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Over fall break, Oct. 3-6, the Liberty University Department of Theatre Arts sent 19 seniors to New York City for four days of technical and audition workshops, Broadway shows and sightseeing.
“The trip showed them the reality of (careers) in New York,” Linda Cooper, department chair and weekend chaperone, said. “After you graduate, you don’t stop working. You work hard, but it is obtainable.”
The main focus of the trip was to give students the opportunity to meet and work with various Broadway professionals in order to improve their own talent and technique. They attended an audition workshop, a production workshop and a casting workshop.
“The workshops were inspiring,” performance major Joel Ledbetter said. “(The professionals) were extremely supportive of our transition from school to professional acting. They explained what they liked seeing in each of us and showed us areas where we could grow.”
Not only did the workshops teach the students how to prepare for theatrical careers, but they also showed them how tangible their dreams are.
“Being able to hear from (experts) who once thought they could do it and then worked hard and did just that puts you in a mindset of success,” Ledbetter said.
According to senior Jessica Cooper, the workshops gave them a better understanding of what it takes to break into the show business.
“We walked in kind of knowing what auditions were like in New York, and we walked out understanding the reality,” performance major Jessica Cooper said.
After meeting with the stage manager of “The Phantom of the Opera,” production major Jacob Wallin said he was “energized to come back (to Liberty), do my own show and do it well, because there is a very high standard out there.”
The workshops were not the only theatrical stimuli the seniors experienced. They also attended three Broadway shows including “Matilda the Musical,” “The Glass Menagerie” and “Big Fish.”
“I would be in any of those shows in a heartbeat,” performance major Kelli Overmyer said. “They were very pro-life… in the sense that we should celebrate life and make sure we live it to the fullest.”
The experience was different from going to a movie theater because live theater offers actor-to-fan interaction immediately following the show.
“Being the theater nerds that we are, after every show we waited around outside the stage doors so we can meet the actors,” Cooper said.
They received autographs and took pictures with Broadway legends like Norbert Leo Butz and Kate Baldwin. They also got to meet TV and movie star Zachary Quinto after his performance in “The Glass Menagerie”.
“The actors we met after the show were very genuine and gracious,” Overymyer said. “It was fun just watching them walk off into the night like real people. It made me realize that they’re just people and we’re just people. We’re just people who tell stories.”
In what little free time they had, the seniors did as much sightseeing in the city as they could. Various groups visited Central Park, sipped coffee in Trump Tower, waltzed down Fifth Avenue, ogling at the windows filled with Prada and Gucci, and enjoyed cheesecake at Roxy’s — a tradition for every senior theatre arts trip. However, it is still the lure of Broadway that draws them to the city above other opportunities.
“There’s nothing soft about New York,” Overmyer said. “It’s intriguing and mysterious and you want to be a part of it, but there’s nothing that says family and home. But then I realized, the vulnerability and softness I was looking for was only found on the stage.”
The group returned home Sunday night, Oct.6 impassioned for performing arts and inspired to pursue their dreams.
“New York City is a phenomenal place, and I would love to see Liberty alumni on that stage making a difference,” Ledbetter said. “It’s a place that has a lot of love and could use a little more.”