Q&A with Jamie Stires-Hardin, Director of “Newsies”


Isabella Diaz-Mira

Katherine Plumber, played by senior Lindsay Frankfort, holds up a copy of The Sun as the newsies celebrate the front page story covering their strike.

Lauren Baker, Staff Writer

Who are you?

I am a theater teacher and the director of “Newsies.”

Why did you choose “Newsies” as this year’s musical?

Last year, in the middle of the pandemic, we had 20 students involved in the musical, and that was it. Once we found we were going to be able to go back to some of our original numbers, we wanted to go big and feature as many student performers as possible. Since last year was such a famine, we really wanted a feast.

I hope the students who are involved and the students who are watching it can also see themselves placed in that moment. The newsies are between the ages of seven to 17. They speak up and take a stand and take risks. They are fighting for their family and fighting to be able to feed themselves. 

What are your highlights of working on “Newsies?”

The wealth of talent that we have at St. John’s is just awe-inspiring. From our crew members to the performers on stage, dancers, singers, actors—my favorite part is being able to work with all of these talented students and being able to hone all of their talents. At the end of the day, it’s the students’ production. It’s created by them. It excites me to be a part of that. 

What is your favorite part in your process of directing a show?

As a theater director, I see it as putting together a puzzle. It’s putting together a huge puzzle where we have to do the acting and the singing and the dancing; there’s a set, and there’s costumes, and there’s props and kind of putting all of those parts and pieces together. So while I may be the director at the helm of the ship, it’s really a collaboration, and I can’t do it without Mrs. Arizpe or Mr. Bonasso or Mr. Murphy. We all have to work together to put the show on. I love that.

What is your favorite song in this production?

I love ‘Once and for All.’ It’s the moment when the newsies finally try to find victory. It’s really powerful. There’s some really beautiful harmonies that happen at the end of it. The music just really hits you in the face at one moment, and it’s really lovely. 

Favorite dance number in “Newsies?”

Seize the Day is really fun because it’s full of energy. We featured literally every human being at some point; there’s so many things happening, and it’s a variety of dances. Mrs. Arizpe has done a marvelous job putting all the components together to create a whole story that happens within the dance itself. 

What made you want to be a director or a theater teacher?

I like being a part of something that’s bigger than I am. I like to help put the puzzle together and make the picture happen as opposed to standing on stage. I love the joy I get from actually watching the students improve each rehearsal. It becomes this production that they feel proud about. 

What is something that the audience members should look for in “Newsies?”

Every cast member has been tasked with creating their own story. They have their own storyline, they have their own background. They’ve been asked: what is your relationship to the person standing next to you? At any given moment, there’s multiple relationships happening all over the stage, even while we’re focusing on the main dialogue that’s happening downstage. 

How do you think a director can influence the production?

A large part of a director’s job is to champion the cast and the crew, to bring everyone together and make everyone know they are important. Every single person matters. A director also has to make sure we’re all on the same page from day one–this is the story we want to tell; this is what I want an audience to walk away with.

Are there any stand out contributors who have just been especially incredible and crucial to the production?

The full production team. Ms. Arizpe is our choreographer, and she sees things in a way that other people don’t and creates formations that are unheard of. Mr. Bonasso has done wonders with our ensemble. Mr. Doucet is our accompanist, and he is great at leading the group. Mr. Murphy is coordinating everything for the set and he’s helping to put all that together. Mrs. Cannon came in and did dramaturgical work with the cast and gave the cast a structure and a basis for the history of what they’re performing, which we come back to almost every day in rehearsal. Mrs. Fogler is integral to our costume design. She’s creating everything, from color to shape to how many hats we are going to need.

Is there anything else you want the audience to know?

The amount of work that goes into this production is phenomenal. Everyone should ask someone who’s involved: how many hours have you actually spent working on this production? You would be surprised to find out just how much goes into it. That’s why we have the payout right at the end, and it’s worth it.