When Bret Fritz got the lead in the school play his senior year at Basehor-Linwood High School, it was the spark that started his love of the theater. Cast as Shrek in “Shrek the Musical,” he received a response unlike anything he had ever done until that point.

Now attending the University of Saint Mary, Fritz recently directed USM’s production of “Be a Good Little Widow,” the story of a young wife whose husband dies in a plane crash and her struggles to find her identity in that aftermath. 

USM has a student-run production each year with the theater department students voting on both the play and the director. Fritz and a few other students volunteered to take on the director role, but it was Fritz who was ultimately voted into that important role.

“As director, I was required to design and build the set, design the programs, hold the tryouts and select the cast, crew and anyone else involved in the process,” he said. “In addition to the daily rehearsing, a lot of work goes into the production.”

Once the cast auditions began, it took just five weeks before the curtains came up on opening night.  While the show was Fritz’s first role as a director, he had taken many hours of theater classes and had participated in many productions to that point. He is also enrolled in a directing class through theater professor Van Ibsen, who gave Fritz a crash course in the finer points of directing.

“Directing was such a fantastic experience for me in every imaginable way,” said Fritz. “Originally, I simply wanted to put my vision on stage, but throughout the process my mentality shifted and it became my actors’ show. I could not be more proud of each one of their performances.”

The 2014 BLHS graduate originally planned to focus his college career in information technology and music and is attending USM on scholarships for both programs. During Fritz’s sophomore year, his focus changed after being involved in his first theater production. After changing his major to theater and a minor in music, in December he was honored with the Katie Mika Award for excellence in music and theater.  

Last weekend, Fritz held a recital on USM’s campus as part of his minor in music graduation requirements.  

“Music was my first love,” he said.  

Beth Kornegay is a freelance writer covering news and events in the city of Basehor. If you have a story idea, email her at gabi_kansas@yahoo.com