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Yes, I’m an Actor

I’m going to be completely honest: I have had people laugh in my face when I told them what I study at school. When I tell people I’m studying Theatre Performance, I often hear “Okay…but whats’s your backup?” Sorry to disappoint, but I don’t have a backup. I’m an actor and that’s what I want to do. I love performing more than anything in the world and it makes me so happy while doing it, so why not make a career out of it?
I’ve loved performing since the age of three. My first play was The Three Little Pigs, I played Pig #3 and my father played my house. Ever since then, I have loved being on stage. I love creating characters, expressing emotion through text, and getting to be someone I’m not. This semester has given me more than enough opportunities alone to help pursue my career.
Little Shop of Horrors
At the beginning of the semester, I was cast as Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors. It was one of my dream roles and I was so beyond honored to get to perform that show in front of the entire school. We sold out all six of our performances! How crazy is that! Right after we closed the show, I performed in Unlock Your Voice: Breaking Boundaries, an English-department event celebrating female writers. I chose an intense slam poem about feminism and sexism and it was awesome. After that, I was cast as Callie in Stop, Kiss which opens later this week. This play is incredibly different from Little Shop, and so much more emotionally draining that I expected it to be. I can definitely say this is one of the hardest shows I’ve worked on, and it is such a beautiful piece that I can’t wait to share with the campus community. And recently, I was cast as the lead in a student-written feature film that I will get to work on for a few months next semester. This is not my first student film, but it is my first feature length film and I am so excited to start working on it!
As a young actor, I still haven’t decided if I want to focus more on live theatre or film, because I’m still dabbling in both. At Juniata, however, I have been given the opportunity to try both, extensively, and learn so many skills to help me in my profession. I can never give Juniata enough praise for how incredible the theatre program is here. I never would have imagined to be cast in three separate projects all over the span of a few months.
Little Shop of Horrors
I know I’ve picked a risky career. Trust me, I know. But I chose it for a reason. Performing makes me happy. It gives me energy, it brings my joy, and it brings joy to other people as well in the audience. That is so meaningful for me, and I love what I do. I know I still have three more semesters left at Juniata, but I am so ready to go out into the real world and do what I love.
Photos by: Morgan Horell ’17

Unlock Your Voice

For the past two years, I have been involved with Lift Evr’y Voice and Unlock Your Voice here at Juniata. These two events are courses taught every other year at Juniata through the English department. Our class (which is typically, no more than ten students) works together for the majority of the fall semester, planning a coffeehouse-style event celebrating specific groups of people. For Lift Evr’y Voice, we choose to celebrate African American literature. For Unlock Your Voice, we honor women everywhere by performing music and poetry written by anyone who identifies as a woman.
Lift Evr'y Voice
We picked a theme, created images and ideas, sent out emails, bought supplies, recruited volunteers, and ultimately transformed the Ellis Ballroom into a dimly-lit, beautifully decorated coffee shop with lots of sweet treats. It takes a lot of work behind the scenes to pull together an event like this, but it is always amazing to see the final product a few minutes before we start our show.
This year, we had the most volunteers ever, and had about 20 performances throughout the night, ranging from slam poems to ukulele covers, and everything in between. We had both men and women participating, and some women actually read material they wrote themselves! We had a huge turnout, and it was so lovely to see so many wonderful people (faculty and students) come together to promote something that is so important in our society (and especially to me).
Lift Evr'y Voice
Every year the English Department switches the course every other year (i.e. this year we did Unlock Your Voice, so next year will be Lift Evr’y Voice) but I believe it’s a wonderful opportunity for people to come and speak up about certain issues, by delivering beautiful poems and songs and sharing the beauty of literature with the campus community. I wish I could work on an event like this every semester because it’s very inspiring for me, so I’m excited to sign up to work on Lift Evr’y Voice next year!

I’m in a Production!

When I was twelve years old, I performed in Little Shop of Horrors at my summer camp. I knew nothing about acting, it was the “kids version” of the show, and I had a stereotypically bad New York accent. I’ve loved musical theatre my entire life. This show was one of the first shows I really connected with, and ultimately fell in love with. Fast forward eight years later, and here I am, starring in Little Shop of Horrors as a real, college production!

Since the Juniata Theatre Department typically puts on a musical every three years, I was so excited to get back into my “element” from high school. Although I love getting to experience and train with different types of theatre (i.e. Shakespeare, devised work, contemporary plays, etc.) musical theatre has always been my favorite type, and is ultimately my goal for after I graduate. For this show, we brought in Tara Giordano, an outside director from New York, Gabriel Gould (who is actually an English Professor here at Juniata) as our Musical Director, and Nate Dryden, a visiting artist who focuses on aerial and floor movement (I was able to work with him last year on trapeze!) as our Choreographer. As for our cast, this is one of the first shows where the cast is mostly non-theatre students. We have four freshman, two sophomores, two juniors, two seniors and a graduate student! It has been such an amazing experience to have so many different types of talented people working on a beautiful show.

 

Cosimo Sciortino (left), Carlos Velasco Carrillo (center), and I working on a scene in rehearsal.

Cosimo Sciortino (left), Carlos Velasco Carrillo (center), and I working on a scene in rehearsal.

Rehearsals have been really hands-on for us, as we have been taking our ideas for our characters and going into so much detail about them, how they move, how they speak, how they think, what they want, etc. It definitely takes a lot more than just reading words off a page to make a play really come to life. Since the show takes place in the 1960s, we have to play with different styles of dance and attire from that period (our costumes are awesome). When blocking scenes, even though our director ultimately decides how the scene should look, Tara was always willing to listen to our ideas and encouraging us to embrace our impulses. It’s been a really educational, beneficial, and rewarding experience working on this show and putting so much effort into the play we’ve created.

Max Martin-Udry (left) and Carlos Velasco Carrillo (right) reviewing a scene.

Max Martin-Udry (left) and Carlos Velasco Carrillo (right) reviewing a scene.

We have all been hard at work for the past two months memorizing, blocking, building, and singing our hearts out in rehearsal every day. While you’re in a production, it often seems like the actual performances of the show are ages away, until one day you wake up and realize you’re opening in a week! It’s been really crazy watching this show grow from a script in our hands to a real play on stage with a live band, a beautiful set, and soon an audience sitting in front of us! Little Shop of Horrors opens on October 21st at 8:00 PM, and will be performing on the 22-23rd, and 27-29th as well. Tickets are free for Juniata students and $20 for general admission! If you are in the area, and want to see a hilarious, bloody, romantic, and slightly terrifying musical, then I hope you come see the show!

 

 

Flying Solo

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Julia LaPlante (’17) practices her solo performance.

For the past few weeks, my Performance Lab class (run through the Theatre Department) has been building our show, Solos, which opens in two weeks! Performance Lab is an incredible class that Theatre Performance POEs get to experience, where every few weeks different guest artists come to school to work on specific techniques or skills with us. We’ve worked on movement, scene studies, playwriting, and stage makeup, and learned what it’s like to be an actor after we graduate. I’ve only had two semesters of Performance Lab so far (as a Theatre POE we need five semesters), and it is definitely the best and most rewarding class I have taken at Juniata. We get to build so many different skills, work with incredible artists, and make outside connections in the “actor world.”

Recently, we have been working with Leigh Hendrix, an actor and theatre performer based in New York, who is serving as our mentor for our solo performances. Each student in our Performance Lab class has created a seven-minute piece, and is starring in it alone. The themes and stories are all incredibly different, and my classmates have worked to portray a multitude of diverse characters.

For my solo, I wrote a short play called “Out of My Head”, which shows the struggle of a girl who is arguing and sometimes being controlled by the voice in her head (which I believe everyone has had some experience with at some point). I will be playing the girl and the voice at the same time, switching back and forth between the two simultaneously. Playing two characters at once is something I’ve never done before, so I’m really excited to continue working with my play in rehearsals. I probably re-wrote my script a dozen times, always tweaking and changing little things here and there until I found a draft that I am very satisfied with. As an actor and playwright, it’s nearly impossible to find “the perfect draft” of a play because every time you read it, or listen to it being read, you find new things you want to change. It’s a really fun but strenuous process.

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Theatre Practicum students work to set the stage for Solos in the Movement Studio.

Solos are being performed April 20th, 21st, and 22nd in both the Suzanne Von Liebig Theatre and The Movement Studio. Since there are eleven students in our class, we split the group in half, so six will be performing in SVL Theatre, and five in the movement studio. I definitely recommend coming to see a performance, because it’s really amazing to see some of the work Juniata’s performers can do. If you want to see all of the student’s pieces, you’ll need to come two nights (since you can only be in one space at one time). My friends and I have worked really hard on these original pieces, and I can’t wait until we can show everyone!

V-Day 2016

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The entire cast and production team of “The Vagina Monologues”

A little more than a month ago, a sophomore student approached the Office of Student Activities and asked if it was possible to put on a production of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues.” This is a collection of stories and monologues, turned into a play about women in every aspect. She was worried that it wasn’t possible, or it was inappropriate, or that it would be received negatively on campus. Yet she worked for one solid month, through organization, casting, rehearsals, marketing, and ticket sales to put on two performances on campus, and everyone loved it.

Julia McMurry, the student behind it all, wanted to put together the production in support of Huntingdon House, a non-profit organization in town that provides support for victims of domestic violence. She reached out to the student body and asked if anyone was interested in performing in the piece or working behind the scenes. I jumped at the opportunity to get involved, and auditioned (and was cast!). There were 18 women who were a part of the production, with three additional individuals helping with casting and rehearsals.

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Me performing “My Angry Vagina”

We quickly worked to put on the production in a month, working hard in rehearsals and taking time to reflect on what it really means to be a woman. Being in the production allowed me to meet students from all different backgrounds and POEs and really branch out socially. Not only was it an additional performance opportunity for me, but it was a completely different experience than performing in a show through the theatre department.

I’m so honored to have been able to be a part of this production, and the fact that it was entirely student-run and put together in one month brings me so much joy. We had a huge audience for both performances, and we raised $1,087 for Huntingdon House! I hope this becomes a Juniata tradition because I would love to be a part of this production again!

To Be, or Not To Be (Involved)

The spring semester theatre production of “Hamlet” opens this week and I am so incredibly excited. Not only are they performing this weekend and next, but they get to travel to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland in August! I was not cast in this show, but just because you’re not cast doesn’t mean you have to sit on the sidelines and watch from afar. I hopped on the opportunity to work backstage with the costume crew. This was my first experience working on the technical side of theatre, but my supervisors were appreciative, understanding and helpful with our tasks.

Juniata College actors rehearse the upcoming play "Hamlet"

Juniata College actors rehearse the upcoming play “Hamlet”

I was a little embarrassed to admit I didn’t know how to sew, but the costume designer for the show, Tara Webb, taught me everything I needed to know. I worked to sew buttons and labels while she made alterations to the actor’s costumes.

Another great part of working backstage is that I get to see the whole process of the show being put together. Many of my best friends have been cast in the show and it is
so amazing to see them killing it on stage! Not to mention, “Hamlet” is not an easy show! Any Shakespeare play has some serious memorization and text work that needs to be done before the play can even begin to be blocked in rehearsal.

“Hamlet” opens this Thursday, February 18th, and will perform the 19-20, and the 25-27th as well. There is a male cast and a female cast, and the casts alternate each night. I’m so proud of my friends for all of the work they’ve put into this show, and I’m so glad I can be a part of it, even thought I’m not in the actual show.

Lift Evr’y Voice

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Our setup for the event, in the Ellis Ballroom.

When I was applying to colleges, a student from the Juniata Enrollment Center called my house to talk to me about the school. I told her I was interested in Theatre and English, and she mentioned several different classes for each POE that she thought I would like. One of those classes in the English department was called Lift Evr’y Voice. It’s a class that organizes a coffee-house, celebrating the works of African American writers. It sounded amazing, but this semester I actually got to be a part of it. 

The class met once a week, and we split up responsibilities for creating the event. One student was in charge of writing articles about the event to send out to the Juniatian and other local newspapers, another created flyers and displayed them all over campus, and others worked to recruit volunteers. We chose the theme “Music of Poetry” which incorporated black poets and black artists (we had some musical performances as well!).

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All of the performers at Lift Evr’y Voice (and our professor’s adorable daughter)!

Each student in the class (there were seven of us) had to perform something during the night, and any volunteer who wished to perform could as well. For my performance, my a cappella group, The Eagle Tones, performed “Put Your Records On” by Corinne Bailey Rae. We had over 120 people attend our event and everyone had a great time! It was so amazing to see this event come together in the way that it did, and the overall idea of celebrating black writers was very meaningful to me. I’m so pleased that I was finally able to experience one of the things that brought me to Juniata. 

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My sociology professor, Dr. Welliver, singing on stage!

Samuel Beckett Circus

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Lauren Dobbs (on lyra) while Alyssa Newberg (right), my director Nate Dryden (left) and I watch in rehearsal.

This semester, the Theatre Department’s main production is the Samuel Beckett Circus, which I have the incredible opportunity of being a part of. The show combines four Beckett plays, as well as different Beckett texts and circus acts. There’s music, trapeze, crazy creatures, magic, and some unbelievable performances by my fellow cast-mates. This is the first show I have ever been in at Juniata, and I have been having an amazing time throughout the rehearsal process.

Last year, I was very hesitant to be a part of the productions because I knew they would be time-consuming. I was right. I am constantly juggling assignments, rehearsals, running my own club on campus, and a social life, while still finding time to sleep, eat, and do my laundry. It’s definitely a lot to handle. However, having such a busy schedule has pushed me to become better with my time management, and to do as much as I can in the time that I have. 

I have also learned so much from working with the different performers and my wonderful directors. They each inspire me to work harder inside and outside of the theatre. I’ve flown on the trapeze (which is something I would never have guessed I would learn in college), ran up stairs while hoola-hooping, and worked on some pretty tough scenes during rehearsals.  I can definitely say I am a much stronger performer after being cast in this show. 

It’s so crazy to think we open in two weeks, and I don’t know what I’m going to do when the show is over! The show will be running from October 22-24, and 29-31. If you get the chance to stop by the black box theatre, I would definitely recommend seeing The Samuel Beckett Circus! I promise you will not be disappointed!

Breaking Out of My Shell: This Week at Juniata

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Some people love their first year of college. Other people struggle academically, or socially, or may have an “off” semester. Last year, I rocked back and forth between liking school, drowning in work, and having a hard time socially, which made my first year at Juniata a little strenuous for me. However, I am back for my sophomore year and it has started out with a BANG!

I was lucky enough to be selected as one of the hosts for This Week At Juniata, a weekly web show about different events happening throughout campus each week, which is then sent out to students and posted on Facebook to gain more attention to events on campus. I have never had a job acting in front of a camera before, but I am a Theatre Performance POE, so this has been amazing exposure and a really great skill-building process for me! I have met so many people through working on the show, and have gotten so close to my co-host, director, producer, editor, cameraman, and boss. Each week we plan an outline for the show to be filmed on Monday, which is then released on Thursday. Although a potential script is written by the producer, with input from my co-host and I, a lot of the work is improv! Sarah (my co-host) and I are really comfortable with each other (even though she is a senior and I am a sophomore).  We have so much fun goofing off, doing ridiculous things, and laughing on camera. 

Working on This Week At Juniata has also helped me a lot socially. I tend to be very closed off when meeting new people, but now strangers will come up to me on the quad and tell me how much they liked this week’s episode, or that they love my outfit, or they think I’m hilarious. This feels incredibly weird, yet very flattering at the same time! I really cannot thank the Digital Media Studio enough for allowing me to be a part of such an amazing show. (They are also responsible for a lot of footage of events, creating videos for the Admissions Office and televisions around campus, and so much more behind the scenes work that I am not even aware of!) 

I feel so much more supported by others around me now that I have this exposure to the entire Juniata community, and my confidence has skyrocketed as well! The hosts for This Week At Juniata change each year, so you never know, you may be selected to host in the upcoming years! 

Attached is a link to our most recent episode, but you can check out all of our weekly shows on the Juniata Facebook page! 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D18Y16z4J08&feature=youtu.be

Wrapping it Up

It’s crazy to think that I only have three weeks left of my first year of college. It seems like just yesterday I was taking trip after trip back out to the car to move all of my stuff into the dorm. This year has definitely flown by! As my semester comes to a close, and this is my last post for the year, I’d like to recap some of my favorite things about my year at Juniata.

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On-Campus Job

I applied for a job in the Admissions Office right off the bat when I arrived at Juniata, and did not have my hopes up since I was only a freshman. Shockingly, however, I got the job! I have had so much fun learning more about how the college admissions process works, and have met such wonderful people throughout the year. I’ve also learned how easy it is to find a job on campus. If you are in need of some cash, Career Services is an incredible place to start. There are so many jobs all over campus, in every field, so it doesn’t matter what qualifications you have, you will definitely find something.

Cafés, Cafés and More Cafés!

If you know anything about me, you’d know that I love cafés. I love the atmosphere, the coffee, and the creative recipes different places make. I love getting off campus, walking into town, and plopping down at a table with a cup of coffee, a scone and tons of homework. This week especially, since I will soon be returning home to Boston, I decided to visit all the different cafés in Huntingdon. Standing Stone, a popular spot, definitely has the best sandwiches and board games, which is a win-win for me! Stone Town Gallery, a café and art gallery, has the best scones and most interesting decor, and so much fun artwork and jewelry to look at and wish for! Wildflower Café, which I actually only visited for the first time today, has the sweetest staff, huge tables to do work, and deliciously strong coffee. When I first came to Juniata I was very hesitant about the small town and the limited number of places to eat, but I have fallen in love with the sweet shops throughout the town.

Coffee from Standing Stone

Coffee from Standing Stone

Visiting the Jail

When I tell people my college is near a prison, most people are shocked, or scared or confused. I had similar reactions when I first learned that too, but now it seems totally normal to me. Especially due to the fact that earlier this year I got to go inside the prison and talk to some of the prisoners. Last semester I took an Introduction to Criminal Justice course that included an opportunity to attend The Day of Responsibility over at SCI Huntingdon. A few of my classmates, my professor and I spent one day inside the prison, listening to different speakers talk about the effects of crime in communities, and even got to speak to different prisoners who have been sentenced to life imprisonment. I was very surprised at how intelligent many of the prisoners were, and how funny, charismatic, and normal they were. The Day of Responsibility definitely challenged and changed some of my views on the criminal justice system, and I was incredibly lucky to have been a part of it.

Personal With Professors

One thing I wanted from college was a strong relationship with my professors. I have learned after this year that Juniata is the best place for that. All of my classes are small (my smallest class is six people), which really gives me the chance to develop a relationship with my professors. I often send an email to one of my professors, with a link to a video I found interesting and thought they might enjoy. I am never afraid to just pop into a professor’s office to say hi, or to ask a question about an assignment, or anything like that. Even if I am struggling with something, my professors have always been there for me, and willing to help in whatever way they can. I really do feel understood and cared for by my professors here at Juniata, which is an incredible feeling.

Warm Weather = Fun on the Quad

As the weather begins to warm up, more and more people have started doing work outside on the quad, which makes me so happy! I always envisioned college to be people leaning against trees, reading books and listening to music while others play frisbee or volleyball nearby. Luckily, that is exactly what I got at Juniata. I’ve been taking my homework outside, and bringing a snack and a blanket in case the weather gets a little chilly, and just finding a spot in the grass to work for a few hours. It’s always relaxing to work in the sunshine, and sometimes (more often than not) someone I know will walk by and sit with me for a while. I’ve even brought my guitar out and took jam session breaks in between studying. I love warm weather, and I love the atmosphere and energy of working outside with others.

There is so much more that happened this year than I can fit in one post, but I tried to capture some of the best things about going to school at Juniata. Although Juniata is a small school and far from home, I couldn’t be happier with my decision to attend.

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