When the call came out nationwide for exceptional theater programs, more than a thousand people applied. Music teacher Kari Heisler was one of them, representing the Hudson High School theater program.
With the premier of the new theater drama "Rise," the Education Theater Foundation held auditions of a sort for Recognizing Inspiring Student Expression (R.I.S.E) grants, awarding $10,000 to the chosen theater departments.
Only 50 were selected in the end, and Hudson made the cut.
"That's pretty amazing to be one of the 50," Heisler said.
Heisler first heard of the opportunity through social media.
"I saw it and I got goosebumps," Heisler said. "And I thought I don't care if we ever get it we've got to apply for it."
That was on a Thursday, the deadline for the application was the following Monday.
The application required a 500-word essay from Heisler, a letter of recommendation from an administrator and a two-minute video submission showcasing the theater department.
At the time the department was in the midst of preparation for its musical "Sound of Music." Student and theater participant Rex Wenger made the video, editing together rehearsals for the musical, shots of swing choir and an interview with Heisler.
"He did an amazing job," Heisler said.
Heisler said she wanted to apply to show how hard the students, parents and volunteers work to put on shows.
"It's all about our kids," Heisler said. "I just wanted to showcase all we do here in Hudson."
Hudson was selected because of the quality of its program, and the belief that it would be good stewards of the money, Heisler was told.
The grants were awarded to schools across the country, with a handful in California, New York and Texas and others, one in Minnesota and only Hudson in Wisconsin.
"To be [one of the] Midwest schools being recognized, that was awesome," Heisler said.
The $10,000 can go to any aspect of the theater program, helping support the cost of shows or other needs. Heisler said she would like to put the money toward items that are more long-term like a safety net for the pit, new curtains and headsets for the crew.
"We want to spend some of it for things we'll be using for years to come," Heisler said.
The grant is a big help for a program that receives little district funding, and has large costs.
Heisler said the spring play does not receive money from the district, and the musical receives about $3,300. The cost of plays is usually around $5,000, while musicals cost anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000.
From the set to musicians and choreographers, the costs add up, Heisler said.
"We are lucky that we have a super supportive arts community," Heisler said.
Funding for these productions come mainly from ticket sales.
"We will spend that money to do the show because we know we almost always break even," Heisler said.
Heisler said she was ecstatic when she found out the school had won the $10,000 grant.
"I just knew the kids would be so excited," she said.
The success, Heisler said, is all because of them.
"It's not a one-person show," she said.