Maggie and Mollie Stephens just can't stay away from Pittsburg High School Theatre. Maggie (Class of 2007) and Mollie (Class of 2010) are the brains (and feet) behind the choreography of PHS musicals. The sisters both live in Kansas City, and commute to Pittsburg several times a month from November through February. They spend weekends teaching the cast the choreography to the Musical Repertoire Theatre production (last fall it was the State qualifying "Band Geeks") followed almost immediately by the all-school musical (this year it's "Shrek").
Daughters of Jeff and Sherri Stephens, they grew up attending Jody Phillips Dance Company and the YMCA Academy of Dance, where Maggie still serves as Creative Director. They got their start in theatre when Greg Shaw began producing shows at PHS in 2007. Their first show: "Seussical."
Maggie began choreographing for Shaw with the following year's "Beauty and the Beast," and Mollie joined in for "All Shook Up." All told, they've choreographed a combined 20 shows for PHS, and many have 10 to 20 musical numbers.
They collaborate on the numbers, using Mollie's basement dance studio, and rely on PHS students with dance chops, like Will Jewett and Alli Baden, to help students without as much experience when the sisters can't be at rehearsal.
By day, Mollie is employed as an events manager by EPIC Innovative Events — a subsidiary of Starlight Theatre — and Maggie does communications for a non-profit health organization, The Research Foundation.
But they love weekends at PHS, and lately, there have been many of them: In addition to regular rehearsals after school each day, the cast has been rehearsing dance numbers on Saturdays and Sundays since Christmas to prepare for show the magnitude of "Shrek."
"I think what we love best is being able to work with a group of students from their first day in high school all the way through graduation and see how much their talent develops and they grow as performers. It's really satisfying," Mollie said.
"And seeing how much the program has grown, and how much the community supports it, has been amazing," Maggie added. "That's the icing on the cake."
— Andra Stefanoni, PHS Drama Mama (PHS Class of 1988 and Pittsburg Community Theatre Board Member)
Mollie and Maggie Stephens (front center) strike a pose with the dance ensemble of "Shrek, The Musical," during rehearsal Saturday at PHS.
Will Jewett ("Donkey") and Jack Warring ("Shrek") rehearse a musical number for the Stephens sisters on Saturday at PHS.
Jared Wilde ("Lord Farquaad") and the Duloc Dancers rehearse a musical number for the Stephens sisters on Saturday at PHS.