Students vie for spotlight in New York

Andrea Damewood

With hopes of landing a spot on Broadway after graduation, 13 Northwestern musical theatre students descended on the New York scene last weekend to meet with agents and showcase their talents to get a head start in kicking off their careers.

Students from NU teamed up with three Ohio universities and a producer from New Leagues, a theater showcase in New York that allows agents to scout young talent, to put on the annual presentation in front of about 100 agents and casting directors April 12.

Theatre Prof. Dominic Missimi said the seniors, selected in December by Chicago-area talent professionals, performed one to two selections as part of a 30-minute program. The group worked for almost two months to prepare their selections.

Students performed the show three times during the weekend — twice for agents and once for alumni of NU and the participating Ohio schools: Otterbein College in Westerville, Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea and the University of Cincinnati.

“We received an instantaneous standing ovation from the alumni,” Missimi said. “It’s very rare and really gratifying.”

The theatre students who showcased their abilities got a leg up on the competition, as the 13 entertainers received 250 to 300 “hits” from agents either requesting interviews or asking for resumes and headshots, Missimi said.

Matt Carlson said he already has been offered an audition for an understudy part in a three-man play on Broadway and for an off-Broadway premiere in San Francisco as a result of his participation in the showcase.

“I met with an agency that I really liked, Henderson-Hogan,” said Carlson, a Communication senior. “If and when I move to New York, I’ll get in contact with them.”

The real-world experience was the biggest benefit for Beth Kirkpatrick.

“We’ve used the opportunity as a test to see if we were ready to work in the real world,” the Music senior said. “I’ve had a great time at Northwestern, but going to New Leagues made me feel better about graduating.”

The odds of being signed by an agency are higher for students who participate in the presentation, said Missimi, noting that being an NU graduate is an advantage in the business, as 35 alumni currently work on Broadway.

Although it is not impossible to get work in New York without representation, Missimi said it is a “much harder road to take.”

The seniors who made the trip have one final opportunity to take the stage at NU — this year’s Waa-Mu Show, which debuts May 2. In past years NU’s top seniors have participated in the actual New Leagues performance in New York, but they were unable to do so this year because of the conflict in dates with Waa-Mu.

Still, Communication senior Lauren Robinson said she tried to capitalize on the opportunity.

“The biggest thing is you go out there and realize ‘I can do this,'” she said. “It’s getting a foot in the door.”

Even though she said she felt ready for the show, Robinson said that didn’t prevent her nerves from flaring up.

“You’re always going to be nervous when you have an audition,” Robinson said. “You only get one shot.

“But, I’d say it was more fun than nerve-wracking. It was a lot more about going to New York with my closest friends and being able to perform with them.”