Northern Starz Theatre showcases student-direct plays

The Northern Starz Theatre gives children and young adults a positive outlet for creativity and growth.

Northern Starz is hosting its second Student Directed Festival this year on July 22. Students began working with professional mentors in may and had the opportunity to audition for roles in various plays in Featured plays include “The New Ms. Jones”, “20 Books in Search of a Reader”, “Admissions” and “10 Reasons Why You Should Have Stayed Home Sick Today.” Tickets are still available. Individual show tickets will be $5, all day passes for adults will be $17 and student and senior tickets will be $14. During the performances, a panel of five professional judges will be present to critique and give feedback for the actors and directors. An award ceremony will be held after all performances.

The beginnings of Ramsey-based Northern Starz started from an informal organization called Broadway on Site in 1996. In 2010, Broadway on Site wanted to add an advanced group experience for students. In 2012 the organization added and organized the different group to later be known as Northern Starz Theatre.

Northern Starz is a non-profit educational and community theatre. It’s mission is to promote appreciation and provide the fundamentals of theatre arts through the education of and performances by students of all ages.

Northern Starz works with students from Anoka, Ramsey, Coon Rapids, Andover, Becker, Zimmerman, White Bear Lake and other cities in the metro. They partner with local schools and communities in hopes of reaching out to anyone who desires to learn and contribute to the art of theatre.

Coaching students on acting isn’t the Starz only mission. They strive to provide the skills and knowledge in many theatre aspects such as stage managing, technicians, lighting design and directing.

“We are a 100 percent volunteer organization. Students come in for hour and a half sessions twice a week,” said executive director Rachel Bohnsack. “We make sure to teach students about budgeting money, costume design and other viable aspects of theatre as well.”

After acting in various plays, some students desire to take on more authoritative roles. Grace Hiltner, 15, Tierney Stewart, 17, and Brooke Paulson,16, are student directors for the Starz. Hiltner became interested in elementary school after seeing a theatre flyer.

“I begged my mother relentlessly to look into it after that,” said Hiltner. “I acted last year and enjoyed it. I wanted to try directing for myself.”

She is directing the dark comedy “The New Ms. Jones.”

She wants to become a professional in any aspect in theatre. Acting in a gender swapped role is something Hiltner is interested to try.

Stewart also had an interest in theatre at a young age. Performing in her first show in the third grade, she has grown to love theatre and working with a bit of everything. She strives to become a professional actress working more so with live performances and film. Stewart said formulating new ideas and making basic scenes more compelling are among the challenges of being a director.

“It is a matter of taking scenes that are OK but coming up with ways to make them awesome,” Stewart said.

Paulson had a similar mindset regarding directing. While watching other actors, she would formulate ideas she wanted to implement within plays.

“I never voiced my ideas during those instances because I did not want to disrespect the director,” Paulson said. “Once I took on the role, I wanted to implement my ideas in hopes making scenes run smoothly.”

Paulson enjoys dramas the most because they typically can be more meaningful and go more in depth than comedies. She has hopes of becoming a professional actress or running a theatre of her own someday. Some of her biggest challenges while directing are having to organize her cast.

“It can be hard because a lot of the actors are my friends. I have to be assertive but also remain enjoyable which can be challenging at times,” Paulson said.

For more information on the Northern Starz Children’s Theatre Student Directed Play Festival, visit

Student director Grace Hiltner, 15,  enjoys comedy theatre and is currently directing the dark comedy “The New Mrs. Jones.” 
Photo by TJ Armstrong

Some of Grace Hiltner’s cast for “The New Mrs. Jones” rehearses as she coaches them from the sidelines.
Photo by TJ Armstrong
Tierney Stewart is a 17-year-old student director who enjoys every aspect of theatre from acting to sounds effects. She plans audition at the University of Minnesota in January.  
Photo by TJ Armstrong

Ramsey’s Northern Starz Theatre gives children and young adults of all ages opportunities to experience the joys of theatre. 
Photo submitted 

Brooke Paulson  enjoys working with dramas and wants to be a professional actress or run her own theatre someday.  
Photo by TJ Armstrong 
Norther Starz Theatre puts on a variety of plays such as “Peter Pan the Musical”, “Annie Jr.”, “The Nutcracker” and many others. 
Photo submitted
Tierney Stewart is a 17-year-old student director who enjoys every aspect of theatre from acting to sounds effects. She plans audition at the University of Minnesota in January. Photo by TJ Armstrong