5 Questions with Peyton VanDerheyden

March is known for many things culturally. Nippertown’s March Madness, The Oscars and Green Beer, but nothing is as momentous or marvelous as the high school musical! The proliferation and popularity of teen musicals on Broadway like Mean Girls, The Prom, and the Tony-winning Best Musical Dear Evan Hansen have made drama club much cooler than it used to be. Every high school in the area in all 60 school districts will be jazz handing, time stepping and parking and barking their high school musical in March.  I checked in with a young, rising multi-hyphenate and my collaborator in Capital Region theater, Peyton VanDerheyden, to get all the high school musical info.

Peyton VanDerheyden

PW: What’s your involvement with RCS’s “The Addams Family”?

PV: I am the Producer and Choreographer of the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk High School production of The Addams Family. I am also a co-director, but we like to joke about me being our “resident swing” since I tend to cover all of the parts needed in rehearsals… it really is quite the show! We have a fabulous team of three directing, so alongside myself are Shelly McLoughlin and Emily Hass. We try to foster a collaborative environment to allow the students to grow and create, but we also strive to be ever-changing and evolving in our own ideas and practices.

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PW: How does “The Addams Family” work with high schoolers? It’s produced frequently. Can you talk about why it’s such a great show for high schools?

PV: At RCS, we are an all-inclusive company where we proudly welcome all students to join our production regardless of experience or ability, and we craft our show around our student body. The Addams Family is a phenomenal show for most casts for a number of reasons. It is being produced quite a bit this year, and I think that is because of how much publicity has been seen with Netflix’s Wednesday. This is an amazing opportunity to welcome our entire community, especially since it is so popular, and we are so grateful to have their continued support! For RCS, we were drawn to The Addams Family because the music is fun and challenging and lends itself to stand-out dance breaks and choreographed numbers. We are lucky to have a well-moving cast of 30 and many students with years of dancing experience, which can be very difficult to come by in a public high school setting. Also, we appreciate how active the ensemble of “Ancestors” are in this show- it really gives everyone the opportunity to stand out and make their character their own! Every element of the production is so complex, set design, sound and lighting, costumes, hair, and makeup… there are a number of bells and whistles, and we love to raise the bar every year!

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PW: You are always so busy. Can you tell us about all your upcoming projects?

PV: I do tend to take on a lot, but I love to stay busy! Once The Addams Family wraps up at RCSHS, I will be costuming the Harbinger Theatre/Sand Lake Center for the Arts production of “Dig” by Theresa Rebeck (April 21-30), directed by Patrick White! I will also be returning to Fort Salem Theater for their production of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown (May 5-14) as their Stage Manager, Assistant Choreographer, and Swing, covering Lucy VanPelt and Sally Brown. I really look forward to joining both creative teams, and I’m incredibly grateful for these opportunities!

PW: What is a play or musical that changed your life?

PV: In my senior year of high school, at RCS, we did a production of Footloose the week before the Covid-19 shutdown, where I played Vi Moore. I had been performing for close to a decade at that point, but I really fell in love with the character and being able to touch on such sensitive materials and emotions at a young age. I knew then that I needed to continue with theater because of how evoking emotions and connecting with the audience fed a part of my soul. Had I never played her, I don’t think I would be on this path, experiencing all of these amazing opportunities! 

PW: What would you like to see in Capital Region theater?

PV: While I’d love to live out my Veronica Sawyer dreams screaming my face off in Heathers, I would really like to see even more of a push for diversity in casting. Let’s celebrate people of color; all body shapes/sizes, and abilities in the arts! Make theatre accessible to the masses; everyone deserves to experience this beautiful art form.

Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk High School’s production of “The Addams Family” runs 3/10 & 3/11 at 7 pm and 3/12 at 2 pm. Tickets are available at www.rcssd.org or at the door.

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