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Under the Bright Lights

At 16, she’s in “Oklahoma!” and everything’s going her way

June Schreiner loves her role in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical—though she says “the corset is deathly”. Photograph by Chris Leaman.

Over the past year, June Schreiner has performed at the White House, mastered the art of trick-roping, and come to grips with pre-calculus. The 16-year-old Madeira School student learned how to juggle extracurricular activities with schoolwork this fall when she was cast in the key role of Ado Annie in Arena Stage’s production of Oklahoma!, which closes December 30.

“I thought it would be hard to do eight shows a week, but I get so excited every time,” says the Reston resident. “Putting on the costumes is kind of treacherous, and the corset is deathly. But once you get onstage, it’s amazing.”

Schreiner began performing in fifth grade; one of her first roles was in a Reston Community Players production of Beauty and the Beast. For her mom, Dana—a former actress who appeared in The Karate Kid and LA Law before moving to Washington in 1996—it wasn’t the greatest news. “We moved from LA to get away from the industry,” she says.

But her daughter was adamant. “I guess it was in my blood,” the teen says. “I loved it as soon as I did my first show.”

While Oklahoma! is the biggest thing Schreiner has done, she has been in 11 other plays, including a production of Little Women with the McLean Community Players last summer that was directed by her dad, Bill, a former AOL executive now at Folio, an online investing company. She also played Gretel in Synetic Family Theater’s Hansel and Gretel, which led to an invitation to the White House staff holiday party.

“That was so cool,” she says. “The President and Michelle came to shake hands and he thought we were elves, so I got to correct the President of the United States.”

Arena artistic director Molly Smith discovered Schreiner in Arena’s musical-theater training academy for teens. Smith had the idea of casting the irrepressible flirt Ado Annie as a girl rather than a woman and asked Schreiner to try out.

“They went up to New York and auditioned a bunch of other people, and I didn’t get my hopes up,” the high-school junior says. “Then Dan Pruksarnukul, the casting director, called and told me I’d gotten the part, and I screamed. I had to apologize for making him deaf.”

After Oklahoma! wraps, Schreiner hopes to knuckle down on her studies; she wants to apply to Yale and NYU. Unless the show moves to New York—there’s buzz about a possible Broadway engagement.

“I’m going to go to college—I’ve promised myself that,” she says. “Maybe not right away. Just being with this cast is so inspiring, because they’ve taken this risk and it isn’t always an easy life. But I don’t have a moment on the stage that I don’t like.”

This article first appeared in the January 2011 issue of The Washingtonian. 

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