Shane Collins isn’t acting when he talks about what being on the stage has meant to him – and his family. He plans on going to Eastern Michigan University when he is done at Pioneer High School and says, “not only would that make my parents proud, but that will show me that I do have what it takes to do something with myself. I don’t come from a lot and high school has been a struggle, but I always keep fighting and that’s one thing nobody can take away from me.”
That’s for sure. Collins, a junior, is a talented actor/singer/rapper who will take the stage this weekend when he stars in the Pioneer Theatre Guild’s presentation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning debut musical, “In the Heights.” The show begins on Friday, April 21 with additional shows on April 22, 28, 29 and 30 in Schreiber Auditorium.
“Making people happy has always been something that has brought joy to me and I don’t want to eliminate that from my life; it’s one of the best things in the world,” says Collins, who believes “In the Heights” will make everyone happy. He plays Usnavi, a first-generation immigrant from the Dominican Republic who lost both of his parents when he was young, but was raised by Abuela Claudia, the grandmother/caretaker of the block.
“He runs the neighborhood bodega,” says Collins. “He is very close with Abuela, but also with the block, as it is the only life he has really ever known. He is very protective of his younger cousin, Sonny. He is very practical and thinks realistically as he knows what it is like to have lost things, and he knows that thinking about something doesn’t make it magically appear.”
Collins says Usnavi doesn’t quite know who he is. “He doesn’t truly know where home is to him yet,” he says. “He has struggled all of his life to find his identity. He is in love with Vanessa. He is always his dorky self and has never switched up for anyone.”
Collins, who also has performed in “I’m Not Rappaport,” “Holmes for the holidays” and PTG’s “The Crucible,” says he’s always enjoyed being expressionistic and “over the top” with things.
“I took Sean Sabos acting class, and he really inspired me,” Collins said. “I realized then how really passionate I was about acting and theatre as a whole.”
Collins is really excited about “In the Heights” and his role.
“As opposed to a lot of the other plays that PTG has performed, I feel this one first and foremost tells a story,” he said. “It’s not the same old conflict, romance, everyone lives happily ever. It’s relatable to the audience, as there are legitimate struggles that people face that aren’t exclusive to you being colored.”
Collins, the son of Megan and Roderic Collins, considers himself more of an actor but he can sing when called up. And he can definitely rap.
And he can definitely entertain a crowd.
“The most rewarding thing has to be just making something absolutely special,” he says. “It’s one of the best feelings in the world going on stage and making people feel emotion through your expression of a character, through your emotions. One of the best things is the mutual respect at the end of the show with all of the cast, crew, band, knowing we did everything we could to do something absolutely beautiful.”
“In the Heights”
What: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning debut musical, “In the Heights”
When: Saturday, April 21; Sunday, April 22 (matinee, 2 p.m.); Friday, April 28; Saturday, April 29: Sunday, April 30 (matinee, 2 p.m.).
Who: Presented by Pioneer HS Theatre Guild
Where: Schreiber Auditorium, PHS