Acting for Conservation: South Milwaukee actor spreads conservation message at the Milwaukee County Zoo and beyond
When you meet Samantha Sostarich and find out she’s an actor, it’s not surprising. She has a natural theatricality. It shines through in her expressive face, in her clear voice and in her outgoing personality. Sostarich, who is 29 and from South Milwaukee, has wanted to be in the limelight since she was 4 years old, but entertaining isn’t her only passion. “Conservation is very dear to me,” she says. So it was a perfect fit when She was hired as a cast member for Kohl’s Wild Theater (KWT) in 2011. Kohl’s Wild Theater provides conservation-themed theater performances using drama, songs, and puppetry to children and their families at the Milwaukee County Zoo and within the community. Kohl’s Wild Theater is made possible by a partnership among Kohl's Cares, the Milwaukee County Zoo, and the Zoological Society of Milwaukee.
“I love that I’m able to help educate children about conservation and animals and even learn quite a bit myself,” she says. “In our first season I learned a lot about the importance of bumble bees. They’re excellent pollinators.” The play she’s referring to is “The Mysterious Case of the Disappearing Bees.” In the play, a character named Jo Appletree is a detective on the case of the disappearing bees. While on the job, Detective Appletree meets a honey bee, a butterfly, a queen bee and an entomologist. Although each KWT actor is trained to play any role, Sostarich often played Queen Bee. “Queen Bee was the character that tells Detective Appletree about CCD—colony collapse disorder,” she says. Thanks to the help of audience participation, Detective Appletree is able to bring bees back by planting a variety of bee habitats and avoiding the use of pesticides. The play has had a real-life impact on Sostarich. “I am very excited now when I see bumble bees in my garden,” she says.
Sostarich first climbed onto the stage to dance. She has studied ballet/pointe, jazz, modern, lyrical, ballroom and tap. “Tap dancing is a really great experience for a musical-theater background,” she says. In November 2001, Sostarich was crowned Miss Dance Masters of Wisconsin and served as the organization’s representative for a year. It was during high school that she became heavily involved with theater. Sostarich, who received a B.A. in theater and drama with distinction from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2001, is also an accomplished soprano. She has performed for several opera companies, including Milwaukee’s Skylight Music Theatre.
“One thing about Kohl’s Wild Theater cast members is they must be accomplished actors, dancers and singers,” says Dave McLellan, theater program coordinator for KWT. “Samantha has a lot of experience in all three areas.” Because of her wide breath of acting experience in so many theater companies, Sostarich was tapped to be one of three Show Captains for KWT. “That means I coordinate things when Dave is not present,” she says.
She has also performed in 18 different theater groups. While each group and play has its own challenges, KWT is challenging in a way the others are not. “Except for the Outreach component, KWT plays are performed four times per day outdoors at the Zoo,” she says. “Sometimes we have to deal with extreme heat, wind or rain.” We also have to set up and breakdown the sets, which takes a lot of work.” But Sostarich doesn’t mind—her passion for acting and spreading the message of conservation is what matters most.
By the Zoological Society of Milwaukee
About the ZSM
The mission of the Zoological Society of Milwaukee is to conserve wildlife and endangered species, educate people about the importance of wildlife and the environment, and support the Milwaukee County Zoo. Go to www.zoosociety.org for more information.
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