Stepping Out to Stage

Annette Oliphant awarded Theatre Education scholarship at annual Thespian conference


Lauren Spakowski

Annette Oliphant (12) acts as her character “Madame” in the school’s production of “Cinderella”. She plans on bringing the same energy she shows on the stage to her future classroom.

Lizzie Kayser , Assistant Editor

Senior Annette Oliphant was awarded Missouri Thespian Theatre Education Scholarship at the 2020 Missouri State Thespian Conference, held from Jan. 9-11 in Kansas City.

Twenty four Liberty students attended the conference to expand upon their theatrical skills in a variety of workshops. After going through an extensive interview process, she was the sole applicant to receive the $1,000 scholarship for pursuing a career in theatre education. 

“I was not expecting it at all,” Oliphant said. “I went in and I just wanted experience for interviewing as a theatre teacher because those are the types of interviews I’ll have with administration someday when I apply for those positions.”

However, Oliphant’s road to achievement stretches far beyond some questions and an essay. 

Oliphant fell in love with theatre as a toddler. Her mom remembers her performing every word and every song from classics like Snow White

“I remember the first movie musical I ever watched was Annie. I would direct myself in Annie and make my parents watch. I made my aunt put out a blanket on the floor [to be] my stage,” Oliphant said. “That’s when I started my love for theatre.”

Oliphant poses with her certificate, at the 2020 ThesCon

Slowly but surely, she began acting at plays in her elementary school and got involved in community theatre. Though small, her living room performances created a spark – the conception that someday, what was once put on for her parents could be performed for hundreds of people.

When she wasn’t acting, singing or dancing, Oliphant was helping out in the classroom. Both of her parents work in the education field- her dad is currently a principal at Francis Howell Central and her mom, Ms. Tarrant-Oliphant (T-O), is a well-loved English teacher at Liberty – allowing her to see the impact teaching can have, both on students and professionals. 

“One thing that definitely inspired me was my parents,” Oliphant said. “Getting to see my mom’s style and just how she’s shaped the lives of students has really helped me get into teaching.”

Oliphant applied what her parents taught to her life without realizing it, empathy guiding every choice she made. When Oliphant was in first grade, Ms. T-O received a call that she was comforting kids in trouble when they needed to be in trouble. It was this kind of nurturing spirit that made Ms. T-O realize that her daughter might follow in her footsteps. 

“She was a born teacher,” T-O said.

As Oliphant grew up, her passion for both performance and helping others only grew. It wasn’t until she got to high school that she realized those two paths could converge. 

In the summer before her sophomore year, Oliphant had the opportunity to assistant direct a community theatre show called “Shake it Up with Shakespeare”, the cast ranging from 5 to 10 years old. Each number she choreographed brought forth small epiphanies- she could do this happily for the rest of her life. 

Getting to direct was such an amazing experience. That was definitely a pivotal point. That’s when I knew I wanted to teach.

— Annette Oliphant

“Getting to direct was such an amazing experience. That was definitely a pivotal point,” Oliphant said. “That’s when I knew I wanted to teach.”

It was surreal for Oliphant to hear her name called and run to the stage to accept her scholarship. This was a dream she had paved out since she first knew of its existence at her freshman year conference, the first step towards aiding in the dreams of others. Though Oliphant was shocked, her troupe couldn’t imagine the scholarship going to anybody but her.

“[I knew she would get it] 100 percent,” senior Emily Gann, a Thespian who attended the conference, said. “When we were sitting there I told [our friend Anna] Decker to move her stuff from the floor. I just knew- there was no way she couldn’t have gotten it.”

Gann started doing theatre at school during her junior year and now can’t picture her life without it. The positive impact of her experience is in part due to Oliphant’s constant support and guidance.

Lauren Spakowski
Emily Grant (left) & Annette Oliphant (right) watch Cinderella dance with the Prince, in their latest musical.

“She’s the first person I go to. She’s always there to give me advice and feedback and little tips and tricks to try,” Gann said. “She’ll always make sure to put people first, which is really important.”

Oliphant believes her empathy is what will take her furthest in life. To her, theatre is more than just an art form- it’s a way of connecting people, whether that be giving students a place to be themselves or showing audience members characters they can relate to on stage. 

“My goal in life is to help people,” Oliphant said. “Having my mom in class this year showed me that just being understanding and kind and loving the material that you teach is something that’s really important. Being passionate and just passing that on to your students is really helpful.”

As Ms. T-O watches her daughter step out to the stage, she sees a new kind of hope come to life. It’s the feeling that someday, Oliphant will use what her mom taught her to teach others. It’s knowing that with each student she teaches, with each show she directs, Oliphant will make a positive impact on the world. 

“I’m extremely proud of her, but I’m not just proud of her because she got the scholarship. I’m proud because I can trust my daughter to always do the right thing and always put other people’s needs before her own,” T-O said. “There’s no better tribute to a parent than that.”