By Tammy Real-McKeighan
FREMONT, Nebraska (FrÃ©mont Tribune) – When it comes to theater, it’s all in the family for Dan and Caitie Hays.
Dan Hays is a theater director at the University of Midland and his daughter, Caitie, is a theater teacher at Fremont High School.
The cooperation between the two theater programs has worked well.
FHS students were able to see performances from Midland and participate in workshops with university students.
The two theater departments shared costumes and other items.
âIt was a great collaboration,â said Dan Hays.
In addition, seven of Caitie Hays’ theater students came to Midland University on theater scholarships.
Two of its 2021 FHS seniors are enrolled in Midland this fall.
The Hays’ love of the theater began years ago.
Dan Hays is from Oxford (now Southern Valley), Nebraska, where he said the school has a great music and musical program.
When he was in seventh grade, Hays played Lewis, Anna’s son in the musical “The King and I”.
âI knew (playing) was what I wanted to do for a career,â he said.
Hays received degrees in vocal musical performance and theatrical performance from Kearney State College.
His acting opportunities would include trips with the Young Americans, a Southern California-based performing arts group.
He has had a wide range of experiences as a professional actor.
âI have worked all over, in many places in the United States,â Hays said.
Hays worked in the old Firehouse and Upstairs theaters in Omaha. He played at the Omaha Community Playhouse. He played Peter Pan at the Emmy Gifford Children’s Theater in Omaha.
He played the title role in the world premiere of “Geech: The Moosical” in Kansas City. He was Sancho in “Man of La Mancha” at the Mule Barn Theater in Tarkio, Missouri.
Hays met his wife, Kathy – now director of student achievement for the Midland Department of the Arts – when she performed at the Ralston Community Theater, where he did choreography.
Their children, Caitie and Patrick, now a vocal music teacher at Blair Middle School, would follow in their parents’ theatrical footsteps.
Caitie was a little girl when her father gave ratings to cast members for the musical “Oklahoma”.
âI guess I got on stage and started doing some of the choreography,â she said.
Caitie was 7 when she auditioned for her first show. She played Gretel in “The Sound of Music” at the Elkhorn Community Theater.
âI think I was already in love with the theater, but it kind of solidified it,â she said.
Caitie was involved in the Elkhorn Community Theater while in elementary and middle school.
At Elkhorn High School, she participated in one-act plays and musicals. She was nominated for Best Actress for Orphan Train. Her last year, she was Gertrude in “Seussical the Musical”.
By the time Caitie was in Elkhorn High School, her father – who entered teaching later in life – was a vocal music teacher there and conducting musicals.
It was a huge blessing, she said, and also something that made her a little harder when she won roles or solos – some peers then told her that she only got them through thanks. to his father.
“I think my dad would be the first to say he was almost harder on my brother and I when we were in high school, just because he didn’t want us to feel like we never won.” of solos or roles. in musicals, âshe said. âI’m really grateful for this now. “
She thinks her father’s high expectations probably made high school easier for her, as she could honestly tell her friends how hard she had to work to get a role or a solo.
After graduating from high school, Caitie joined the Young Americans.
âIt was a great opportunity because I got to travel the world with them,â she said.
Living in a tour bus, she visited Germany, the United States and Canada, and England, Ireland and Canada.
She has also performed in the musicals “Brigadoon”, “My Fair Lady” and “The Music Man” in California.
Broadway stars have played the main roles in these productions. For example, Susan Egan, the original Beauty from Beauty and the Beast on Broadway, starred in “Brigadoon” and “My Fair Lady”. Tony Award-winning actress Kelli O’Hara was in “The Music Man”.
About 20 young Americans, including Caitie, were selected to be on stage with these and other well-known artists.
Caitie and her father shared other experiences. Dan was director of the Young Americans, touring Germany with Caitie and the UK with Patrick.
She then went to Wesleyan Nebraska, where her father was the head of musical theater.
âWe’ve spent a lot of time together, professionally and academically, and we’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of shows together,â she said.
They were even on stage together for the musical “Pirates of Penzance”. He played the modern major general and she played one of the girls.
âSo we have to be father and daughter on stage,â she said.
After graduating in 2014 from Nebraska Wesleyan, she moved to Chicago where she was involved in professional theater for about three years.
Her roles included Wendy in “Peter Pan” in a children’s theater.
To support herself, she was a professional banker at Chase Bank.
But Caitie wanted a professional career in the theater.
So she returned to Nebraska and obtained a master’s degree in education from the College of Saint Mary.
His career at Fremont got off to an unusual start.
She was hired at FHS a week before the March 2019 floods. And with 2020 came the global pandemic.
The spring 2020 play has been canceled. The fall play in 2020 was a cabaret, staged virtually due to COVID restrictions.
âLast year we were able to do our one act act in person with a lot of restrictions and for the first time in 16 years Fremont High School went to the one act state and we got the third up to the state, âshe said. noted.
The act was a 30 minute presentation of “The Miracle Worker”. Shannon Engel was named “Best Actress” in Class A in the state.
âWe’ve had a really good year,â said Caitie Hays.
Caitie puts the rewards in perspective.
âThe prizes are nice, but I do it because I love my students and I think the theater taught me – and I think it teaches my students – how to have self-esteem, how to be. brave, how to come out of themselves and probably my favorite thing is that it teaches them empathy, âshe said.
Being a character and having to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, understanding their life and telling their story, teaches people to empathize with others.
It’s something Caitie believes people always need, “because you never know what’s going on in someone else’s life.”
In addition to directing shows in Midland, Dan Hays remains active in theater, most recently appearing in the musical “Murder for Two” at Fremont Opera House.
He looks forward to Midland’s next student production, the musical âWhite Christmas,â scheduled for November 11-14.
Caitie is looking forward to the production of “Peter and The Starcatcher” at Fremont High School, scheduled for 7:30 pm October 1-2.
In the meantime, she continues to appreciate her theatrical heritage.
“It’s really cool growing up with your parents, not just being people you love and admire, but kind of want to shape your life on,” she said. . âWhen you look at the career paths that my brother and I took, we became our parents. We can joke about it, but growing up seeing the impact our parents had on the students they worked with, I don’t think there is a better way to lead our professional careers.
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