Eight seniors in Northwestern State University’s Theatre and Dance program participated in the program’s first senior showcase in New York City during the university’s spring break.
Northwestern State students Chase Miller of West Monroe, Taylor Smith of Leesville, Jesse Kortus of Shreveport, Annie Dauzat of Watson, Luke Matherne of Monroe, Michael Carrier of Lafayette, Jessi Miller of Mansfield and Marissa McMickens of Pineville were accompanied by Dr. Corey Trahan, director of Northwestern State’s musical theatre concentration, and Professor of Theatre Dr. Vicki Parrish. The students took part in a showcase performance for industry professionals and received six workshops from working professionals.
The group met with NSU alumni Donald Jones Jr., a member of the cast of the Broadway show Aladdin and Bruston Manuel, chief operating officer of RWS Entertainment, J. Casey Barrett, a member of the cast of The Book or Mormon and choreographer Ford Haeuser.
“The experience was surreal,” said Smith. “I’ve always had expectations of what New York City was like, and I’ve always known that’s the place I would call home one day, but this week solidified that dream for me and gave me a lot of useful insight into the business there.”
According to Dr. Corey Trahan, director of NSU’s musical theatre concentration and an assistant professor of theatre, senior showcases have become standard at colleges and universities around the country.
“Our students have been asking about a senior showcase, so we began researching options,” said Trahan.
Trahan was able to establish a relationship with the New York City-based Actor’s Connection, an organization that provides ongoing training for singers/actors/dancers, and presents university seniors in showcases throughout the year.
The eight students were selected after auditions for Bruce Earnest, producing artistic director of the International Performing Arts Institute and associate dean of the University of Mobile, and Trahan held on the NSU campus last fall. Seniors were chosen based on career potential, strength of their singing/acting/dancing skills and their interest in pursuing a professional performance career.
The showcase was supported with a $7,500 grant from the university’s Organizational Relief Fund. Seniors organized bake sales throughout the year to raise funds.
Trahan said six students were contacted by agents who were interested in professionally representing them in the industry. The agents specialized in managing performers for musical theatre productions, commercials, voice over work, film and entertainment ventures. One student is being considered for the national tour of Motown.
“While I may not want to sign with an agency immediately, knowing that two were willing to take a chance on me boosted my confidence and let me know that I am, in fact, ready to make the big move in the fall after I finish my summer contract,” said Smith.
Smith said one major thing he took away from the showcase was the advice he received from NSU alumni that affirmed his belief in how to approach his career.
“While the career we choose is about making those important connections with people, I can find comfort in knowing that the biggest part of casting is working with good people so that each day of work feels less like work and more like an impact,” said Smith. “That seemed to be the overall goal of casting in the city and a solid through line of advice. Be a good person and you’ll do fine. And that’s the career I want to be a part of.”
Trahan believes the showcase enhanced the reputation of Northwestern State’s theatre and dance program.
“The Actor’s Connection and many of the New York City agents were impressed with the level of performance shown by the NSU performers,” said Trahan. “I hope to make this an annual event to assist the students with their transition from academia to the professional world.”