The rising star takes center stage in the Disney classic Te Ao Māori News

A rising star from Whangārei has taken his talent from the sporting field to the theatre.

Jackson Terry (Ngāti Maniapoto) stars in an interpretation of Disney’s High School Musical On Stage this week.

The 17-year-old is excited to step into this role, but acting wasn’t always on Terry’s radar.

Rugby was his main hobby until an injury prevented him from playing.

“My doctor told me I shouldn’t play contact sports anymore,” he says.

Terry’s mother encouraged him to join a local production with the Whangārei Theater Company. After some encouragement from whānau and friends, Terry decided to take to the stage – making his theatrical debut in an interpretation of West Side Story.

“I knew nothing about theater. I did this one show and I never stopped.

Terry says that this performance gave him “the theater bug,” even though he only had one line to recite in the show.

“I hardly had any scenes, but the people around me and the connections I was able to make made it so much fun.”

Although a theater novice, Terry was no stranger to performing on stage, having grown up performing the kappa haka. He says the experience boosted his confidence to perform and gave him an edge on stage.

“That experience with the kappa haka performances when I was younger definitely helped me with the transition.”

“That feeling of going on stage, I don’t know what it was, but it’s something I never got from rugby, I never got from school and I just wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Terry was recently cast as Troy Bolton in the National Youth Theatre’s interpretation of Disney’s High School Musical on stage.

“I’m out of my mind, I’m not going to lie,” he says.

After coming across a post on Facebook, Terry’s father drove him to Auckland for auditions.

“Mine [whānau] said go for it because you never know – you might get in and if you do, you’ll feel amazing,” he says.

“Actually, getting [the role] it was quite a surreal moment for me.

Terry has shown great dedication to his craft, traveling from Whangārei to Auckland twice a week for rehearsals with the help of his whānau.

Director Miles Ford has seen Terry on this trip and has nothing but praise for his dedication and work ethic.

“[Terry is] incredibly hardworking,” he says.

Over 250 children from across the country have been training hard in preparation for their performance this week.

Most of the songs featured in the production are from the first movie in the High School Musical trilogy.

Ford, who has been part of the National Youth Theater for many years, also played Troy Bolton in 2016 and mentored Terry at the start of the show.

“It’s very satisfying to provide these opportunities for kids that sometimes they wouldn’t get otherwise,” says Ford.

In addition to adding a youthful twist to your favorite high school musical hits, Ford says viewers can expect to see a lot of “happy, energetic kids” on stage.

“I just think these kids do the songs absolutely justice – they sound so fantastic.”

Terry says the different styles actors bring to their roles is what keeps theater alive.

“There is no character that is played the same in every show,” he says.

“I think everyone brings their own flavor to the roles, which makes them interesting.”

Despite growing up in a small town, Terry says he still has support for aspiring actors and encourages others to dream big.

“I think opportunities like [High School Musical] or Shakespeare don’t exactly meet in Whangārei, but the people who can take you to those places – like my teacher or my dad – still have support to help me get to those places.”

This is just the beginning for Terry, who plans to move to the Big Smoke next year to study at Unitec and pursue a career in theatre.

He also expressed his desire to be part of a traveling theater company in the future and take his talent to the world.

The curtain will rise for four performances only at Kiri Te Kanawa Theater this weekend.

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