OHS senior awarded $84,000 scholarship from CMU Center Stage competition

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 3/1/23

Owensville High School senior Peyton Lairmore on Feb. 17 was awarded an $84,000 scholarship to major in theater education through the Central Methodist University’s (CMU) Center Stage …

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OHS senior awarded $84,000 scholarship from CMU Center Stage competition


Owensville High School senior Peyton Lairmore on Feb. 17 was awarded an $84,000 scholarship to major in theater education through the Central Methodist University’s (CMU) Center Stage competition.

The scholarship resulted from Lairmore’s Feb. 16 presentation submitted to Central Methodist Theater’s competition, Center Stage, where the winners were awarded scholarships. Lairmore described the competition.

“Our prompt was to choose a play, come up with a concept and design the concept,” she said. “I chose ‘10 Ways to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse.’ I found out (what the prompt was) the Saturday before the competition so I had five days to complete the whole project. When I design a concept for a play, I design every aspect.”

Gonzales said Lairmore’s first step was to have a vision.

“As the director, you have to have a vision,” Gonzales began. “You have to envision what it is all going to look like. You have to have it all pictured before you can start.”

Lairmore said she started with things she knows.

“Going into it, I knew I wanted the characters to wear ‘80s aerobics costumes,” she said. “Moving on to make-up — I wanted it to be a simplistic design. I kept the designs, especially for the zombie, to be picturesque. When you think of zombies, they are classic.”

After designing the characters’ make-up and costumes, she moved on to the bird’s eye view.

“For the bird’s eye view, I did everything first, and then made a 3D model,” Lairmore said.

She designed a massive stage with three sets, rooms for display storage, lighting, and three backdrops. The play would take place in the court area of a mall.

“I even painted the floor of the set to look like marble,” she said. “I made it very large scale for a very large stage, for the Fox or Broadway.”

She made sure everything was tied together.

“It is hard to explain the concept if you don’t have everything,” Lairmore said.

The interview was about 30 minutes long. She competed with seven other students, but only one in the stage design category.

“The other girl who did technical, you weren’t allowed to see anyone else’s audition — she designed costumes for Mama Mia,” she said.

“When the award ceremonies began at 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 16 there were seven students present — everyone there won some sort of scholarship for participating,” she said. “There were three in the third category that won, two for the second and two for first. They first announced a guy that won for performance, then they announced I had won the scholarship.”

Lairmore said the scholarship was $16,000 per year for four years, so $64,000 total.

“I had been between Central Methodist and SIUE,” she said. “I told them that and when I got home that night, Dr. Kelte (CMU theater professor) had texted me and told me to hold off talking to SIUE, that he had upped my scholarship to $21,000 a year.”

Lairmore realized at that point that she would be receiving $84,000 to attend CMU. Her mom posted the announcement to Facebook, which is how Gonzales learned the news.

“After I won the scholarship, I knew I had to go thank Ms. G,” Lairmore said. “I was very grateful for all the skills I was provided.”

Her second order of business was to write the Gasconade County R-2 Board of Education and give credit to the OHS theater teacher and drama club advisor, Gonzales.

“I have recently been awarded an $84,000 scholarship based on my technical theater presentation for Central Methodist University,” Lairmore said in a letter to the board of education. “Everything I presented in the interview for the scholarship were things I had learned in Mrs. G.’s Intro to Theatre and Stagecraft classes.”

She told the board that the competition judges were impressed with her work, knowledge and design.

“Saying based on what I’ve already learned from Mrs. G., I am already at the collegiate level with my theater knowledge,” Lairmore continued. “I can say with certainty Mrs. G. pours everything she has into the limited space and materials we are provided. Though she does an outstanding job, I can only imagine how much more she could accomplish with adequate space.”

Lairmore indicated that future students going into the field of theater will be even more prepared for university.

“Mrs. G. has, to say the least, properly equipped me with the necessary skills to pursue my dream career,” Lairmore said. “My wish, as is yours, is that Mrs. G. and the other fine arts teachers would be provided with a Performing Arts Center so that they could continue to inspire and cultivate a passion for the arts within the Owensville High School student body.”

Lairmore told the board that while she was prepared for this scholarship opportunity, she could only imagine what her performance and skill set could have been had she received education in a space built for the arts.

“I hope the community seriously considers funding this project in attempts to build strong foundations for students seeking higher education,” she concluded.

Gonzales said Lairmore had the skills all along.

“I taught you how to harness them,” Gonzales said. “She will guide you to where you can really apply yourself.”

Lairmore said she lives by Gonzales’ mantra.

“In theater, there is a place for everyone. There are no small roles, just small actors,” Gonzales said.

While the scholarship isn’t a full ride to college, it covers a good amount.

“It is over half of it,” Lairmore said. “It is a private university so it is a very expensive school. I will still owe, rough estimate, around $30,000, but they have a work-study program to help pay off debts as I work my way through.”

Lairmore said she originally wanted to major in art education until she took Gonzales’ class during her sophomore year of high school.

“I always wanted to do art education before my sophomore year, but through doing theater and holding positions of leadership, I learned I liked being able to help and guide people through stage management,” Lairmore said. “I felt like I had a bigger passion for theater than visual arts. Meshing two loves into one, Lairmore discovering herself in the theater world wasn’t a one-off. Since joining Mrs. Gonzales’ class in her sophomore year she has attended several theater conventions and been recognized for her work.

“Since the beginning of my theater journey my sophomore year, I sat next to Mrs. G’s desk and there was no way I could not pay attention,” Lairmore said.

Learning the basics of theater, she began applying her visual design skills from previous art classes to costumes. The following semester she learned stage management and applied to manage an OHS production.

“The point where I really got into it was the make-up schematics,” Lairmore said.

Before she knew it, she had a portfolio from productions, including Game of Tiaras produced in Spring 2022 where she helped to design the set; Grease in fall 2022 where she served as stage manager with Gonzales and an assistant.

In spring 2023, Lairmore attended Theater State Conference.

“Last year, knowing Peyton’s talents, I made her do the make-up and design category at the state conference,” Gonzales said. “They were all given a script of Frankenstein and the kids came up with their own concept.”

They designed the production off of a black-and-white movie theme and fellow theater students Shelby Koepke, Katelynn Bertram and Katelyn Harbert served as models for her designs.

As a senior interested in majoring in theater, Gonzales encouraged Lairmore to apply for theater scholarship opportunities instead of design competitions. The gamble paid off during the Jan. 6-8 Missouri State Thespian Conference in Kansas City where 37 OHS Drama Club students were in attendance.

Lairmore interviewed with four colleges, presenting her digital portfolio, class projects, and competitions. Afterward, she left to serve as a stage manager in a special production. The following day she was awarded a $1,000 from the Theatre Education Scholarship through the Missouri State Thespians in Kansas City.

The scholarship competitions definitely paid off, but Lairmore said her success would not have been possible without Gonzales as her teacher.

Gonzales said she pushes her students in every aspect so they become more well-rounded individuals, but Lairmore said it was the extra encouragement that gave her the courage to branch out — until she loved every new aspect of theater more than the last.

Lairmore is expected to graduate in May 2023 and plans to intern with Gonzales during the summer months before starting at CMU in August. She is the daughter of Keith and Christina Lairmore.