Highland Rambler

The student news site of Highland High School in Salt Lake City, Utah

Highland Rambler

Highland Rambler

Schwemmer Takes The Stage As Sterling Scholar

Billie Martinez & Red Gunn

Most of the time when people think of someone’s big break in the acting world, playing the role of an evil fern in a second-grade production about climate change doesn’t come straight to mind. For this year’s Speech, Theater, and Forensics Sterling Scholar Leah Schwemmer though, this role set her on a path for incredible success in the theater world, and the ultimate achievement — the recognition of this year’s title of State Sterling Scholar for her category.

In other words, she was the best theater student in the state of Utah. Not bad for someone who never brings any drama to other’s lives…outside of acting, of course.

All throughout her life, Schwemmer has maintained a love of acting. From her second-grade production about the dangers of fossil fuels to a rapping monologue delivered by Schwemmer as Plankton in Highland’s production of Spongebob, Schwemmer has always maintained a passion for getting on stage and transporting an audience into a different world.

“I love theater because it’s storytelling more than anything,” Schwemmer said. “It’s a way to kind of express emotions and characters and experiences that you don’t really feel everyday, but my favorite thing about theater is that it impacts the audience and whether it’s comedic or dramatic it always leaves them with a sense of something that is different from the rest of the world.”

Oftentimes, spectators see Schwemmer in more comedic roles like those in Big Fish or, however, within her career she credits her more serious performances as being what really shaped her as an actor. This year, Schwemmer represented Highland at the state competition for dramatic monologue, and last year, Schwemmer played the titular role in Highland’s production of Antigone, a Greek tragedy filled with themes of intense emotion, death, and sacrifice.

Leah’s father, Rick Schwemmer, also agrees that it was her performance in Antigone that really cemented her career as an actor.

“I’ll be honest it scared me when I saw it [Antigone] because she is very much a humorous, life loving, funny, theatrical person and to see a switch over to the angry, rebellious, and almost patriotic passion of fighting and war and human suffering I think showed a different side of her,” Schwemmer’s father said. “I think that one production really helped to round her out as an actor.”

Aside from her involvement within acting though, Schwemmer plays key roles throughout Highland as a school, and as a community. As this year’s theater council president and assembly chair, leadership and creating a welcoming and inclusive environment within the school have always been very important to Schwemmer, even more than acting itself.

“It [getting the state sterling scholar] really meant a lot to me but being sterling scholar isn’t just for me, I’m grateful for the recognition but more than anything I want to be an example to other people especially in the highland theater department,” Schwemmer said. “I want to be an example of the enthusiasm of really pursuing something you love without any regard to that nervousness you feel when trying something new.”

Schwemmer also credits theater and growing as an actor as being what helped her get out of her shell as a child and be more comfortable socially.

“I was such a shy child and I think theater is really what broke me out of that, I love performing and I love being on a stage because it’s so much less intimidating when you’re not playing yourself, ” Schwemmer said. “It’s a way to put yourself out there, I think it’s what makes theater so honest too is the fact that you don’t have to hide behind worrying about what other people think of you, you can just be in a story and you can just be honest and I really love that.”

When she’s not working on a play or something academic for school, Schwemmer still finds a way for theater to be a part of her life. Creating pieces of art, leatherworking, and weaponry are just a few of her talents outside of the stage and classroom, but Schwemmer also maintains a love for exploring worlds, including those within world building games.

“She absolutely loves dungeons and dragons,” Rick said. “When she can arrange, it’s something that she really looks forward to, it lets her be in a world that doesn’t exist and totally tune off everything else so she tries to maintain a balance that way.”

This year, Schwemmer was also awarded Highland’s newest honor: the Dean Collett Legacy Award, recognizing both her leadership skills in student government, and the positive and bright energy she brings into every room she enters. Despite her immense qualifications within the field of acting, what really helped put Schwemmer over the edge and receive the highest of praises is her character. Whenever Schwemmer is brought up in a conversation, or an award is given to her, everyone’s response is always the exact same- one of incredibly positive praise.

Schwemmer’s fellow theater department member, and friend, Sarah Kurth, couldn’t agree more.

“Leah is the concept of kindness distilled into a person,” Kurth said. “She has a seemingly never-ending force of goodness and of energy to make the lives of the people around her better and make the lives of the people she doesn’t know better and she does it all with a huge smile on her face and with passion for everything single thing she does.”


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