With a love for performance from the earliest years, Jillian Lietzau’s passion for theatre has brought her to be the Head of the Theatre Department here at Lutheran High School. She recalls her first role over as a dancing flower in Alice in Wonderland, all the way back in first grade. That was alongside being in an accelerated reading class that performed plays for younger students, youth choir, and high school theatre (in the LuHi Denver campus). But it took until her college years until she realized God’s calling for theatre, and how He’d guided her along that path for much of her life.
For Troy Stelling, co-director of the Theatre Department, he got into the arts in high school thanks to some best friends in theatre who convinced him to audition for the spring musical. He stayed involved in shows through college, and has made a wonderful career out of it.
Chris Loesel, the school’s Director of Performing Arts noted that he was “...surrounded by the arts for as long as I can remember. I have always loved being on stage performing and now that I am a teacher, that love of the arts has continued as I get the opportunity to guide and direct the next generation of performers.”
Troy says, “I love to go to shows and all that, but really for me it still comes down to watching young actors develop characters and bring them to life on stage. I love getting choked up before opening night when I tell the cast and crew ‘have fun, it's your show.’“
For Jillian, working with LuHi students is one of the best ways she keeps her passion for the arts burning bright. “Each show isn't about the final performance,” she says. “It's about the theatre family that's been created during the rehearsal process. I've seen these kids pull together and overcome seemingly impossible obstacles so the show can go on. They are truly inspiring and just as I push them to be better they also push me to be better.”
Chris feels similarly about “...seeing the passion in the eyes of the students involved on a yearly basis, witnessing their incredible talents, and reminding myself of whose I am. When I am reminded that I am a child of the King, I know that I don't need to do anything to define my worth. My worth is defined by Christ. When I know that, you can't help but have joy experiencing the arts, one of God's greatest gifts to us.”
Jillian knows how important it is to trust in God in all things, and also wants students to know that they always have a unique gifting to bring to the world.
“He has something great in store for you,” she says. “Whatever path God puts you on, working in the performing arts, athletics, teaching, military service, or any other profession, do it with all your heart and serve Him always. Your path may not always be easy but keep trusting in Him and He will get you where He wants and needs you to be. You have a great purpose.”
Troy wants his students to know “...that theatre is fun and rewarding. And that you do not need to be the stereotype theatre person to enjoy the arts. I coach football in the fall for LuHi and I love to show that you can do both. Get involved in things you enjoy and don't be afraid to break down some barriers.”
And Chris had this to say, “I want them to walk away from a LuHi production closer to their Savior than they were when they started. It is my hope that they know they are loved by the creator of the universe and that nothing they can do, on stage or off, can change that.”
When asked what pieces of advice either might give their younger selves, Troy said, “I wish I would have pursued singing more. I love music, but was told by some directors that I did not have a good voice... so never even tried. As a teacher, I also wish I had put more effort into my education at the high school level.”
Chris would tell himself to “Relax and enjoy high school. It is so easy to get caught up in being a perfectionist or trying to be someone that you're not. Just enjoy the amazing opportunities that high school gives. You won't always get to do musicals, choir, sports, clubs, etc. so enjoy the experience and get to know those on the journey with you.”
And Jillian said, “Don't be afraid to take chances. It's better to try and fail than to never try at all. Go after what you want with everything you have.”
And that is what they strive to teach their theatre students every single day.