Kiana Stevens: Taking the Lead in Spotlight
From Aug. 10 to 12, North Haven’s Spotlight Stage Company held its youth version of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, marking the company’s third production as part of the post-pandemic expansion of its Summer Youth Program. Taking on the leading role of the musical was Kiana Stevens, who was excited to be part of theatrical performances where support and friendship amongst castmates are held in high regard.
“I went into auditions with confidence, and I knew that whatever part in the play I got, I wasn’t going to be sad about it.”
However, Kiana went for the leading role of the titular character or one of her stepsisters. Fortunately for Kiana, she scored the former part in what was her second time being a part of a Spotlight production, where she feels a sense of community with fellow performers.
“I’ve always had a passion for theater ever since I was little, and I saw a play that I would really love, and it was a Spotlight play. I ended up doing an audition for a Spotlight [play]. And I loved the interaction; I loved the people that did it. I love everything about it. It was local to where I live, and it was very negotiable,” says Kiana.
Before going into auditions for this year’s production, Kiana took an “audition class,” which Spotlight is looking to start doing at the North Haven Recreation Center as theatrical workshops, which helped prep Kiana for the eventual audition that landed her the leading role in the production.
“That definitely prepped me—I knew what to look for, what to do. I knew what I should do and should not do in the audition, and that’s why I went in there prepared. Also, we got to practice our songs for our auditions, so that also prepped me so I knew what part of the song I was singing. We were also told, which really helped me, how long the song had to be.”
Although Kiana was nervous about the production’s three performances, “I know that once I get on stage, all those fears are just going to go away.”
Kiana says that with the “kids in Spotlight, there’s no negative energy; it’s always positive, so I know that I’m not going to get pulled down.” There is a sense of camaraderie felt amongst all young actors with Spotlight that underscores a love for performing.
“That just gives me positive energy,” said Kiana.
When it comes to rehearsal, Kiana loves both the acting and singing responsibilities, but there is a unique quality to the former attached to the connections she builds with her fellow cast members. She says it makes them stronger and more confident in both departments.
Between acting and singing, Kiana says the way she portrays Cinderella is slightly different. While she retains the character of Cinderella as she exists in non-singing mode, she changes slightly into someone of a more hopeful state of mind when she does sing.
“[In the song] ‘In My Own Little Corner’ in Cinderella, she kind of is becoming all these different people as she’s imagining what’s happening…I have to act out all those people…so I do have to change my character a little bit but…I do stay in character when I sing.”
One of the methods Kiana uses to connect with her role is to do a “deep dive” into the character of Cinderella and get a sense of who she is truly like as a person. For example, she recognizes the character to be a “very quiet” person and maintains that persona throughout the productions.
Along with Spotlight’s audition classes, Kiana also took vocal lessons with Michelle Bonavena at Performing Art Studio BE, better preparing her for singing on stage. All that experience adds to Kiana’s already 10 years of being a dancer, the final element of what makes being on stage an enjoyable experience.
She says that she was also partially influenced by what she saw in the 1965 cinematic version of Cinderella by Rodgers and Hammerstein. She cites High School Musical as a personal favorite and another inspiration as a performer.
Kiana says she hoped the audiences that saw Spotlight’s production of Cinderella connected with her character and recognized her transformation into a new woman.
“I hope it just brings awe to the audience.”