By Heidi Osaki, Oregon Children’s Theatre Young Professional
Sierra Kruse is a senior at Tigard High School and a 4th year Young Professional at Oregon Children’s Theatre. She interned this summer with Kaiser Permanente's Educational Theatre Program and as a part of her internship, performed in Dancetastic at Oaks Park, a comedy for families about making healthy choices.
Heidi Osaki: How did you hear about the Educational Theatre Program?
Sierra Kruse: Pat Moran (ETP/OCT guest director/collaborator), has been talking to me for years about applied theater and what that means, and Katie McClanan, one of my good pals, did this internship last summer and so she sent me information on this internship and was like ‘hey this is something you should check out, you would really like this.’
H.O.: What did your internship with ETP entail? Was it just doing Dancetastic?
S.K.: I was hired on for Dancetastic and that was the main thing, but then as the summer went on they referred me for Fragments which was a staged reading at a Hospice day of grieving for families that had gone through loss. It was an incredible experience. And then after that I got added on to another staged reading for another ETP show Above Between Below. So it was a growing experience.
H.O.: What was the performance internship like? What was the process for doing Dancetastic?
S.K.: It was crazy because I had never been put into a show before. I'd always started with a show from the very beginning. But I think what was most staggering was like, oh my goodness these are these two incredibly talented people who are adults and they do comedy for a living and they already know the show and I’m just here learning. I had to adjust to being like, oh it's okay to ask questions and it's okay to be the slower one, and as soon as I kind of embraced that and was a little bit less harsh on myself, it was so much fun
H.O.: So you said from Dancetastic you went on to do the show at Hospice and another staged reading, did it bring on any other opportunities in addition to that?
S.K.: Those were the ones that mostly appeared; it was any opportunity that they could get a youth voice on, and that's why Above Between Below came up. It was about middle schoolers, and they had an entirely adult cast performing it and they were like, we need a youth person in the room to like talk about this and give us feedback and keep the conversation going about what it is to be young today.
H.O.: Were there any parts from your summer with ETP that particularly stood out or you thought were especially rewarding?
S.K.: Ok well Fragments was the most rewarding theatre experience I've ever had. We did this show that was basically about processing grief called Fragments and we drove down to Salem in a car with me, one other YP, and some adult actors, and we performed for families that had lost a family member. We had a talkback afterwards and we got to spend time with the families and the fact that they really connected to the words, I was like this is what theatre is about, this is what I am here for. That's what I’m most passionate about and to get to be able to apply it after talking about wanting to do that for so long is the most exciting thing. It was pretty cool.
H.O.: Was there anything surprising or unexpected?
S.K.: I was constantly surprised by Dancetastic. Like it's mostly just kind of hilarious. You're performing this ridiculous show for a great number of children and the kids would say the darndest things. I think I told you about the girl who came up to me and was like ‘is it true that you really don't like exercise?’ It was just a lot of audience interaction. And then I’d never dealt with a show that had a rotating cast. Halfway through the summer I switched from doing Dancetastic with Emily to doing Dancetastic with Jeff, and readjusting to Jeff and what our styles were together and who our comedic duo was - it was fun.
H.O.: Do you want to highlight any other major takeaways or things that have stuck with you?
S.K.: I think my major takeaway was that you're in the room for a reason, and all theater is meant for different audiences. I did Dancetastic, which is a crazy comedy show about exercise, Fragments, which was a very serious show about grief, and then Above Between Below, which dealt with bullying in middle school, which were all very drastically different shows. But all of them are about helping people; and so to be like, why am I in this room, what can I bring to this, and why are we doing this... I think I will now bring these three questions to all the work that I do. I definitely have more of a community-oriented mind when it comes to theatre after this.
H.O.: Did your experience with ETP have an influence on what you want to do in the future?
S.K.: Yeah, so, I went into it being like, maybe I want to do theatre and applied theatre, but I don’t know how I’m going to navigate my love for community. Like, I don’t know what I'm going to do, but after doing this I realized that there is an in-between. It was just really encouraging to see people who are making a living off of helping people, and doing it through theatre.
H.O.: Did you expect to figure that out when you went into the internship?
S.K.: I was very hopeful as soon as I met Tamara. I talked to them about their applied theatre experience in my first interview and we had totally a kindred spirits moment of being like, you love this, I love this, that's so exciting. So I definitely did not apply to it with that thought, but as soon as I met them, I was like, ok I’m on the right path, I'm in the right place, you know, this company is working in the way that I want to.
H.O.: You were obviously involved through theatre and being onstage but are there any other ways you see youth being involved in ETP?
S.K.: A year ago we had the youth advisory board for ETP and it didn't really take off, but I think it was a great idea, and I think maybe a smaller scale version of it is something we should do in the future. So basically it was YPs that were invited, and I think we can open it up to people that aren't YPs, to meet and talk about what health issues they want to hear about. It was really cool to sit around the table and be like, this is what people want to hear about and there is a need for this.
H.O.: Do you want to see that come back?
S.K.: I would love to see that come back. I think it would be super helpful for ETP in catering their theatre to their audience. ‘Cause they do a lot of stuff for younger like elementary school and middle schools but I think this type of theatre is just as important for high schoolers.
H.O.: Are there other opportunities you would like to see in ETP or even be part of?
S.K.: Yeah, I would love to be a part of any type of class that they wanted to take that was informing people. One of the things I took away was the fact that there are jobs in this. I would love to just go to a forum and talk about the connection between community and theater, the connection between health and theater, like, what is educational theater? Literally what is that. Even a presentation to the YPs, like I would go to that.
H.O.: And for you, right now, what’s next for you, what are you up to?
S.K.: I’m currently working very heavily with my school's student government. I'm the vice president at Tigard so I run our student council, making sure that our students get heard and then I’m our city-to-school liaison and then I run some clubs. I run GEM, which is gender equality movement and we talk about gender equality and women’s rights, and then I also help run astronomy club and then I’m also a part of NHS which is our national honors society, and I do a lot of work with representing LGBTQ voices there. I do quite a bit. And then I’m applying to school. I’m trying to apply to school for theatre. A lot of the schools I'm looking at I could potentially double major in theater and something a little more social justice-y.
H.O.: So definitely tying together all these interests and culminating into one grand thing?
S.K.: Yes, definitely, ‘cause one will end up being my day job, whether it will end up being community engagement or theatre, and then I'll do the other one at nights or on the weekends so I'm not leaving either behind.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.