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Performing pushed 2020 alumna Cait Smith to attend classes and achieve her goals.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Cait Smith performed in Tigard High School theater productions before her graduation this past summer. She plans on attending the University of Oregon to study psychology and theater arts.  Cait Smith says the highlight of her Tigard High School career was her involvement with theater, which in turn allowed her to showcase her talents in everything from "The Miracle Worker" to "Shrek The Musical."

"Definitely the reason I went to school every day was theater," says Cait, 17, who recently graduated. "That definitely got me going to my classes."

In her junior year, Cait got her first big role in a theater production, playing Helen Keller in "The Miracle Worker." She prepared for the part by walking around "blind" for a day, wearing chemistry-type protective goggles that were completely blacked out with duct tape so she could see nothing, being led by the actress who played her caretaker.

"I wore those around school all day and it was really cool to experience things from her point of view and kind of 'method acting,'" Cait says. "I did a lot of work for that role."

Last winter, Cait was one of the stars in "And Then They Came for Me," a retelling of the story of the "Diary of Anne Frank," where she played Holocaust survivor Eva Schloss.

Cait read the Anne Frank book as well as Schloss' book, both of which provided a "reminder that history can happen again," she says.

"It was a very difficult role to take on and I found myself getting very lost in the character," Cait says. "I'd find it hard to stay focused on things, just because of the nature of the material. It was so dire and dark."

Cait says it was a unique experience as well, because 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the notorious Nazi concentration camp.

Having been involved with theater since her middle school days, Cait says the fall production of "Shrek the Musical" was a high point as well. She got a chance to play five different characters, create the playbill, write the press releases, serve as the show's dance captain, and help with choreography, design and makeup.

During the show, she coordinated a fundraiser for The Trevor Project, which raises money to help at-risk LGBTQ-plus youth.

But Cait had other high school interests as well, receiving a chance to visit Panama as part of the Global Citizen Scholarship Fund after making a winning video on how to make undrinkable water drinkable in this time of global warming.

"We had some really awesome opportunities, like we visited a beach that was covered in trash, and we got to talk about solutions to that, and we got to look at some of the solutions that the local Panamanian government was doing, like creating a net to catch the trash before it went into the water," she says.

During her high school career, Cait also was involved in numerous other undertakings as well. She was a member of the National Honor Society and served as co-president for Tigard High's Political Action Club.

In what spare time she had, she held a part-time job working as a Disney princess for kids' birthday parties, children's hospitals and foster homes, where she often dressed as Cinderella or Belle.

Cait says she found a visit to one foster home for children with disabilities extremely rewarding because she had to give each child special attention.

While the coronavirus meant the one-act play she was to direct was canceled this past spring, Cait says it provided an opportunity for the first time in her life to relax, do puzzles and listen to audiobooks, because now she's gearing up for college. She plans to attend the University of Oregon in the fall to study psychology and theater arts. (Her fallback plan is to become a therapist.)

"My goal is to start my own theater company in an Oregon town that doesn't have access to local theater opportunities because I think that theater is really important and I want to give other kids the same opportunities I had to find myself through theater," she says, pointing out there are many stories to be told involving women, people of color and the LGBTQ+ community as well.

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