As her hands nervously plucked at her new shirt, she quickly walked across the seemingly never-ending quad and back to the portable buildings for her first class of high school: Beginning Drama with Marcy Goodnow. Four years later, she paced nervously in the hall in a crisp white shirt and long black skirt, waiting to take the stage as the lead in her final high school production.
Senior Kassidy Rice-Smith stayed true to that first freshman experience and has turned her humble, nervous auditions of freshman year into an unbroken string of eight productions, taking three years of advanced drama. Rice-Smith’s two leading roles shared the name Marian in the productions of “Robin Hood” and “The Music Man”.
Rice-Smith’s family has a history in the theater; most notably her mother and father met as stage thespians during a production of a “Winter’s Fairy Tale” with the Pioneer Players. Later, while her mother worked as assistant director for a production of “3 and a ½ Musketeers,” Rice-Smith was born.
“Kassidy is an incredible human. She always has been. Even when she was a wee little girl she was always a kind spirited human with a love of animals. I am so very proud of everything Kassidy has accomplished during her 4 years at PRHS. As a Mom I’m beaming with pride and joy at what an incredible woman my little girl has become.” said Katrina Smith, Rice Smith’s mother.
Rice-Smith’s commitment to the program is now inspired by her fellow students.
“The drama department is the most loving and accepting environment that I’ve ever been a part of. We can all be ourselves around each other because we are constantly trying new things and making ourselves vulnerable,” Rice-Smith said.
She was given the opportunity to travel to New York City with a few other juniors and seniors last year over spring break. They participated in an acting workshop and watched the Broadway shows “Matilda” and “Bridges of Madison County”.
Senior Schuyler McMahan also traveled to New York with Rice-Smith, and feels that he grew with her through the shared trip.
“I’ve grown as an actor, and being on stage with Kassidy has been a huge part of my life. We went to New York together, and discovered who we were as actors together. It’s been quite the experience. Knowing Kassidy is like being friends with a sun: her light is there, everyday, and her warmth can always be felt. She is the definition of joy, in all aspects of life,” McMahan said.
Senior Natalya Suttmiller was led to the drama department by Rice and the two have worked closely with one another and grown as friends through the productions.
“I ended up taking beginning drama because of her. She was really excited to take the class and to be involved in the productions freshman year and it made me decide that I wanted to do it as well,” Suttmiller said.
As Rice-Smith’s final production, “The Music Man”, drew to a close after the May 10, 2:00 performance, Rice-Smith sat in a circle, surrounded by her 53 fellow cast members, crew, and teachers. Tissues were passed from person to person, and director Marcy Goodnow taught the students how to properly wipe away tears without messing up their eye-makeup. Rice-Smith held the hand of freshman Jadyn Steaffens as she tearfully recounted what the drama program meant to her through her four years.
“Closing night was…intense. I’ve been thinking about how my last show would end for the last four years but never really conceiving the fact that it would actually happen. This place has been my home and these shows have been my passion for so long, it’s unbelievable that my days of them are over. It was all really bittersweet and I already miss it so much,” said Rice-Smith, who is the only student this year to have acted in all eight shows from freshman to senior year.
Though her high school spot light has dimmed, Rice-Smith will continue to shine as she pursues Environmental Earth and Soil Science at Cal Poly and follows her passion for the environment.