Senior Jimmy Sanchez and junior Grant Koch perform a scene during a dress rehearsal of “The Diviners” on April 18. This was the only show strictly performed by theater’s Silver Company this year.
Senior Jimmy Sanchez and junior Grant Koch perform a scene during a dress rehearsal of “The Diviners” on April 18. This was the only show strictly performed by theater’s Silver Company this year.
Krista Fleming

For the applause

Junior shares acting journey

The stage is dark. 

Junior Grant Koch is in the same spot he has been in for what feels like a thousand times, surrounded by cast members he’s grown to think of as family. He takes a deep breath, heart still pounding in his chest, and the lights turn on. 

He begins the show. 

Grant landed his first lead role at Hebron as Buddy Layman in Silver Company’s “The Diviners” — his first acting role after student directing “Matilda.” He will be theater’s most advanced student director next year, and will direct a show for Black Company next spring.

“Lady Gaga wasn’t joking when she said ‘I live for the applause,’ because live performers really do,” Grant said. “Everything I do on stage isn’t for me or my character, it’s for the audience. I can do these things to get these reactions from people, make them feel something. That’s something close to magic.”

When Grant was a toddler, he played soccer and attended music lessons; he would watch the ball roll past him at games and fall asleep on the piano. Trying to help him find “his thing,” his parents mentioned the after-school Encore Kids production of “The Wizard of Oz.” He played Toto. 

“No one expected me to go onto that stage and enjoy it because I was so shy,” Grant said. “But I did, and I instantly fell in love.”

He continued Encore Kids throughout elementary school, joined the advanced competitive theater class in middle school and performed in shows through North Texas Performing Arts (NTPA). 

During Grant’s seventh grade year, what was supposed to be an extended spring break turned into the COVID-19 pandemic. As he watched shows across the world shut down, his love for theater was overtaken by anxiety. 

Is theater ever going to come back? Is it gone forever? Will I get to act again? And, above all else, the same sinking thought: Oh God, what am I going to do?

Attending virtual school for the rest of middle school, Grant lost motivation to get out of bed, log into virtual meetings and get his assignments turned in on time. 

“It felt like someone had actually died,” Grant said. “I mourned theater — grieved it. I had something I loved, and it was like the world just yanked it out from under me.”

He got to perform again in an NTPA production of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” going into his freshman year. It was his first show in over a year, but Grant said he wasn’t nervous. 

“I just wanted it so bad,” Grant said. “I wanted to perform, make the audience feel something [and] have that magic back.”

Going into his sophomore year, Grant was one of three students chosen to be a student director and directed the production of “Junie B. Jones.” This year, Grant was the student director of the all-school musical, “Matilda.” 

“He’s able to separate himself from his peers, which is really necessary for a [student] director,” head director Chelsey Thornburg said. “He knows what needs to get done and he works with everyone to make that happen [and] meet those higher expectations.”

As rehearsals for “Matilda” were beginning to wrap up, Grant learned that the Silver Company would be performing “The Diviners.” He first read the script in seventh grade, where he fell in love with the idea of playing Buddy Layman. He performed Buddy in monologues and duet scenes, but going into the audition, he was worried he outgrew the character. 

“It was almost heartbreaking,” Grant said. “I had to prepare myself for failure. I had to accept that maybe I wasn’t meant to play him anymore — that he was someone else’s character now.”

Grant went into the audition with one goal: give it his all. A week later, he got the role. They began tablework and rehearsals for “The Diviners,” and, before he knew it, it was the end of April — time to perform. 

“Once I saw him play Buddy, I knew who I’d cast,” assistant director Logan McGraw said. “He’s this sweet, precious boy, and so is Buddy.”

The nerves ate at him on opening night, making him nauseous during the cast dinner and pace in the changing rooms. But when the cast took their places, Grant took a deep breath and began the show. 

“[Buddy] was his character, and the moment he went on stage, you knew that,” Grant’s mom, Brandie Koch, said. “I had watched his interest in theater grow and develop into a passion, and now he got to share that with everyone else.”

Next year, Grant will continue to act in Silver Company and be the student director for Black Company. By playing Buddy, Grant said he made his middle school dreams come true. Now, he’s ready to achieve his new dream: make a difference to the audience that sees his shows, whether he’s on the stage or behind it. 

“I learned to just enjoy the ride,” Grant said. “As long as a show makes a difference to one person — affects one person — then I’ve done my job. I gave someone a little piece of magic, and by cheering me on, they gave me a little bit of it, too.”

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