Pioneer senior Ethan Steiner honored by national theater competition

Ethan Steiner

By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor

Pioneer High School senior Ethan Steiner—dubbed a “longtime superstar” by one of his teachers—has received a 2022 YoungArts award in Theater.

YoungArts applicants are between the ages of 15–18 or in grades 10–12, and each winner demonstrates outstanding artistic achievement in the visual, literary, or performing arts and is chosen by discipline-specific panels of artists through a rigorous blind adjudication process.

Ethan has been recognized at the honorable mention level, the organization’s second-highest honor, and joins 720 of the most accomplished young visual, literary, and performing artists across the country.

To apply for this award, Ethan submitted two monologues and two musical theater songs for adjudication.

Quinn Strassel, the theater teacher now at Pathways to Success who worked with Ethan at Community High School, calls Ethan “a longtime superstar” who can still be seen on the Disney Plus streaming channel’s “Newsies the Broadway Musical.”

“It’s been very cool to see Ethan continue to grow as a performer in AAPS after already establishing himself as a childhood star on a Broadway tour as a younger kid,” said Strassel, noting how Ethan has continued performing both professionally and in shows with Pioneer Theatre Guild and Community Ensemble Theatre in the past few years. 

Pioneer High School counselor Christopher Kasper said he echoes Strassel’s sentiments about Ethan’s talent.

“I am so proud of Ethan, not only as a student and a young person, but also all that he has already accomplished as a proven, high-level performer,” he said.

Ethan (as Theo, center) performs in the 2013 PTG production of “Pippin” with his brother Oren as Pippin and Hannah Hesseltine as Catherine. Photo by Myra Klarman 

Ethan is the son of Laura and Amnon Steiner.

“Throughout his time in high school,” says Laura Steiner, “Ethan has had a lot of wonderful support from AAPS mentors, especially Jayme Kelmigian, Quinn Strassel, and Steven Lorenz.”

We asked Ethan about his interest and experience in theater and his plans for the future:

What inspired you to get into theater?
My three older siblings, Shira, Oren, and Dana, inspired me to get into theater. My first musical was “Oliver!” when I was in second grade, and it was actually directed by Jayme Kelmigian who was directing at Young People’s Theater at the time. After that, when I was 8 or 9 years old, I had the chance to be in two Pioneer Theatre Guild shows with my brother Oren—”Shrek” (as Young Shrek) and “Pippin” (as Theo). After that, I got to play Noah Gellman in “Caroline, or Change” at the University of Michigan, directed by UoM professors Mark Madama and Cynthia Westphal. They are mentors to me and I learned so much from being in University of Michigan productions as a kid. I also played Winthrop Paroo in “The Music Man” at the University of Michigan, which was an incredible experience.

What can you tell us about Newsies the Broadway Musical?
In Newsies, I played Les, the youngest newsboy. I traveled with my father to 44 cities and performed across the U.S. and Canada. At the end of the tour, they filmed the production with some of the original Broadway cast together with some of the tour cast at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles. Here is a link to an MLive article about Newsies.

As you prepare to graduate, what are some of your favorite memories of your high school experiences on stage?
I loved performing in “Matilda” as Mr. Wormwood. I was able to explore the character in a way that I never explored any other characters because of how crazy and outlandish he is. 

How did you navigate being involved in Pioneer Theatre Guild, the Pioneer Choirs, and Community Ensemble Theatre?
Community Ensemble Theatre—directed by Quinn Strassel and Pioneer Theatre Guild both gave me opportunities to learn and grow by meeting new people and learning from them.  Pioneer Choirs and Mr. Lorenz helped to teach me music techniques, including choral repertoire, music reading, singing harmonies, and being a better musician. They are very different but each one helped me to grow as a performer and I loved participating in all of them.

Are you happier singing or acting?
I am happier singing because then I get to use my voice to tell a story while also acting. So it’s like the best of both worlds. I also love getting to add music to plays, for example, Peter and the Starcatcher that I performed through PTG is a play with music.

How do you feel about being a YoungArts winner?

Ethan performs in “Matilda” in this photo by Sean Carter Photography.

I think it’s a really great honor, and something I would love if more AAPS students could know about it and participate in. It’s a great opportunity for students in so many areas. I competed in Theater, but there are also awards for Music, Dance, Writing, and Visual Arts. It provides a community of young artists and chances for training and support. 

What do you plan to do after high school?
I plan to study musical theater and theater in college as well as STEM subjects. Some of my favorite classes this year are Calculus, Physics, and Statistics. 

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