CCU’s Theatre Department showcases seniors in NYCby Derrick Bracey
Ten graduating seniors of Coastal Carolina University’s Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre program are warming up for the New York Showcase set for April 15 at the Abingdon Theatre, a few blocks from the theatre district in Manhattan. From 2:30 to 7 p.m., CCU students and students from other top-notch undergraduate institutions in the nation will showcase their talents in front of a group of respected theatre talent and casting agents. The intent of the showcase is to introduce students to the business of theatre.
This is the second year CCU has sent a musical theatre and acting troupe to perform in the annual event. In addition to two performances at the Abingdon Theatre for industry professionals, there will also be a performance and reception for the CCU Alumni Association at West Bank Cafe on April 17.
Last year, CCU senior Emily Brockway made a splash in the showcase. Now, she is sailing the seas as a working actor with Disney Cruises. And of the other 10 members of last year's class, five students moved to New York City and are either pursuing work or are already on contract. One works in the theatres of San Francisco. Another is getting film work in the Carolinas, and two remained in the Myrtle Beach area.
“I think this reflects the diversity of choices that are possible in the pursuit of this profession,” says Monica Bell, CCU’s associate professor in the Department of Theatre who will be directing this year’s showcase. “The best case scenario the New York Showcase can provide is a signed contract with an agency. But there are 700 young actors eagerly arriving on the New York scene through showcases every year. The competition is fierce, and the positions are few.”
“The 10 of us will venture to the city with wide eyes and big dreams, in hopes that we might take our first steps into the professional world,” says acting major Julia-Catherine Marshall. “It feels like a perfect culmination of the past four years. We’ve all had the opportunity to watch each other struggle and grow throughout our time at Coastal, and this showcase feels like a celebration of how far we’ve come.”
Bell hopes the students will use this showcase as an extension of their education. “It’s a way for our graduates to gain a deeper understanding of the industry and themselves in the industry. What they do with the new information and possibilities is up to each of them as individuals.”
“This is a time for us to gain experience in navigating business relations and becoming industry savvy,” Marshall says. “The best-case scenario would be to gain representation and sign with an agency. But essentially, we are about to be microscopic fish in an ocean-sized pond.”
Of this year’s BFA seniors, five are majoring in acting and five in musical theatre. The difficult task for music director/visiting associate Michael Gribbin and choreographer/guest artist Barbara Hartwig is to put together a cohesive 35 minutes of live theatre while highlighting all of the strengths of the individual performers. “The songs, monologues and scenes are interwoven with either the lyrics or spoken text or musical underscoring leading into or out of all of the sections of the piece,” Bell says. “I look to create a balance of material and time for each of the actors. They will all land in two different pieces with an opening and closing number shared by all. I think it makes for a more interesting experience for the agents.”
Bell believes in building an ensemble, working as a team, a cast. And the styles of this year’s class are diverse. “It’s an interesting mix of types and strengths, from gritty contemporary realism to highly polished song and dance. The showcase will reflect this diversity of strength and make for a more eclectic showcase,” Bell says.
Versatility is what makes the students shine, proving their capacity to adapt to multiple settings. “This experience has taught me that talent alone is not enough, passion alone is not enough, and preparation alone is not enough,” Marshall says. “Ultimately, all of these elements must work together.”
Jackie Wiatrowski is a performing senior this year. As a musical theatre major, she looks at the showcase as a “culmination of the skills we developed here at CCU. I have the opportunity to sing, act and dance in this showcase,” she says.
But what is Wiatrowski most excited about? “My first opportunity to perform in New York City, and I want to enjoy every second of it!” she says. “No matter what comes from this showcase, the experience that we are being blessed with is truly unique. I will have the undivided attention of multiple agents while I have a chance to showcase my talent. I will not take one second of that for granted.”
“This Showcase is our artistic graduation,” Marshall says. “It’s our foray into the world of New York theatre and our first opportunity to take our place within the professional theatre community.”
Colleen Kerrigan is an acting major trying to balance her feelings about the event between unbridled enthusiasm and practicality. “It’s best to remain positive and hopeful, but I must also remain realistic. The reality is New York agents see hundreds of aspiring theatre artists coming out of programs every year, making the likelihood of getting signed immediately rather small,” she says. “Being young and so far away from New York, I look forward to hearing feedback and learning from industry professionals regarding my marketability. At the very least, I am excited to take New York City by storm with my close friends and leave all that we have to offer out on that stage.”
A complete list of the NYC Showcase seniors are:
Justin Ables – B.F.A. musical theatre major of Aberdeen, Md.
Justina Adorno – B.F.A. acting major of Columbia
Shannon Burke – B.F.A. musical theatre major of Marblehead, Mass.
Haley Chapel – B.F.A. acting major of Glen Allen, Va.
Emily Dixon – B.F.A. acting major of Anderson
Colleen Kerrigan – B.F.A. acting major of Severna Park, Md.
Julia-Catherine Marshall – B.F.A. acting major of Rock Hill
Drew Taylor – B.F.A. musical theatre major of DeKalb, Ill.
Kimberlee Ward – B.F.A. musical theatre major of Stratford, Conn.
Jackie Wiatrowski – B.F.A. musical theatre major of Levittown, Pa.
For information or reservations call Kay Hungerford at 843-349-6635 or visit www.coastal.edu/theatre.