For those of you who noticed that our last Student Spotlight was named Grace, no, we’re not just going through an alphabetical roster of our students; we don’t sort students by first name anyway. Grace is special because she’s integrating singing into her bigger picture. She’s majoring in theater at UC Irvine, and performs both on stage and in front of a camera. Read what she has to say about pursuing musical theater on a semi-professional level, as well as her advice to music-savvy teens.
MM: What does a theatre curriculum look like? What’s a day in the life?
GH: School starts at 8 AM. Depending on what day it is, I might have a drama writing class, where we read and write scripts, a directing class, production theory, jazz dance , or tap. This quarter, I am not taking any acting or musical theater classes because I am already taking 6 classes and 20 units. On top of that, I’m working at Disneyland, and rehearsing for a show most evenings. I also have sorority work and meetings, so a day in the life is pretty heavy.
MM: Have you ever gotten vocal training in a classroom setting? if so, how do voice classes differ from taking private training? I
GH: Yes! Last year I took musical theater level one in a workshop setting. We chose our songs that were more classical musical theater (I had “Blow Gabriel Blow” from Anything Goes and “What Did I Have?” from On a Clear Day You Can See Forever) and learned breathing exercises as well as audition technique. It’s a group setting so it’s not one-on-one.
MM: What do you like about musical theater over other types of “pure” singing (concert-type singing, recording, the like)?
GH: I like musical theatre because of the emotion you can hear in the actor’s voice, and I feel it goes much deeper than anything you hear on the radio today. Musical theatre songs address every kind of issue, and there’s always a song for whatever you’re feeling.
MM: Any cool stories about a production, rehearsal, or an audition?
GH: One of the best times I had in a show was when I played one of the step sisters in Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. On closing night, my friend—the other step sister—and I had a comedy war with the King and Queen. We added something new and ad-libbed to every scene. It was just back and forth and back and forth until my friend quoted One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful,” instead of reciting the scripted sonnet. Everyone thought it was hilarious; there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
MM: Tell me about the production you’re in right now.
GH: Right now I am performing in White Christmas at Golden West College. It runs on weekends beginning November 15th until November 24th. I am just in the ensemble, but that’s totally fine with me because the harmonies are so challenging to sing (the show is set in the 50’s so it has to have that kind of harmony-heavy music). I really enjoy both the singing and dancing.
MM: Tell me about your student film. Are you the one filming, or are you performing, or both?
GH: I am the one performing! Filming is so much different from live theatre because if you mess up, you can just do another take, so don’t have to worry about forgetting your lines. The film was a short for a 48-hour challenge for the UK film festival, and it was sponsored by Netflix, so that’s pretty cool too!
MM: What do the next few years have in store for you? Where would you like to be in 5 years?
GH: In the next few years I hope to get an agent and begin my career. I would love to do indie films and work my way into more major work like a television series or a motion picture. In 5 years, I hope to have a steady career, or at least be on my way toward one. The most influential actors tend to peak past the age of 35, so that gives me plenty of time!
MM: Any advice to kids who want to perform, or who are too scared to try?
GH: Never be too scared to do something. If you never try, you’ll never know. Acting and singing are hard work, but if you really want to buckle down and do it, then go for it! You should never give up five minutes before the miracle. Everyone has their off days, and that’s ok! That’s what makes us human! Never let one bad day or audition ruin your belief in yourself. If you focus on the negative you will never see the positive. The performance industry is a tough world full of negatives, so positivity is key, as well as confidence. If you walk into an audition room totally confident in yourself and in your craft, and you end up failing, you still gave it your best shot. There have been times where I have started crying in an audition because of how nervous I was, but used that to my advantage and got a callback out of it. The nerves go away after so many auditions! This is a lot of advice but it’s all true!