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Meet the DGN Senior Selected As One of Best Actors in State

Downers Grove North's Alexa Castelvecchi landed one of 30 highly sought-after spots on the cast of the all-state production of The Grapes of Wrath, to be put on at the Illinois High School Theatre Festival Jan. 9–11.

Give Alexa Castelvecchi a stage, and she'll give you a show. 

Musical theatre, straight drama, comedy—she can do it all, and she'd probably rather not have to choose. 

"I just love to perform," she said. 

Castelvecchi will take her love of theatre to a larger stage this weekend, with a role in the Illinois High School Theatre Festival all-state production of "Grapes of Wrath." She is one of just 30 Illinois high school students chosen for the production, which is one component of the largest and oldest non-competitive high school theatre festival in the world. 

The group presents the final product Jan. 9 through 11 at Illinois State University's Braden Auditorium. 

The journey to opening night has been arduous. After many 13-hour rehearsals and weekends spent chipping away at material, Castelvechhi is as ready as she'll ever be for the curtain to rise on the cast with students from dozens of schools across the state. The group was cast in June, and has been rehearsing since August. 

"This is one of the most close-knit, tight casts," she said. "We all share the same passion, and everyone is so driven."

The cast made the trip to campus Jan. 2, for their first dress rehearsal. But the inclement weather of the weekend, through Jan. 7, forced them to head home early. Though the rehearsal time was cut short, everything went smoothly, she said. 

"We're ready to show the audience how much has gone into this piece of our soul." 

Castelvecchi plays the role of Mrs. Wainwright—a mother struggling to help her family through economic turmoil while living in a boxcar. The role is more dramatic than what she's used to, she said. She participates in all forms of theatre at DGN—from musical theatre to drama to comedy—and she enjoys a challenge. The cast even worked a string band into the show, she said. 

"I love how in-depth you can get with a character in a straight show," she said. 

Teachers recommended Castelvecchi for the audition, but she never expected to be cast in the production. She was up against students from across the state. 

"It was kind of a longshot," she said. "You never know what they're looking for. It's not only who fits the role, but who best fits the cast." 

The cast will perform several shows Thursday at 6:30 p.m. and Friday at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Then they'll enjoy the rest of the festival, which includes over 4,000 participants representing 140 high schools, 50 colleges and over 50 professional exhibitors. 

The festival provides students and educators access to over 150 workshops, including sessions about professional lighting and sound design, costumes, set design, acting, dance, singing, directing, and other theatre topics. In addition, there will be performances from three professional theatre companies as well as a fantasy make-up workshop with Anthony Kosar, last season’s champion of the Face-Off Competition on the SciFi Channel. Seniors also have the chance to audition or interview for college theatre programs during the Festival, and to meet and discuss scholarship opportunitie

After graduation, she intends to pursue musical theatre, though she does not have a particular school in mind. She also enjoys singing—she sings with the DGN jazz band—playing piano, and vocal lessons. 

"My mother and I have decided that wherever I get in, that's what's meant to be," she said. 

For now, she can't wait to show off the cast's hard work.

"We really created a masterpiece," she said. 

For more information on the show, visit the festival website. 

Check out Alexa in a video from a recent Downers Grove North variety show, singing "That's Life." Alexa can be seen on the left, wearing the gold skirt.

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