Greene County’s “Into the Woods” earns Distinguished Scene and other awards


“Into the Woods,” the 1987 fairy tale themed musical written by Stephen Sondheim, was performed at an award-winning level by Greene County High School students in March for their spring musical. Members of both the cast and crew were recognized for their talents at the Iowa High School Musical Theater Awards on May 30 at the Des Moines Civic Center, hosted by Broadway performer Ryann Redmond. 

Throughout the state of Iowa, 102 high school productions were recognized through a series of medleys performed by the students. 

“Into the Woods is a pretty hefty show,” said Dave Heupel, GCHS vocal music director. “We knew we could take on something a little tougher. I knew they would be able to step up to the challenge.” 

Heupel said the students only had three months of rehearsals between auditions and performances and that the show really came together in the final few weeks. He said it was satisfying to see their hard work become “one of the top two or three” musicals the school has ever put on.

Ava Schilling, a senior who played a leading role as The Witch, earned an award for Outstanding Performance in a Principal Role. Schilling was also selected to participate in the Triple Threat program and performed a medley with other Triple Threat participants.

The Triple Threat Program is an opportunity for “advanced students” who have “high caliber learning and performance opportunities,” according to Des Moines Performing Arts. Along with other Triple Threat participants, Schilling had the opportunity to work with a New York City-based choreographer and audition for the chance to perform at the Jimmy Awards in New York City.

Senior Gavin Vander Linden was recognized for his work as the musical’s publicity manager by earning an award in Outstanding Achievement in a Behind-the-Scenes Business Role. With this recognition he was invited to attend a Behind-the-Scenes Workshop in Des Moines. Along with behind-the-scenes work, Vander Linden also played a leading role as The Baker.

One of the musical’s scenes, “Your Fault,” earned the cast the Distinguished Scene award. In this scene, several characters try to figure out who is responsible for releasing the giant, played by Luna Rowe. The song portrays a conversation between the Baker, played by Vander Linden; the Witch, played by Schilling; Little Red Riding Hood, played by Lucy Vander Linden and Cinderella, played by Olivia Hoyt. 

To close out the show, Olivia Hoyt and Grace Hardaway were selected to perform in the Showcase Finale Medley alongside students from other participating schools.

“I call this a little icing on the cake,” Heupel said. “They already had a great production and they did a really great job. So [the showcase] was just a little extra recognition on top of some great work they’ve already done” 

According to Des Moines Performing Arts, the broadcast will be aired in a “special statewide broadcast” on Iowa PBS Tuesday, July 9 from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday, July 14 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

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