by Megan Sollenberger
Special to The Leaven
LENEXA — It’s Catholic Schools Week, but for a fifth grade student at Holy Trinity Parish here, the last three months of Catholic schooling looked a bit different.
Ivy Sollenberger, 10, recently returned home from performing six days a week in the Broadway National Tour of “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical,” where she was taught by a traveling tutor in conjunction with her teachers at Holy Trinity.
After a quick audition process in New York City, Ivy was offered the roles of Annie Who and the Cindy Lou-Who understudy. Once the excitement of performing in Whoville for the holidays settled down, the reality of how to remain enrolled in Catholic school and travel to eight different cities set in.
Holy Trinity assistant principal Liz Minks and fifth grade teachers Kari Ashley, Larissa Filipsen and Dave Trompeter had never been presented with this unique situation before.
But they went above and beyond to accommodate the situation and reassured both Ivy and her parents that they would figure it out together.
Using the blueprint from online schooling developed during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ivy’s team uploaded all of her work to a Google classroom and provided her with a Chromebook to make life on the road easier.
The Grinch staff provided the child members of the cast a tutor from On Location Education (OLE) to teach and serve as the child guardian backstage.
Melissa Waters, from OLE, was in daily communication with Ivy’s team of teachers in preparation for her daily school hours.
During the rehearsal process, a typical day consisted of rehearsal from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and school from 3 to 6 p.m. Once performances began, “Schoolville” could take place in hotel conference rooms or theater dressing rooms at any time — the girls sometimes studying in full makeup and pin curls before and after their shows.
And prayer before performances, meals and their many flights were standard for Ivy and two of the other child actresses, who attend Catholic schools in New York and Texas.
Aside from typical daily work, the girls were allowed to explore the cities and take field trips. They visited the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit; the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio; The Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia; Disney 100 in Chicago; and too many local ice cream shops to count. The cast also had the opportunity to volunteer with Broadway Serves and performed at children’s hospitals and nursing homes along the way.
To make the last stretch of the tour even sweeter, Minks and Ashley both made the trip to Chicago to catch Ivy in a performance during their winter break. Ivy was delighted to see their familiar faces.
Waters even requested to meet Ashley, as she had never seen a teacher attend a show for one of her child performers before, and wanted to thank her for all of the communication and collaboration that made it all possible.
On New Year’s Day, Ivy said goodbye to the Whos, Whoville and Mr. Grinch and headed back home to regular life. She was back in her uniform and classroom at Holy Trinity two days later, ready to reunite with her friends and teachers.
Knowing she had the unwavering support and love of her Holy Trinity community made Ivy’s first Broadway tour a magical experience and proved there’s truly nothing like Catholic schools.