CROSS RIVER, N.Y. – For Abigail Wilson, John Jay High School senior and stage manager, managing the chaos of live theater is where she thrives.
Born in Denver, Wilson moved to Mount Vernon at age 1. In fourth grade, she moved to South Salem, where she attended Lewisboro Elementary and John Jay Middle School.
From an early age, Wilson has always had an interest in the performing arts; she started acting in productions in elementary school. As her friends continued to perform on stage, however, Wilson, found her calling behind the scenes and joined the stage crew.
Upon arriving at John Jay High School, Wilson started participating in the school’s many shows. In fact, Wilson has been, in some way, involved with every school show since freshman year. She has worked on variety shows, concerts, musicals, plays, and the encore cabaret. The time commitment for all of this work is staggering. During a recent production, she and her fellow crew members calculated the number of hours they spent at school and realized that, between their time spent in classes and working on the show, they were at the school for 117 hours over a period of eight days.
Over the next few weeks, Wilson will be gearing up for her role as the stage manager for the school’s production of “Guys and Dolls.” Wilson describes the enormous production that “Guys and Dolls” will be, complete with a huge cast and many moving parts. While this project may be overwhelming for many, she enjoys the large community that musicals bring.
While this production will be a massive undertaking, those around her, like John Jay High School music teacher Amy Geiger, know that Wilson will rise to the occasion.
“She’s always calm and collected, ready and willing to step up to any task or challenge that comes with producing live theatre,” Geiger said. “I could tell from the moment I met [Wilson] that she was going to become a stage manager one day.”
Most importantly, it’s her leadership skills that are key to her success. As noticed by Geiger, “she’s mature beyond her years, multitasks effortlessly, and leads others by example.”
Wilson credits her success to the exceptional performing arts program at John Jay. Wilson believes that she and her fellow students are able to enjoy a high-level experience that isn’t available to most high school students. She praises the welcoming and inclusive theater community at John Jay, which is enriched by the presence of strong alumni support. Wilson also speaks highly of the supportive learning environment created by dedicated John Jay teachers: Geiger, Steven Morse, William Friedman, and Jeffery Richardson. As evidence to support this statement, Wilson points to assistance provided to her by Geiger with creating a college application portfolio, even though Wilson has never been enrolled in one of her classes.
Despite such extensive commitments to the theater program, Wilson’s academic schedule is equally impressive. This year she is taking six AP (Advanced Placement) courses, most of which are deeply entrenched in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). While she displays a love of the arts, Wilson also has a passion for math and computer science, which is reflected in her challenging course schedule.
Outside of school, her love of theater is displayed in her work with a local youth theater group. Wilson has been involved with “The Actors’ Studio,” run by Debbie Feinstein, since the eighth grade. For “The Actors’ Studio,” Wilson helps with backstage duties, sets, and props. The organization puts on a yearly show in the spring.
When not participating in all-things theater related, Wilson can be found volunteering in the community. She has worked at the Lewisboro Library supporting the teen program since age 12. At the library, she helps plan, organize, and run all the children and teen events. Wilson also volunteers with her church’s youth group which included a service trip to Appalachia to repair and build houses for those in need.
Looking toward this summer, Ms. Wilson already has plans in place. A few days after graduation, she will leave to work as a counselor at the Wilderness experience camp that she attended as a camper for years. Part of the experience is a 22-day backpacking trip along the last 200 miles of the Appalachian Trail without technology. While some might not even consider several weeks without a smartphone, she looks forward to completely disconnecting from the world and enjoying nature.
As for the future, Wilson has already applied to several universities. However, while most high school students need to fill out an application and write an essay, for Wilson, the process is much more demanding. In order to enroll in a theater conservatory program, Wilson must attend several interview sessions at each university. She has spent many weekends attending these necessary sessions at the various colleges to which she is applying. However, all this effort has paid off, as she has recently learned that she was accepted at Carnegie Mellon, one of the top theater schools in the country offering a bachelor of fine arts (BFA).
While Wilson has yet to make a final decision on where she will be attending school this fall, she knows that she will double major in theater technology and computer science. As for life after college, Wilson intends to either attend graduate school or, if the opportunity presents itself, go straight to work as a stage manager.
When pondering the future, Wilson would love to work on a live, televised musical. She loves the idea that this medium allows for great accessibility granting everyone, regardless of economic or geographic differences, to enjoy theater.
As she prepares for her final months as a student at John Jay, Wilson hopes to continue to share her love of theater with younger students. She states that it has been a great joy watching underclassmen grow and develop over the course of the last few years. Regardless of where Wilson ends up in the future, when she leaves John Jay, she plans on following the strong legacy left by other alumni and continue to provide support to the program.
Wilson lives in South Salem with her parents, Heather and David Wilson.
“Guys and Dolls” will run April 4 through April 6 at John Jay High School.