Steamboat Springs grad takes first in national theater contest |

Steamboat Springs grad takes first in national theater contest

Recent Steamboat Springs High School grad Mollie Heil, second from right, earned first place for stage management at the International Thespian Festival in late June.
Courtesy Photo

— When recent Steamboat Springs High School grad Mollie Heil was just 3 years old, a babysitter told her parents that Heil would likely grow up to be a prison matron or a stage manager.

Heil, who chose the stage manager route, said being assertive and giving orders were part of her personality since a young age.

“I am the oldest of four children, so it’s kind of been instilled in me since I’ve had younger siblings,” said Heil, who learned her sophomore year at Steamboat Springs High School that she had a knack for stage managing shows for the school’s theater department.

As a senior last fall, Heil managed the school’s production of “Legally Blonde, the Musical,” and her work organizing and running the show didn’t just pay off when the curtains went up on opening night.

Heil competed at the Colorado Thespians state festival in December, showcasing a portfolio on her stage management skills and scoring high enough to compete this summer at the International Thespian Festival in Nebraska, which took place over six days in late June.

While other high school students from across the country were demonstrating acting, singing and other skills, Heil explained to judges her tactics for a successful show and showed off a prompt book and stage management portfolio, and they were impressed enough to award her first place in the country for stage management over about 50 other competitors.

“It was super exciting,” said Heil, who traveled to the competition with four other Steamboat Springs High School students, three of which also competed.

Heil’s sister, Hannah Heil, ranked “superior” for her musical theater solo performance, and students Mayana Gibbs and Dominic McAuliffe ranked “excellent” for their duet performance.

But it was Mollie Heil who stole the show at the festival, where thousands of students from around the country gathered to compete, watch plays and attend workshops, according to Heil’s drama teacher Jamie Oberhansly.

“She was practically famous at the festival after her win,” Oberhansly said. “She had onlookers that were aspiring to be as good as her at nationals. Students and adults were both asking for a peek into her magic prompt book.”

Oberhansly, who has helped revive interest in the high school’s theater program since becoming drama teacher five years ago, said not many people understand how important the role of a stage manager is.

“What nobody really knows is that the stage manager is the lifeline of a show. When the curtains open, everything relies on her calls,” Oberhansly said. “In competition judgment, she has to articulate the demands and needs of a successful show as well as how she executed the director’s expectations. She also has to answer impromptu questions that test her abilities.”

Oberhansly, who was the director of Legally Blonde, said Heil is accountable and responsible, and helped create a detailed scheduling sheet to coordinate the busy schedules of all students involved in the play.

“She really helps the whole production run smoothly,” Oberhansly said.

For Heil, stage management won’t be something she leaves behind now that she’s graduated high school.

This fall, Heil will attend Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri, to begin studying for a bachelor of fine arts in stage management.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow

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