By Pete Temple, Express Sports Editor
Emily Dirks is doing everything she can to reach her goals.
And make no mistake: The goals set by the Monticello High School junior are huge.
“I hope to do professional theatre,” Dirks said. “I’m not going to be like a little kid and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I want to be on Broadway!’
“But,” she adds, “I want to be on Broadway.”
For now, the 16-year-old is immersing herself in local theatre. She plays Annie in this week’s MHS production of “Annie.”
Next month, she will play the role of Liesl Von Trapp in the Starlighters’ production of “The Sound of Music.” Liesl is the character who sings the recognizable tune, “Sixteen Going on Seventeen.”
As one might expect, doing double duty with theatre productions calls for a hectic rehearsal schedule.
“Monday through Thursday I’ll be in a theatre, somewhere, until 9 or 10 o’clock at night,” Dirks said.
She doesn’t mind, because it’s all part of her intricate, master plan.
“This is what I really want to do when I grow up,” Dirks said. “I see it as a career, and so now I’m just trying to get all the experience I can.”
Then she adds, with a laugh: “And this fall, I thought the best way to do that was to bite off more than I could chew.”
Throughout her life, Dirks has often been chosen for solos and leads in various choir and theatre productions.
“I’ve always loved being on stage and doing solos and things like that,” she said.
To give her the best chance at reaching her theatre goals, she has been working at all the skills involved.
“It’s what we call the triple threat, where you have your piano experience, your singing experience and dance, and then you combine the three,” Dirks said.
She has been taking piano lessons since she was 5, and started dance about the same time. She currently goes to Dubuque on Mondays for private piano and voice lessons – she has two piano contests coming up – and takes ballet classes in Marion on Wednesdays.
As much as Dirks loves being on stage, she also loves the work that goes into a theatre production.
“I love working with everyone to create something really spectacular,” she said. “It’s so much work, but in the end it’s so much fun, because people come to see you, and they’re proud of you, and you’re proud of yourself because you tried your best.
“In the end it’s really rewarding, and it’s one of my favorite things in the world.”
She got started with Starlighters after the Anamosa-based company visited MHS during this year’s January Academies. She decided to audition for “The Sound of Music.”
At her audition, she had to fill out a form describing her experience, and list other activities that might conflict with rehearsals.
“My conflict list was like a paragraph long,” she said. “I wasn’t really expecting a bigger part in ‘The Sound of Music.’ But they cast me anyway, so that was really exciting.
“I thought maybe I should branch outside of the school. It was a nice bridge, because now I really want to branch out of Monticello and go into Dubuque and Cedar Rapids theaters. That’s my next step.”
Dirks already has much of her future planned out. After high school, she hopes to attend a private college, majoring in theatre.
“Most likely, after I get out of college, I’m probably going to wait tables and try out for theatre jobs,” she said. “I think I want to get all the acting and all the musical theatre out, and then I’ll probably try to start a family. That’s the life plan for now.”
She also has a backup plan: graphic design.
In the meantime, there is plenty she is doing outside of the acting realm. Dirks is a member of the state 4-H council, and serves as a 4-H ambassador for three counties. She shows horses at the county and state fairs, as well as other contests. She likes to draw.
Dirks also works on the family farm with her father Mark, mother Jeanine and 17-year-old brother Ben.
“My family really supports me a lot,” she said. She also plays guitar, as well as flute and piccolo in the high school band.
It all adds up to a hectic schedule, particularly with playing key roles in two theatre productions this fall.
“It’s crazy,” she said. “It was especially hard with school and keeping all that balanced. But I think it will all work out in the end.”
PHOTO: Emily Dirks performs in a dress rehearsal of “Annie.” (Photo by Pete Temple)