Through her passion for theater, Bluegrass Middle School seventh-grader Harper Taylor has given her all when portraying characters ranging from a zombie to an angel.
Despite her youth, Taylor’s theater experience is vast; with time spent singing, dancing, acting and working behind-the-scenes for a variety of theater organizations.
For Taylor, theater is a family endeavor. Her father, Aaron, serves as the technical director for the Hardin County Schools Performing Arts Center and has served as an actor and director for several local theater productions. Her mother, Moira, has acted in several local plays and has been heavily involved in community theater.
“I have always been connected to the stage through my family and their interests in it,” Taylor said.
Taylor’s first experience performing occurred in kindergarten, portraying an angel and a student in the Hardin County Playhouse’s production of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” She said some of her favorite roles thus far include Gretel in The PAC ProAm’s production of “The Sound of Music,” Clara in Dance Centre of Elizabethtown’s production of “The Nutcracker” and Karen in the Hardin County Playhouse’s production of “Night of the Living Dead.”
In 2019, Taylor attended a summer-long intensive camp at the Commonwealth Theater in Louisville and she performed in a camp production of “James and the Giant Peach.”
In addition to time on-stage, Taylor also has gained plenty of experience working behind the scenes, gaining insight into what makes theater productions possible. Throughout the years, she has helped her father at The PAC and has taken some of the skills she has learned home with her.
Taylor said she and her father have created a life-size replica of a TARDIS – a time machine and spacecraft that appears in the science fiction program Doctor Who plus a pair of medieval stocks, a sliding kitchen shelf and a Lego shelf for her bedroom.
“These projects have very much increased my love for the theater as it shows how people can create worlds with only a few sheets of wood,” she said. “...I also see how my dad and I have carried our knowledge from the stage into our own home, improving it with furnishings and knick-knacks.”
Earlier this year, Harper took part in a Zoom interview with Nickelodeon Studios after submitting an audition video last summer. During the interview, she said she discussed her strengths as a performer for consideration of future roles on the network.
The creativity Taylor has shown through theater also is exhibited each Halloween. Over the years, she has dressed up as 20th century Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the character Jo March from “Little Women.”
“I always find various history shows and stories about inspiring women to influence me,” Taylor said. “Fictional or not, they all have a story of their own to share.”
In addition to the strides she has made in the performing arts, Taylor also has excelled in academics. In fact, she said she credits her ability to balance extracurricular activities and her academics to lessons she has learned from theater. Taylor is involved in band and the academic team at Bluegrass and attends dance classes at the Dance Centre of Elizabethtown four days a week, studying styles such as ballet, jazz, tap and musical theater.
“Something that I’ve come to time and time again is the development of one’s time management, memorizing lines and songs all in a limited amount of time,” she said. “I also feel that my own responsibility has become stronger, taking care of props, costumes and countless other equipment.”
Taylor’s commitment to her studies has paid off on several occasions, through awards she has received at regional academic competitions. She also placed first in mathematics in both the district and regional levels of the Kentucky Association for Academic Competition’s Governor’s Cup this year. While she was a student at Heartland Elementary School, she also placed first in arts and humanities on the district and regional levels during the 2019 competition.
Taylor also competed at the Beta Club national convention last year after placing first in sixth-grade mathematics on the state level.
Melissa Goes, coach for Bluegrass Middle School’s academic team, said Taylor always brings a positive attitude and seeks to uplift her teammates.
“Even when she excels, she finds reasons to compliment others and to highlight their accomplishments,” Goes said. “Harper is always enthusiastic to learn and asks a plethora of insightful questions.”
Drawing on her love of mathematics, Taylor said she has dreams of one day becoming a physicist. She said along the way to reaching that goal, the arts will continue to play a major role in her life.
“Theater builds a family around you as actors and actresses learn about each other and to communicate in several ways necessary for putting on a good performance,” she said.
Sherry Barnard, artistic director and choreographer for the Dance Centre of Elizabethtown, said Taylor is self-motivated, modest and very giving.
“One of Harper’s greatest qualities is being a real team player,” she said. “She doesn’t care where she is placed in a dance or on the stage, she works to her best ability no matter where she is – a very important attribute in life and the arts world. In class, she will work and work until she has mastered a particular step or combination.”