Five years ago, when she couldn't find good theater roles as a young teen, South Burlington senior Noa Saunders founded her own production company, Spotted Pup Productions.
Their mission is to 'create opportunities for young artists, produce high-quality shows and build connections with the community.'
Recently, Saunders sat down with VPR to talk more about why she took on this ambitious challenge when she was just 13 and what will become of the company once she moves on to college.
With several acting and production companies in the state, why did you found your own?
"The reason I started it was I kept complaining because there were no roles for 13- and 14-year-olds in the community. I was in that awkward phase. I was talking to my voice teacher, Bill Reed and to one of my mentors, John Canning and they said that if I want to be successful in this business, I need to create my own opportunities.
"So I decided to start a production company and my parents were onboard. They said that they would help me with whatever I needed. Nate Venet came onboard and he music directed, Kerstin Anderson, who is actually playing Maria in the 'Sound of Music' Broadway national tour right now, signed on to direct and we put on 'You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown' and it all came together."
How do you get the rights to perform certain plays? Have any been a challenge?
"Every licensing house has a website, so you can get the rights through there. 'Dr. Horrible' was the one show that we had to go an alternate route to get the rights because they don't actually have the rights available for that show.
"The boy we wanted to play Dr. Horrible, his dad is a screenwriter in Hollywood and he has the same agent as Joss Whedon, who wrote 'Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.' So we sent an email through my friend's dad and it got to Joss Whedon and he said, 'Sure, go ahead!' So we got special permission from Joss Whedon which is so cool and I did not think that would ever happen."
How do you balance life as a full-time student and running a production company?
"The biggest challenge for me is balancing school and Spotted Pup just because I want to put all my time into both. I had a pretty good balance.
"I feel like I've been able to do everything I need to, like I've applied to college this year, I still do all my school work and everything. My parents have been very supportive and very helpful with all of that.
"One of the challenges with Spotted Pup is trying to schedule 10 teenagers and just managing all of our lives to get us to be able to be in one room for two hours at a time to rehearse. So, there have been a lot of challenges but it has been so rewarding. I'm so grateful for all the support I've received from everybody."
What's next for Spotted Pup?
"I'm going to take it to college with me and hopefully keep producing there and just keep it running. If I can't keep doing it during college, it's going to come back after college."
Video Credit: Chloe Grant
Spotted Pup Productions in South Burlington will have a 'Class of 2016 Showcase' in May featuring performances from 15 graduating seniors.
Past performances of 'Your A Good Man, Charlie Brown,' 'Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog,' and 'Into The Woods' among others have have raised more than $5,000 for local non-profit organizations.