Wantagh alumna selected as Playbill contest finalist

By Stephanie Banat

Editor’s note: Banat first wrote this piece as part of her internship at Herald Community Newspapers. To read the original, click here.

Wantagh High School alumna Katriana Koppe, 18, was selected as a Top 10 finalist in Playbill’s Search for a Star contest earlier this month, receiving a free audition with a casting company.

The announcement came roughly three months after Koppe (pronounced CO-pay) was awarded the Roger Rees Best Actress award in late May, an honor that identifies the Best Actor and Best Actress in a licensed high school musical production in New York.

The contest was an online casting call in which performers ages 16 years and older from across the U.S submitted minute-long videos of their vocal performances.

The 10 selected finalists, who included Koppe, were selected by nine Playbill judges. Contestants’ submissions were selected based on “vocal excellence, overall performing skill set, storytelling abilities, authenticity of self, individual artistry, passion and originality,” according to the contest website.

Each of the finalists were awarded auditions with various casting companies, Koppe explained. She was set up with an audition with Stewart Whitley Casting.

Koppe snagged a finalist spot after she performed “I Know The Truth” from Elton John and Tom Rice’s “Aida” the musical.

“I really connect with this piece on a personal level,” Koppe said, “and I think it showcases my originality. This performance was purely my own creative spin on the piece because I took it out of the context of the play and put it into my own context. I approached the acting differently and performed it through my own lens.”

In the musical, the song is performed by character Amneris when she finds out the truth about her fiancée, Radames — that he is in love with a handmaiden, Aida, Koppe said. For the submission, she channeled her past emotional turmoil after facing a disappointing situation similar to that of Amneris.

“I took the basic gist of the song, but I switched scenarios,” she said.

After the 10 finalists were selected by the judges, the first-place winner of the Search for a Star contest was selected by the public. Members of the public had the opportunity to vote once a day on On Aug. 18, 21-year-old Sally Shaw from Dallas, Texas, was announced the winner.

The winner received a package that included: a feature story in Broadway Playbill programs and online at; one-on-one work sessions, consultations and coaching from renowned performers; a blog feature; a headshot session at Playbill Studios; and Playbill merchandise.

Although Koppe didn’t win first place, she said that she is extremely grateful to have made it so far in this prestigious competition and to have had the public rooting for her.

“I’m so thankful for every person at Playbill and for this experience,” Koppe said. “It gives young artists an opportunity to fully dive into the industry and really put themselves out there…and it was incredible to have the chance to showcase something that I really connect to.”

Koppe’s peers, mentors, vocal coaches and acting coaches were all proud of her progress in the theater industry thus far, Wantagh High School music teacher Sameerah Cassidy said.

“We’re so thrilled to see Katriana putting herself out there and achieving her dreams,” Cassidy said. “The fact that she was a part of both these huge competitions, the Roger Rees Awards and Search for a Star. … I think it has really just solidified for her that she is meant to do this. She cares so much about what she does, and it’s very apparent in her performances.”

Koppe’s acting coach, Kim Davis of Wantagh High School, had similar sentiments about Koppe’s successes.

“She is such an inspiration and a great role model for our other students who have not graduated yet,” Davis said.

Watching Koppe prosper is an example of why Davis went into teaching, she said. “It’s heartwarming to see her reach so much success. It’s the very reason us teachers do what we do…It makes our jobs worthwhile.”