Morgan Park Academy (MPA) rising senior Hailey Brisard was among 40 high school students selected statewide to perform in this year’s all-state production of the musical “Aida.”
The show will be performed at the 45th annual Illinois High School Theatre Festival to be held Jan. 9-11, 2020, at Illinois State University.
The Illinois Theatre Association’s annual event is the nation’s largest and oldest non-competitive high school festival, and it draws 4,000 students, teachers, industry representatives, exhibitors and volunteers each year for productions and workshops.
Brisard, a veteran of several MPA stage productions and the Musical Theater Intensive at the Goodman Theatre, will spend the next several months rehearsing with a company of students and teachers from around the state. She has been cast as part of the ensemble and the understudy for Nehebka, one of the principal roles.
Brisard said she is thrilled to be part of the show.
“Getting the opportunity to be a part of this production is really exciting. A few of my friends who do theater outside of MPA did it last year and in previous years,” she said. “After watching behind-the-scenes videos and hearing participants talk about the experience, I knew I had to audition. I thought it was really cool that I get to meet people from all around Illinois who live either 30 minutes or four hours from me who are all passionate about the same thing.”
Brisard said “Aida” is one of her favorite musicals, and her role provides a powerful and important message of love.
“Love has no boundaries,” she said. “This show brings up the challenges of prejudice, injustice and division. These themes are relevant in our world today, and I believe it is important that these issues are recognized and shown in art of all forms. Even though this show takes place in ancient Egypt, the social issues it mentions are important and reflect the times.”
Brisard said that being in the ensemble allows students more creative freedom.
“You get to create your own character because there isn’t any context from the script,” she said. “You get to use your imagination and decide how your character moves through the world and come up with all the little quirks about them yourself. That is something that is limited when you get a big role. You get to be creative but only to a certain extent. I am excited to learn cool dance numbers and figure out how my character moves through life.”
Her interest in theater over the years, Brisard said, gave her the skills to pass the audition for the festival production.
“The first experience that helped me prepare for this was the Musical Theater Intensive that I participated in at the Goodman Theatre for two summers. It really helped me figure out that musical theater is my passion. I learned how to collaborate with others to create a story, and I gained more confidence in myself and my abilities.”
At MPA, two shows that helped her were “Little Women” and “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”
“I learned from ‘Little Women’ that, no matter what happens, the show must go on,” Brisard said. “Many things didn’t go as planned, but learning to roll with it and keep going was probably one of the most important lessons I learned.”
“Drood” provided another lesson for Brisard.
“I learned how to always be in the scene and react to the other characters. I learned the importance of ensemble and how you have to take care of every actor in the show. Everyone is important and has something important to contribute.”
Rehearsals for “Aida” will be held in Carol Stream, Ill., from August through January, and Brisard will be juggling a busy schedule that also includes her studies at MPA and the college application process. But, she said the hard work will be worth it.
Her goal is to study musical theater in college and to become a working actor either in the Midwest or New York, and the all-state production will give her valuable experience.
“I am excited to meet new people from all across Illinois who are as passionate about theater as I am,” Brisard said, “and to work on an amazing show that is so relevant to our world today.”