Truman has five Blue Star nominees

Bill Althaus
The Examiner

Myel White has just walked out of a makeshift dressing room at Van Horn High School and is a bit agitated.

"I can't find my cigarettes," she grumbled, as she dug through a purse that looks like it might have come out of the closet of one of the Kardashians.

Truman High School vocal music director Kim Carson happened to walk past when White made the comment, and grinned.

Truman High School first-year director Brent Nanney has a pre-dress rehearsal chat with five Starlight Theater Blue Star nominees, from left, Paige Gonzalez, Gabbie Petentler, Myel White, Breana Smith and Kyleigh Hendrix. They will appear in 'Sister Act' Friday and Saturday at Van Horn High School.

"What student could say that and not get in trouble," Carson said, chuckling.

Certainly not White, a senior who was dressed in a leopard print dress and knee high boots as she prepared for the first dress rehearsal of "Sister Act," the Broadway play based on the 1992 Whoopi Goldberg film of the same name in which a nightclub singer is forced to take refuge from the mob in a convent.

When Deloris Van Cartier, the nightclub singer portrayed by White, arrives, she turns the convent choir into an act that achieves so much fame that Cartier is discovered by the mob.

"This is a dream role," said White, who might also be recognized as one of the top softball pitchers in Eastern Jackson County. "To have this role, in my last production at Truman, is really a dream come true. And I'm in it with all my friends -– it couldn't be better."

Now, she just has to find those pesky cigarettes, a prop she will use throughout the musical.

Not only is White starring in "Sister Act," she is one of five Starlight Theatre Blue Star nominees, who will find out if they won at 7 p.m. next Thursday in a ceremony at Starlight Theatre.

White is nominated for Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role. Gabbie Petentler is nominated for a Rising Star Scholarship, and castmates Kyleigh Hendrix, Paige Gonzalez and Breana Smith are nominated for Performance Scholarships.

"This is all so amazing. It just shows what you can accomplish if you work hard, have a wonderful director like Mr. Nanney and a great cast and technical crew ..." Petentler said.

"It's such an honor to be nominated for the Rising Star Scholarship because I have seen so many of the former Rising Star Scholarship winners perform, and they are the best! To even be mentioned in that same category is just amazing."

White agreed.

"It's great to be recognized for an award like that when you're with all your best friends and having so much fun," White said. "I never expected it, never thought about it, and that makes it even more special."

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact schools and students alike, theater students were able display their adaptability and creativity on and off the stage. 

Starlight on April 22 announced the nominations for the 19th annual Blue Star Awards, which honor their body of work and determination. In the 2020-21 school term, Starlight adjusted the awards to highlight the broader work of schools and students, with the opportunity to submit materials in seven categories.

Truman's first-year director has found a way to not only survive but thrive during this pandemic.

"Oh my gosh, what a year it has been, and as you can see from watching out students this morning, they are amazing," Nanney said. "To pull of a play like 'Sister Act' you have to have a great deal of talent, and we certainly have a great deal of talent at Truman. I feel so blessed – believe me, none of us will ever forget this year."

Because of the pandemic and quarantine protocol, the play was moved to Friday and Saturday. And because the Truman High School auditorium is under construction, the production was moved to Van Horn 500-seat auditorium.

"We're very comfortable selling tickets for $10 at the door," Nanney said. "This auditorium has many more seats than we would have had at Truman, and we know we can have all our guests arrive, be socially distanced and enjoy a wonderful play."


The Truman High School production of "Sister Act" takes place at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Van Horn High School Auditorium. Tickets are $10 and are available at the door. Patrons are asked to wear masks.