Maia has always been interested in singing and performance, but it wasn’t until her Grade 10 year at Shawnigan that she auditioned for her first musical.
“When I was in Grade 9, the musical was Shrek, and watching that really captured my interest,” she shares.
Her first ensemble role in a musical production came the following year, as an apple-throwing tree in The Wizard of Oz. By Grade 11, she was cast as Vanessa in In the Heights, an experience that introduced her to the different set of responsibilities that comes with playing a lead role.
This year—her fifth and final year at Shawnigan—she will be putting those skills to use once again and setting the stage ablaze with her portrayal of Cabaret’s vivacious and eccentric Sally Bowles.
“The role of Vanessa was smaller than that of Sally, but it introduced me to acting, and to memorizing and performing my own songs,” she explains. “Playing Sally is a big step up and has come with its own unique sets of challenges, from learning to perform with a British accent, to portraying such a complex personality, and having to drink a raw egg live on stage!”
If Sally is her hardest musical role to date, Maia is also certain that it will be the most memorable. Unusual in terms of its content, composition and structure, Cabaret is rarely performed by high school musical groups because of its gritty nature and eccentric characters. Nonetheless, its sinister themes of political fanaticism and racism render it as culturally relevant today as it was in its earliest incarnation as a 1939 short novel. The challenging material also provides an unparalleled learning experience for emerging performers.
“It is an amazing show,” says Maia, “and playing this character in this musical is certainly pushing me out of my comfort zone.”
Being pushed out of her comfort zone is something that Maia is no stranger to. She’s been singing regularly at Shawnigan since Grade 9, as a member of the choir and as a solo performer in Chapel. She shares that while the sense of pressure before you get on stage is about the same between a larger theatre and the more intimate Chapel setting, singing in Chapel—in broad daylight, in front of a sea of familiar faces—is actually a more daunting prospect. However, four years down the line and many successful performances later, the skills and confidence that she’s gained from her myriad performances is evident.
“I’m appreciative of having the support of a school that’s rooting for you all the time,” she says. “It’s such a boost to receive recognition for something that you’ve worked hard to achieve.”
Making strides as a singer and performer has also helped her in other areas of her school life. As a player for the Senior Girls AAA field hockey team, a soccer player and a School Prefect, Maia finds that these diverse activities complement one another.
“I really took the Shawnigan idea of being a well-rounded student to heart, and aiming for that forces you to be more organized,” she says, “I’ve learned leadership, time management, how to manage conflicting demands and communicate clearly with teachers and coaches, perseverance and how to make compromises. Going forward, these are all lessons I can take with me.”