Acting Like She Means It – Honors Student Balances School and a Theatre Career


Samantha McHenry performs on stage
Samantha McHenry is a bubbly brunette with a vibrant personality from Friendswood, Texas, wrapping up her final year at TCU. In between classes, homework, and finding time to hang out with friends, she works on finishing her departmental honors project. So, what sets her apart from the “average Honors college student?” She also happens to be a professional, card-carrying member of the Actor’s Equity Association (AEA), a distinction that designates her a professional stage actress.

Her most recent professional endeavor – a starring role in Daddy Long Legs at the Majestic Theatre in Dallas in January – earned her rave accolades in industry publications, including The Column and Broadway World Review. The two-person show was McHenry’s first as an AEA member and had her performing 21 songs and 85 pages of dialogue. It has been her favorite professional experience to date, though she notes her experience as a member of a traveling ensemble for a two-month tour of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – where she was the youngest cast member – as another highlight.

Samantha McHenry performing as an elf.

Even when she’s away from TCU, McHenry can still gather data for her departmental honors project, which focuses on what it’s like to maintain a balance between being a full-time student and pursuing a professional theatre career. For instance, when she was touring for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, she gathered insights and analysis on her castmates’ behavior and the relationships that developed. “It was surprising how little privacy we really had – either on the bus or in the dressing room or in hotel rooms,” she said, when reflecting on how touring conditions had a psychological impact on the ensemble.

Honors has also helped McHenry maintain a balance in other ways. She cites her experience in Dr. Wendy Williams’ class on College Life & Identity as one of the highlights of her honors experience and as a great exercise in perspective. “[The course] was all about taking control of your life in your 20s to work on developing a worldview and career aspirations,” she reflected. McHenry enjoyed broadening her perspective on others’ life experiences throughout the course and found the subject matter relevant to her experience balancing a career and school.

Balancing a professional career and her status as a college student has taught McHenry a lot about time management and organization. The biggest things she’s learned? “Take every opportunity presented to you but also know when to say no and know your limitations,” she said, and added, “but don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone.” After graduation, McHenry plans to relocate to New York City with big Broadway aspirations – she’d love to be a part of the musical adaptation of Frozen or Waitress.

Originally published 4/17/2014, John V. Roach Honors College.