by Jesse Mitchell, staff writer

MAY 2022 – The Trumbull New Theater in Niles, Ohio, performed a production of “Our Town” by playwright Thornton Wilder March 11-27. The play featured a wide variety of cast, including five of Bio-Med Science Academy’s students and a staff member. One of those cast members was sophomore, Kadence Papantonakis, who had rehearsed for two months to play one of the lead roles, the character Emily. 

Pictured is Trumbull New Theater’s cast for its production of “Our Town.” Papantonakis (fourth from the right in the back row) performed in this small cast, after being cast in the role of Emily. Photo provided by Papantonakis.

Papantonakis has always been involved in the theatrical arts, and especially enjoys acting. 

“The basics of theater is you just act, you sing, and dance,” Papantonakis said. 

Ever since Papantonakis was a little kid, she was drawn to the world of theater. She first got a taste of it when she did a skit challenge through the organization Destination Imagination. 

According to its Facebook page, Destination Imagination is “an educational nonprofit that has been a leader in project-based learning for more than 20 years.” The organization creates STEM-based challenges open to interpretation for students to help them foster creativity and gain real-world skills. 

For Papantonakis, she started by doing an eight-minute skit for a Destination Imagination Challenge, where she created, set up, and performed in her own work.  Papantonakis did this challenge with fellow Bio-Med student Logan Cook, who was also her co-star in “Our Town.”

Papantonakis has been involved in other productions, such as “Something Rotten!” by John O’Farrell and Karey Kirkpatrick, where she played as part of the ensemble; “Office Hour,”  by Julia Cho, where she worked backstage for the play.

Having been so involved in different plays, she has worked with many different people and directors, which has been challenging for her. 

“You have to be able to really adapt,” said Papantonakis. Some directors she’s worked with were great, while others she described as “not so put together.”

Papantonakis needed to grow as a person and as a performer to always bring her best to whatever production she is doing. “You have many directors, and they might tell you to do something, and change how you act. But when you act, it’s you. Yeah it’s a character, but it’s your own way of acting,” Papantonakis said. She always wanted to stay true to herself and use her skills as a performer to carry out her role.

Papantonakis received help developing her skills and understanding how to be the best actress she can be from a program called Destination Broadway, which is a week-long program that provides students with the opportunity to work with Broadway professionals in acting, singing, and dancing classes. Stemming from that, she was able to make connections with many of the people she has worked with, saying, “even now, I would be able to email them or text them if I have any questions about anything.”

Papantonakis has little formal training although she has taken some set design, directing, and acting classes to help her grow as a performer. To her, acting is her strong suit but she highlighted she had a strong ability to pick up choreography fast. 

Papantonakis performed in the play “Something Rotten,” Nov. 1 through Nov. 21. Papantonakis’s role in this play was her first acting role on stage as she got to be a part of Trumbull New Theater’s large cast for the play. Photo provided by Papantonakis.

The skills she has picked up through her work in the theatrical arts have not only helped her in life, but also in her academics. 

“Using theatrical things has definitely helped me with ‘choose your own projects’ and those kinds of things,” said Papotanakis. 

She highlighted a current English Language Arts Project she is working on where she built a set and was able to pull from her set design knowledge and experience. Overall, Papantonakis has felt that having experience with this field has “really helped me on my projects at school,” she said. 

Being at Bio-Med has also helped her to grow her skills in theater. Papantonakis has been at Bio-Med for five years, starting as a sixth-grader. For her, Bio-Med and its collaborative learning has “definitely taught me how to work with other people more than just being there and thinking I’m working. I actually take the effort to get to know people,” she said. She described this as being a crucial part of the acting field as without connections, “you really won’t go anywhere.”

Papantonakis has found it challenging at times to make those connections, saying, “the struggle is being nice to everyone.” She continued, “When you have somebody that, say, you audition for the same role, and somebody gets the role, it’s really hard to be nice to them, when you worked hard to get something and you didn’t end up getting it.”

Additionally, she found it difficult to work with such a large variety of people. For the musical “Something Rotten!,” she worked with more than 40 people, ranging from those “ as little as three years old, and to adults that were as old as I think 70,” she said. 

Despite these challenges, Papantonakis has never gotten discouraged by those struggles and was excited to recently play Emily in ”Our Town,” which was the first lead role she ever had. 

Before her last performance of the play, she felt scared. 

“Just knowing I will never play Emily again is scary because it was my first, lead role,” said Papantonakis. Looking back, she remembered the opening performance of “Our Town,” when she and Cook, “just gave each other a hug and it was probably one of the best moments because we realized that we actually did it, like made it through the first night.”

Although Papantonakis was sad to move on, she was happily looking forward to her role in her next play. She is playing the character Robin, an errand boy, in William Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor.” This premiered May 6 at Trumbull New Theater. 

Papantonakis never expected to get her big break into acting through her various plays and productions. 

Acting is something Papantonakis has considered turning into a career. “I never really took in the fact that theatrical arts would be a leeway into going professional with acting and stuff,” she said. 

 “Acting was one of the big things I was looking at. It’s really hard to look into theater and acting and that kind of stuff as a long term, even though it’s something that I really, really enjoy,” she said. Right now, Papantonakis plans to continue doing plays and living out her dream, with the possibility she might minor in acting in college since she could make money in directing or acting. 

Papantonakis has been thankful for the roles and productions she has been a part of, and is thankful most for her family and friends within the acting community, as they have always supported her, sent her auditions, and believed in her. She appreciates how supportive everyone has been and is excited for every opportunity she can get to perform.

Trumbull New Theater’s production of “Merry Wives of Windsor,”  will be performed May 6-22. Visit the company’s website for more information. 

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