Some of the greatest works in the American musical theatre were the brain child of some of the most legendary collaborations: Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, Harnick and Bock. That all-important “and” has created the most impactful moments in theatre history, and none of it would have occurred without the meeting of two like-minded individuals.
One of the most valuable lessons that I learned my first year of school was to surround yourself with the right people. This can mean a lot of things to different people. If you ask a mother with two boys in middle school, it could mean for her kids not to hang out with the wrong crowd. In the arts, surrounding yourself with the right people means surrounding yourself with people that stimulate you artistically and allow you to grow in the best way possible.
I am so lucky to have found a group of individuals that do just that. The BFA Musical Theatre Class of 2019 at Texas State University is a beautiful group of artists. All fourteen of us share a rich appreciation for theatre and have a common drive that pushes not only ourselves, but each other. What’s really remarkable about us is that our interests grow far past the realms of theatre. From photography, to special effects makeup, from songwriting, to mathematics, I almost never find myself talking about musical theatre outside of the classroom, which oddly enough, is somewhat of a blessing.
For the past eight years, my life has been filled with musical theatre. It’s what I grew up doing, it’s what I studied in high school, and now it is what I study in college. While I could talk about the recent Tony wins for hours on end, and shamelessly sing “Defying Gravity” on every road trip, I know how important it is to expand my horizons and have interests outside of the theatre. The individuals I met this past year have introduced me to a countless number of new experiences and interests. One of these people is my friend, Grace.
Grace is a beautiful photographer. She takes stunning portraits of people that encapsulate their essence in a single shot. Before going to school, I had some interest in photography, but nothing past a solid iPhone-quality Instagram post. Towards the end of our first semester, Grace told me that I had a really beautiful eye for photography and that if this is a hobby I wanted to continue in, I might want to invest in a higher-quality camera. That December, I came home with my precious baby, my Nikon D3300 (sorry to all you die-hard Canon fans out there.) Without that little push from my friend Grace, one of my best talents wouldn’t have flourished and my love for photography probably wouldn’t have grown into what it is today.
Surrounding yourself with the right people in the arts could also open many doors for you. It’s pretty crazy to think of yourself as the future of theatre. It’s almost insanity to consider the fact that the next Lin-Manuel Miranda may be sitting next to you in history class, or helping you with your music theory homework. But this idea isn’t out of the ordinary. It’s matter of fact. Your friends and colleagues you meet in college are the people you will be working with and for in years to come. Ask any working actor and they will tell you that the theatre bubble becomes increasingly smaller, and the person sitting behind the table at your next audition could easily be a familiar face.
While a big part of surrounding yourself with the right people in the arts is surrounding yourself with people that help you grow artistically, a lot of it is surrounding yourself with people that fulfill you as a person. The people in my life would go to the ends of the Earth to make me happy, and I would do the same for them. Friendship is a two way street. That’s love. Love is your friend letting you print an assignment out in their room twenty minutes before it’s due. Love is picking your friends up from the airport twice in one day. Love is helping you pick out which new body wash to try out from Target. Love is waiting in line for an hour to trade in your used textbooks and only getting one dollar for them. Love is late-night Whataburger. Love is Cane’s at all hours of the day.
To all of you starting your college experience, I beg of you, cling to the ones that will help you grow. Seek out the risk takers, find the ones that care, and show them some love. They’ll show you love right back. Find your “and.” From there, it’s the little things that turn you into the person you will become.
Before I wrap this up, I want to update you all on my summer experiences at the Williamstown Theatre Festival! My feelings of stress and anxiety have blossomed into feelings of joy and excitement. Every day, it becomes clearer and clearer that I’m a part of something really special. The nights are late and the work is rigorous, but what’s beautiful about it is that without the love of the craft, nothing would be getting done. The actors wouldn’t be in rehearsal all day, the lighting crew wouldn’t be up until three in the morning, and the costumers wouldn’t be toiling away over their sewing machines for hours on end. Ten shows in ten weeks calls for a lot of man power, and I’m elated to be a piece of that puzzle. Once again, I’ve surrounded myself with the right people, and I am filled with joy. More next week. Until next time.