Q+A with Center Stage High School Musical Theater Program Alum

Written by Philomena Dorobek, Brand Storyteller
Fox Cities Performing Arts Center

Marki Hietpas portrays Trina in The Next Chapter Actors's Falsettos. The performance of this entertaining and heartbreaking musical will be at the Center in the Kimberly-Clark Theater from June 23-25. Marki is no stranger to the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, having been a participant of the Center Stage Program in 2018 and 2019. We wanted to check in and see how life has been treating her since high school, and to discuss her upcoming performance in Falsettos!

Marki, would you mind giving a little background for those who may not be familiar with what you have done?
My name is Marki Hietpas, and I am a 22-year-old theatre kid! I am currently attending St. Norbert College in pursuit of my Bachelor’s in sociology with the hope that I can work with the homeless as a social worker post-graduation. I have continued to be in productions since graduating from Little Chute High School, and I am also in the Knights on Broadway–St. Norbert’s show choir! This is my first production with The Next Chapter Actors, but I have always been a regular audience member for their past productions.

Here at the Fox Cities P.A.C., we know you from the Center Stage Program. Can you tell me a little bit about your experience with that?
My high school joined the Center Stage Program when I was a junior, [2018] for our production Shrek: The Musical. Our ensemble was awarded “Best Ensemble Number”, and since I played Pinocchio in the production, my directors asked me to accept the award on behalf of the fairytale creatures, to which I happily obliged! The following year, I had the honor of performing on that same stage as Cat in the Hat, because I was nominated for “Outstanding Lead Actress” for our production of Seussical. Not only was I nominated for the award, but my sister also received a nomination for her role as Gertrude.  If you see any of the current Center Stage posters, there is a photo of my sister and me the moment we found out she had been selected to compete at the Jimmy Awards! That was probably one of my proudest moments; not only because my sister was going to perform on Broadway, but also because I got to perform on the same stage that dozens of professional touring shows had also performed on, the same stage I have watched dozens upon dozens of musicals. It was overall one of my favorite memories from High School, and I really enjoyed getting to sing with so many talented women!

You are now in a community production of the show, Falsettos!  How did this opportunity come about?
I have always been familiar with The Next Chapter Actors, because the director, Kyle Weidman, is the older brother of my best friend Kelsey. Furthermore, the shows they have done previously were some of my favorites, so I came to watch both Dogfight and Next to Normal. I always planned to continue theatre when I graduated from college, but I never considered doing anything outside of St. Norbert College at this point in time. However, I remember seeing the post announcing the show, and I was so excited! I immediately messaged the original director (who has stepped down for personal reasons) saying how much I loved Falsettos, and she was quick to ask if I was interested in the role of Trina…to which I said YES!

How did you prepare yourself for the role of Trina?
Trina is the mother of Jason, ex-wife to Marvin, and wife to Mendell. My sister introduced me to the show when we were about 16-years-old, and practically every car ride to school that year had Falsettos blasting through the car speakers. From then on, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the show. That attachment never left, and one of my audition repertoire is “I’m Breaking Down,” which I used in my Knights on Broadway audition my first year of college! So upon receiving this role, I was already fairly familiar with the music. In regards to preparing after my casting, I mostly worked on the songs I didn’t already know and formed closer relationships with my castmates so that I could perform my role as authentically as possible. Overall, Trina and I are very similar in the way that we are both always “full-on” whether it be going absolutely crazy, having mood swings, crying for no reason, or just loving our family deeply. She’s a character I’ve resonated with for a long time, and I still find that I am pinching myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. I am so grateful that I was given this chance!

What’s something that you want to take away from this show/experience?
Something that I want to take away from this experience is that no person is one-dimensional. Everyone has their own complexities and lives outside of my own perceptions. I am prone to being overly judgmental towards others, and the way that this show offers so many perspectives makes me sympathize with all the characters in such different ways. It reminds me to consider the feelings of everyone around me, and that there is more than what meets the eye when it comes to the character of others.

What is it that draws you to the arts?
Well, the reason I began performing was because I liked having attention as a third grader, and the rest is history! However, I always find myself coming back because of the characters I have gotten to portray. For some of the shows I have been a part of, the primary goal was to entertain audience members, like when I played the Cat in the Hat. But, by far my favorite roles have been Trina in Falsettos and Margaret White in Carrie. With these roles, I got to explore the emotional turmoil experienced by these women. What upsets them? Why? What were their lives like up until the beginning of Act 1? While these characters are fictitious, I find comfort in knowing that I get to tell their stories, and that they are given a voice through me.

What’s something you like to do for fun?
Besides theatre, I love to play video games! I wouldn’t coin myself a “gamer girl,” but I love to play video games such as Mario Kart, Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, Animal Crossing, Stardew Valley, and more!

What is something surprising about you that not many people would know?
Well, my go-to answer is that I have a twin sister, but Center Stage let that cat out of the bag. I think something surprising about me is that my first dream role was Glinda in Wicked when I was twelve years old!

What are your goals or aspirations that you’re working towards right now?
Currently, I am mainly focused on completing my Bachelor’s degree. I am also interning at Harbor House this coming school year to get more experience with homelessness and domestic violence among women. My hope is to continue to explore the different facets of social work, and pursue my Master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin Green Bay. So, I’d say my career is my focus at the moment.

Is there any advice you’d like to give to other theater-inspired individuals due to your experience?
I have two pieces of advice. The first is that you are talented in your own way! While it sounds cheesy, it’s true. I have spent a lot of my life comparing my theatrical capabilities to those around me, thinking that I wasn’t as talented as them, and feeling like I had something to prove. I do still have hard days, but I am at the point now where I know that I am talented in my own ways, and that comparing myself to others isn’t fair to me or them. I just focus on what I know I’m good at, and work on improving the areas I’d like to be better in. My second piece of advice is, make theatre what you want it to be for yourself. You can pursue it as a career if you really want, but if you feel drawn to a different path you can do theatre on the side. Or not at all. At the end of the day, you choose to do what makes you happiest, not what everyone else thinks will make you happiest.

And finally, is there anything you’d like to say to the audiences who will be coming to see Falsettos at the Fox Cities P.A.C. from June 23-25?
This show is AMAZING! It is the perfect balance between upbeat numbers that will make you laugh, and more somber scenes that always bring me to tears. It is masterfully done so that audience members can experience multiple categories of theatrical entertainment. Welcome to Falsettoland!

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