The show must go on

Homeschool student steps in to save show

Harshita Avirneni

More stories from Harshita Avirneni

Harshita Avirneni
April 17, 2020

Angela Phan

John Paul Kinney and his fellow actors sing “The Sound of Music” as the von Trapp family at the theatre’s production of the show on Oct. 24.

Nerves filled the air as the actors paced back and forth, as the circumstances were not what was expected back in September when rehearsals had first started. Everyone was anxious, rerunning lines and going over blocking. The lights dim and the curtain opens, the show must go on.

Homeschooled senior John Paul Kinney played the role of Captain von Trapp this past weekend in the theater production of “The Sound of Music”. Kinney was asked to fill in three weeks before opening night after original cast member junior Sam Smoot got pneumonia.

I’m a pretty reserved kind of guy but the first word to come out of my mouth was ‘abso-freaking-lutely.’

— John Paul Kinney

“I love the show and the role,” Kinney said. “I was just very excited to be able to play it. I’m a pretty reserved kind of guy but the first word to come out of my mouth was ‘abso-freaking-lutely’.”

Director Celeste Schneider said she asked all the boys in theater and choir if they would be able to fill in but none of them were able to. Schneider had previously contacted Community Youth Theatre to rent the nun costumes for the show and found out that they had done “The Sound of Music” in the spring. It just so happened the person who made the nun costumes was Kinney’s mom, which was how Schneider got into contact with Kinney.

“I knew I had to find someone or we would have to possibly cancel the whole thing,” Schneider said. “I was nervous until he came the first day and I watched him. [He was] so sweet and said that he would be honored to [play von Trapp]. He jumped right in.”

Schneider said Kinney memorized everything in two and a half days. Although he had played von Trapp in the junior version with C.Y.T., since it wasn’t the full length version that Vandegrift put on, he still had to learn lots of new lines.

“Well of all the things about theater, rehearsing is my least favorite,” Kinney said. “Doing things over and over again to get them in your head is not always the easiest. Memorizing lines and dances was not easy, but I had abundant help from the stage managers and my fellow cast members.”

Senior Emily Densmore, who played Maria von Trapp, said her favorite part about working with Kinney was how determined and professional he was. Densmore knew Kinney before he came to Vandegrift through doing theatre with him outside of school.

“He is not the type of person who takes it as a joke,” Densmore said. “ When he is on stage, he is on stage and nothing else matters. I wasn’t nervous at all. John Paul is very talented.

“This cast welcomed me as part of the family in a matter of hours. Vandegrift theatre has truly become a home for me, and I will always cherish that.

— John Paul Kinney

Kinney said there are two specific scenes that are his favorite to preform. The first is when Captain von Trapp unquestionably denies the Nazis and risks everything to stand by his morals. The second scene, particularly special, is just before the finale when the captain sings a simple folk song called “Edelwies,” named after a flower in Austria, asking for a blessing upon his homeland.

“This song has a special significance for me,” Kinney said. “It was my dad’s favorite song, and before he passed away he sang it quite often. It always reminds of him, and I tried every night to do it just the way he did. I hope I did it justice.”

Kinney has been dancing and singing for years, having been in a dozen musicals including “Bye Bye Birdie” and “Suessical.” Kinney was also a member of the Texas Private School Music Association’s All-State Choir in 2017 and again a soloist in 2018.

“I have been a member of many different performing groups, and I’ve found that the best companies are the ones that act like a big family,” Kinney said. “They love and trust each other on a whole different level, and that’s very important in theatre. This cast welcomed me as part of the family in a matter of hours. Vandegrift theatre has truly become a home for me, and I will always cherish that.”

Students can buy tickets for the Vandegrift Theater Company’s upcoming shows at