VILLA PARK – When he was in sixth grade, Jack Corkery’s mother signed him up to participate in a local youth theater group’s production of “Annie Jr.,” an adapted version of the musical “Little Orphan Annie.” At first he didn’t think he’d like it, but this play turned out to be a jumping-off point for Corkery, who since has immersed himself in the theater department at Willowbrook High School.
“I really like the people who are in it,” he said. “I’ve met some of my greatest friends in theater. I’ve come to love being on stage.”
Earlier this summer, the high school junior was selected to perform in the Illinois High School Theater Festival’s All-State play, an opportunity awarded to only 30 students throughout the state.
His original play, “Life Among the Still Lives,” also was selected as a winner in Eureka College’s Illinois High School 10-Minute Play Festival competition, and will be performed in November, an experience that Corkery predicts will be “surreal.”
With just more than a week into the 2013-14 school year, junior year is one that Corkery predicts will be a good one; full of performing, hanging out with friends and staying on top of school work.
At the beginning of the summer, the 16-year-old from Villa Park auditioned for a role in the All-State play, which is being directed this year by Mark Kaetzer, a fine arts instructor at Glenbard East High School.
Corkery said he was familiar with the All-State play, having heard stories from older students who previously attended the theater festival at Illinois State University. His decision to audition this year was influenced by the fact that rehearsals would be at the neighboring school of Glenbard East, rather than far from home.
“I remember when I got called – I was in my friend’s basement hanging out,” he said. “We all started hugging and screaming.”
The students will perform “Grapes of Wrath,” and Corkery has the role of Grampa Joad, a character who he says brings comedic elements to the otherwise serious play. Many of Corkery’s previous roles have been humorous characters, so it isn’t a new experience for him.
Getting a cast of 30 and crew of 26 students from around the state together is a tricky feat, so the play’s rehearsals are concentrated during long weekends. The first was before school began, and Corkery said he’s looking forward to the second during Labor Day weekend.
Rehearsals are very intense and take entire days, he said.
The All-State play commitment will not prevent him for getting involved with Willowbrook’s play, too, he said. The first show of the year is “Into the Woods,” which Corkery said is one of his favorites.
In January, he and the rest of the cast from the All-State play will travel to Illinois State University to perform. This, Corkery said, is the thing he’s looking forward to most.
“I can’t wait to actually get in front of an audience,” he said.