AUSTIN BAKHSH : Local Student Thrives in the Spotlight
Austin Bakhsh can captivate an audience. The Savannah Christian Preparatory School (SCPS) senior is a drama student stand out with a passion for musical theater, and helping his community.
It was early on when Austin’s love of drama took hold. As an audience member at his school’s musical production of Annie, Austin was impressed. “I saw people that I knew acting on stage and thought it looked like fun. It was something that I wanted to try,” says Austin. Try, he did. In fifth grade, he became part of the school’s drama program.
Donna Stembridge is the school’s drama and musical production director. She remembers when Austin came into the program. “Austin was very quiet, at first. He quickly found his place within the drama community.”
Austin has performed in 20 productions at his school and recently starred as Horton in the Seussical musical. That role allowed him to showcase his fantastic voice and his ability to immerse himself in character. “Musicals and plays are so much more believable if you put everything you can into every performance. I realized this is my last year, and you only have a short amount of time, and it goes fast. I wanted to put everything in this performance,” says Austin.
Seussical holds a special place in Austin’s heart; it was the first musical that he ever performed in. “When I was young, I remember the bigger kids helping me out. Now I’m able to befriend the younger kids and help them. The amazing thing is there isn’t another crossover activity where different grade levels can participate together,” says Austin.
Austin’s mother, Linda Bakhsh, realized that Austin is more than just good at acting and singing; he brings emotion to his roles. “With Horton, he brought the excitement, the fear, the sadness and hopelessness; he brought all of the emotions to the stage.”
Another favorite production of Austin’s is Newsies. He was cast as Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the New York World and father to Katherine Plumber, a reporter smitten with one of the newsboys. “Austin brings a calming presence to any performance,” says Stembridge. “He has a terrific sense of comedic timing, which he has used in his many dad roles throughout high school.”
Beyond Drama Class
The impact of drama on Austin’s life goes beyond his maturity in his roles. Drama has helped him mature in other areas of his life. “It has helped me socially, and I’m much more comfortable in public speaking and approaching people I don’t know. I’ve become more vocal and more comfortable talking to people.”
Austin’s mom says he has developed into a star student as well. He takes advanced placement classes and is taking a dual enrollment math class that will apply credit towards college. “He has to balance activities and his grades. He has to be organized and focus and make sure he gets everything done. We never have to tell him to get his school work done.”
Linda says her son has grown in other ways, too. The drama program has afforded Austin more responsibilities as he’s moved from ensemble roles to leading character roles. He’s also learned valuable lessons about self-improvement and rejection. “Rejection is very real and what happens in drama. Casting is almost like when you go for a job. Sometimes the role you really want may not be the best role for you,” says Linda.
“At the end of the day, it’s not about you; it’s about the production as a whole. You have to have a team mentality because you’re representing yourself and your school,” adds Austin.
When it comes to representing his school, Austin has done it well. He won the 2019 Dramatic Arts best duo, placed second in the Georgia High School Association’s (GHSA) Region Literary competition for boy’s quartet, competed four years in the GHSA One Act Play, and participated in the 2018 Georgia High School Musical Theatre Awards.
Drama is only a part of Austin’s after-school activities. He takes singing lessons every Wednesday, plays tennis and has also played lacrosse. The two-year letterman in dramatic arts and tennis also loves anything related to cars. He spends much of his free time working on his Ford Mustang and adding aftermarket parts.
When Austin isn’t performing, practicing, or working on his hobby, he donates his time. He is a member of Enchanting Encounters and visits sick children in the hospital during special times like Halloween. The past three summers, he served as a camp leader at Camp Red Chaos organizing activities and mentoring children from Pre-K through fifth grade. He’s also volunteered his time at the Ronald McDonald House.
A Solid Foundation
When Austin graduates this May, he plans to attend Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University. He wants to study mechanical engineering and launch a career in the automotive industry. Although he doesn’t plan to continue musical theater in college; he won’t altogether leave performing behind. “I want to continue to sing. It’s something I really enjoy doing.”
Austin’s mother credits his drama background to much of his growth, success and talent. She enjoys watching him take the stage. His father and sister are some of his biggest supporters, too.
When Austin graduates, he will leave a little of himself behind. For eight years, he’s poured his heart and soul into a variety of characters, and he’s blessed audiences with his talents and his passion. When he takes the stage at SCPS for the final time, it will be to accept his diploma. That’s not to say you won’t ever see him perform again – and no matter the role, you can bet it will be a performance like no other.
“If you want to keep getting better, put 100 percent into every performance that you do. It doesn’t matter the role, get into character. Do your best every performance,” says Austin.