremely hard and she’s goal oriented. She knows exactly what she wants and she’s resourceful in how she’s going to achieve her goals.”

Katie competed in the Texas Thespian Convention last November where she placed in the top 24 performers in the state. Participants needed at least 270 points to advance and  Katie scored a perfect 300.

“I have extremely high hopes for her at nationals,” Cross said. “She will be competing against the top students in the nation, but we’ve been working on her piece and we have some new ideas and some fresh ways to approach her performance.”

Other theatre members also see a bright future in Katie through her abilities as a performer.

“Katie has the potential to do really well at nationals,” freshman Emily Kapchinski said. “She has the potential to win. Katie is really strong and is a hard worker so I know she can make it.”

Emily said Katie’s hard work and dedication is visible every time she goes on the stage, but theatre members also see those same qualities exhibited in her personal life.

“Katie has motivated me to keep going when things get rough, she has taught me to not turn my back on my problems,” Emily said. “[She taught me that I] have to face problems, accept them, and deal with them with confidence and courage.”

Katie has grown both theatrically and personally during her senior year and has proven she has what it takes to succeed.

“Katie came to me the week before school started to introduce herself and she was a little timid,” Cross said, “but she has blossomed into a wonderful, mature young lady that will do anything to make it in this business. She’s proved that she’s going to fight for what she wants and she’s going to get what she wants and is willing to put in the time to work. She’s really grown in that aspect of performing and life in general this year.”

Despite all the challenges that Katie has faced this year, she still manages to remain strong and plans to continue chasing her dreams as a performer.

“I plan to pursue performing in college,” Katie said. “Right now I’m trying to decide what part of it I want to pursue, but I know I definitely want to perform.”

As Katie’s life moves to a new stage after high school, she will also assist her mom through the next stage of her life. Katie said the prayers and support of the theatre family helped carry her through a difficult year.

“My mom is home now,” Katie said. “She’s doing well and is moving around. The doctors said that she’s going to be in a wheelchair for one to two years, so the paralysis isn’t permanent, but it’s going to take time to adjust.”