‘For the Passion’: Partnership between Westfield Washington Schools, Basile Westfield Playhouse designed to inspire students


Officials from Westfield Washington Schools and Basile Westfield Playhouse hope a new partnership will spark an interest in theater among local students and give them a new perspective about the performing arts community.

More than 50 middle and high school students recently got a behind-the-scenes look at every aspect within Basile Westfield Playhouse ranging from various props, dressing rooms and practice space inside the building located at 220 N. Union St. The playhouse is an all-volunteer organization, said Thom Johnson, vice president of community engagement.

The newly formed partnership between the school district and the playhouse was created as part of a theater summer camp held at Westfield High School. Johnson said he wanted students to know that regardless of whether they pursue a career in theater or not, Basile Westfield Playhouse is one of several options that they can choose from.

Other theater groups in the area are in Carmel, Lebanon and Noblesville, Johnson said.

“We want them to see the community theater perspective and we’re two blocks down the street,” Johnson said.

Johnson, who said the playhouse operates as a nonprofit, said that getting involved in theater isn’t necessarily tied to performing on stage, noting opportunities such as lighting, sound and set building are also available.

“You do it for the passion, and that’s what we’re all about,” he said. “When you have a passion for something, you just do it.”

Finley Hiple, who will be a senior at Westfield High School next month, said she has been involved in theater for three years and decided to attend the summer camp not only as a way to learn new things, but to work with other students who haven’t been involved in theater before.

“I just love being able to express myself and I think I’m pretty shy, and I just feel so welcome and just really have fun and hang out with my friends and learn about myself and others,” Hiple said. “Theater is a really welcome, open place for you to just experiment and learn and really just have fun with people who are kind and like-minded.”

Hiple said her first production at WHS was “The Wizard of Oz” and was a nervous experience but noted that upperclassmen helped her and made her feel welcome.

That same welcoming atmosphere, she said, is something she wants to provide other students. Hiple’s classmate, Olivia Horner, said visiting Basile Westfield Playhouse was a good opportunity to get a new perspective since she has performed primarily at WHS since her freshman year.

Horner, who will also be a senior, wants to see more students get involved in theater.

“It’s such a great opportunity to learn more about yourself,” Horner said. “Even though you’re taking on a different role and you’re maybe acting (like) a different person, you get to learn more about yourself and express yourself.”

Lance Grubb, director of theater at WHS who also teaches French, said 2023 was the second year for the summer camp and was made available to middle school students because of growing interest. Fifty-four students participated in workshops and worked with professional theater organizations in the area such as the Indiana Repertory Theatre in downtown Indianapolis, according to Grubb.

Grubb said the partnership with Basile Westfield Playhouse is only one way to introduce students to theater, which will benefit them down the road with important skills such as communication and interpreting scripts, among others.

“For us to build a connection when we’re three blocks away has always been my goal and for them to have other experiences with different directors broadens their repertoire and they can bring it to us and we can learn from them as much as they can learn from us,” Grubb said. “It gives them a different perspective on what modern theater is moving toward and what the next 10 years of theater is going to look like.”

Tom Smith, a board member with Basile Westfield Playhouse, said the organization is always looking for people who are interested in acting and noted that a youth advisory council made up of students is available. Those students work to develop their own performances and budgets as part of their efforts, he added.

Students who are interested in becoming involved with the advisory council must be involved in a minimum of two shows, one of which must be at Main Street Productions, the umbrella name of the playhouse.

“Get all the experience you can,” Smith said.

For students such as Hiple, working collaboratively with others is also something she enjoys as part of her involvement within the theater community.

“Teamwork is a big part of it,” Hiple said.

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Rich Steinberg, a board member with Basile Westfield Playhouse,
takes students backstage at the theater during
their visit July 18. The playhouse and Westfield Washington Schools recently formed a partnership as part of an effort to provide middle and high school students with a better perspective of the performing arts community. (Photo by Matthew Kent)

If you go

What: Westfield High School’s production of “Cinderella”

Where: Westfield High School auditorium, 18250 N. Union St.

When: Nov. 9-11, (7 to 9:30 p.m. performances Nov. 9-11, while a 2 to 4:30 p.m. performance will also be presented Nov. 11)

Cost: $15 for all attendees

More information: westfieldtheatrechoir.com/