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After school, what do you do? Warm up for a basketball game? Rush off to student council with the brilliant idea you thought of earlier in the day? Maybe you're the person that just goes home to eat snacks and watch "Ellen." In any scenario, it's important to fill your after-school schedule with what's good for you.

Have you ever thought of trying out for a play or musical? Shows presented by schools or theater groups, such as St. Stephen's Parish Players on Grand Island, can be a great way to spend free time. The Parish Players have an annual youth show that allows everyone involved to make new friends and have fun at the same time.

St. Stephen's Parish Players was founded in 1991 by the late Elizabeth Beach. This year marks the 21st year of adult shows performed by the parish-based acting group. Over the years, St. Stephen's Parish Players has presented more than 30 productions, 10 of which have consisted entirely of youth actors. Some past youth productions include "Cinderella," "Wizard of Oz," "Robin Hood," "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" and "Annie." This year's youth show is "Grease." Year after year, the shows sell out.

The cast members of the youth productions always seem to have fun.

"It's such a great time during rehearsals!" said Keelan Erhard, a sophomore at Grand Island High School who will play Roger in "Grease."

When practices started in January, only a few people knew each other from school, sports or past productions.

"We're all practically a family now," Keelan said.

With rehearsals two to three times a week for two to three hours at a time, the cast quickly grows close. With everyone coming from different schools and everyone being different ages, new friends are made by the third week of rehearsals.

By the time the show rolls around, the cast is "just a big tight-knit family," said Kourtney Hoppel, a sophomore at Grand Island High School, who will portray Rizzo. "I love all of us!"

With it being a church-based theater group, a different group of people get mixed together from all over the area.

"Parish Players is such a great experience," said Maura Bobak, a junior at Holy Angels Academy. "I get to meet people from my parish."

Being a part of Parish Players isn't like a typical high school musical.

"This is my first show with the Parish Players and I'm really enjoying it. I've made a lot of great friends and it is a much different experience from the school musicals," Jenna Cardone, a senior at Grand Island High School who will play Marty Maraschino, said.

When being part of a cast that is as diverse as the Parish Players, teens not only get to meet new people but also experience different dynamics. It's not the people you see everyday in class; Parish Players are made up of kids who just want to have fun while putting on a production.

St. Stephen's Parish Players is similar to any other extracurricular activity; kids get a chance to meet new friends, get closer to people they already know and even figure out what to should pursue in the future.

Taylor Kozlowski, who will play in one of the lead roles as Sandy Dumbrowski, is a senior at Grand Island High School. She said, "I try to do as much music-related stuff as possible, but I always come out with amazing friends that I can talk to."

Maura says her involvement in shows even helps her in school.

"I get positive energy from being on stage that can help me in the classroom," Maura said. "The friends that I meet through the productions are great examples and influence me to continue being in productions."

Keelan said, "[The productions] have helped build both new friendships and gain character, especially through the Parish Players. Also, wanting to go to college for theater in the future, this group has helped me in my growth as a performer."

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The St. Stephen's Parish Players will present its youth production of "Grease" in the cafeteria, St. Stephen School, 2080 Baseline Road, Grand Island, at 6 p.m. Friday, 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. For tickets, which cost $6, contact Kathy Hoppel at 774-1006 or kmbh59@yahoo.com.

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Annie Niland is a freshman at Grand Island High School.