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Celebrated young actress is a powerful voice for the arts

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City’s Starlight Theatre has announced nominations for this year’s Blue Star Awards that will be presented May 21st.  Those are the local high school version of Broadway’s Tony Awards for outstanding musical theater productions.

This week’s FOX 4 young achiever is nominated for three major performance awards – lead actress… supporting actress… and Rising Star Scholarship.  And Madison Dodd also happens to be a nationally recognized advocate for the arts and arts education.

In rehearsal for a recent production of the intense play Crave with fellow students at Winnetonka High School, FOX 4 Young Achiever Madison Dodd showed clearly that she is as comfortable with and superbly adept at daring and powerful drama as she is at comedy and her specialty and favorite - musical theater.  She is a commanding presence on stage.

“And if you're really a true performer,” said Madison, “it's more about the love of performing and being an example and giving to your audience.  So, it's about leadership and it's about the people out there, that you want to change their lives.”

Madison has been doing an exhausting amount of stage work since last summer.  At Winnetonka alone, besides Crave, she’s had major roles in Winnetonka`s musicals Side Show and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.  She wrote and directed her own play.  There have been numerous smaller productions and a big senior stage project.  And she performed in The Legend of the Little Mermaid at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland.  She also did Hairspray in community theater last summer.

“Yeah, there's nothing better,” said Madison.  “I've known since I first performed that that's what I really wanted to do with my life and so I've just taken whatever opportunities I can and just gotten out there and tried for it.  I come alive there.”

Being very busy as a performing artist really is nothing new for Madison.  She’s immersed herself in acting and singing ever since she stepped onto the stage in Godspell when she was 12 years old.  But this spring, she added a new and totally different starring role to her amazing list of credits.

“She's not just a performer,” said Winnetonka High School Theater Director Sheri Coffman.  “She is a voice for the arts.  She is a passionate believer in the arts.”

A gifted and prolific writer, Madison produced a forceful, eloquent essay on the importance of public funding for the arts for the Missouri Alliance for Arts Education.  It won a national contest and Madison was selected as the only student from Missouri to be invited to Washington, DC in March for Arts Advocacy Day where she met directly with U.S. senators and members of Congress to urge more federal spending for the arts and arts education.

“She was with a group of all adults,” said Coffman who went with Madison to Arts Advocacy Day.  “She was the only student voice there.  She led the conversation.  She's a very bright young woman.  She's well read.  She understands so many of the issues surrounding the arts and the arts community.  And then she's able to put those thoughts into articulated form.”

“I did that at the state level, as well,” said Madison of her advocacy with lawmakers, “but I think that the trip to D.C. really made the difference.  Being a student face there really helped in that room with those people to convince them that this is something that we as people need and that people like me and other students everywhere need the arts.”

Madison says her advocacy and leadership for the arts is just getting started and if and when she makes it big as an actress she plans to wield influence just like many of today's stars of theater, movies and TV do.

“And if you really care about something then you have the responsibility to fight for it,” said Madison.

In addition to Madison’s three Starlight Theatre Blue Star Awards nominations, Winnetonka High School has been nominated for nine more, including lead actress and music direction for senior Paden Osburn.  We featured Paden in Reaching 4 Excellence in early December.  Winnetonka and Olathe East have tied for the most nominations for any one high school – 12 each.  All the nominations for 2015 are posted in this Starlight Theatre news release.

FOX 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments.  In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism.  Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on FOX 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on FOX 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.