Taking center stage

Shaw invited to New York City for prestigious performance

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Taking center stage

Photo by: Contributed photo

Photo by: Contributed photo

Photo by: Contributed photo

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One day before opening night of “Urinetown,” sophomore McKenna Shaw boarded a plane to New York City.

On Nov. 15, McKenna performed with her vocal teacher and mentor, Janine DiVita at Feinstein’s/54 Below, a cabaret and restaurant in N.Y.

“To get to be in this place I’ve heard so much about was really cool,” McKenna said. “It is so rare to be given opportunities like that at all, let alone as a sophomore in high school. It was an experience I’ll never forget.”

McKenna joined DiVita onstage to sing the finale, “Find your Grail” from the musical “Spamalot,” of “Lit,” a set of songs from DiVita’s favorite musicals.

It was a neat experience, but it was also about meeting people and getting her face and her name in the minds of some people who do this professionally,” Greg Shaw, McKenna’s father and drama teacher said. “Getting to see professionals and how they work and rehearse — that’s really the value in doing a project like that because they’re showing the ways professionals do business.”

DiVita became McKenna’s mentor by chance.

“She is from Kansas City, so she was coming into town to do a master class and it just so happened that, on that day, there was a big snow storm,” McKenna said. “I was the only one who showed up, so I had a private lesson. We exchanged contact information and the rest is history.”

A veteran performer, McKenna has been involved with approximately 40 shows in the community since she was four years old. She has also participated in numerous performances outside of Pittsburg.

For the past two years, she was selected to attend the Southeastern Summer Theatre Institute in Hilton Head, S.C.

“Once we get the cast list, we receive a script and the music and we are expected to have it completely memorized by the time we get there,” McKenna said. “We stay there for a month working 12 hours every day. Then, in three weeks, we put on a show.”

Based on an audition, this program only accepts 25 students worldwide. This year’s play was “Young Frankenstein,” with McKenna playing the lead character, Inga.

Currently, McKenna is slated to play Elle Woods in Theatre in the Park’s “Legally Blonde” and Laura in Faust Theatre’s “Band Geeks,” both based in Overland Park. McKenna will also be traveling to the Kansas Thespian Festival with “Urinetown” in January.

To reach the Broadway stage one day, McKenna focuses on storytelling during her performances.

“One of the number one things I’ve always been told while working on performing is that you have to tell a story,” McKenna said. “I think that’s what sets performers on a high-school stage apart from a Broadway stage.”

For now, opportunities as these serve as a stepping stone to her goals, one of which is to attend University of Michigan’s musical theater.

“I hope that this will open doors for me,” McKenna said. “But even if it doesn’t, this is something that no one else gets to do, and that makes it really special to me.”

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