A cherished tradition since 2014, Theatre TCU’s annual Senior Showcase is an important part of the department’s professional preparation for acting and musical theatre students. In a typical year, seniors and their faculty members travel over Spring Break to New York City, the home of Broadway, to perform for casting directors and talent agents with the hopes of securing auditions and representation upon graduation.
This year, however, in yet another example of TCU fine arts students adapting to pursue their passions, Theatre TCU seniors had to shift gears due to the ongoing pandemic. With TCU’s public health initiative to protect the health and well-being of the community, students and faculty were unable to make the trip to New York City.
“We spend three years preparing for the moment when we travel to the city of our dreams together, so to be told we wouldn’t get that opportunity after all that hard work was disheartening,” said musical theatre major Brett Rawlings. “Thankfully our class is prepared for anything! As theatre artists, we will work as hard as we need to in order to see our dreams come true.”
Rawlings is among the class of twenty-one seniors who banded together to raise funds this academic year through TCU’s Frog Funding platform and a student-organized virtual Christmas cabaret. More than $5,700 was raised to help the class rent audio/video equipment and hire a videographer to record and edit their performances into a virtual Senior Showcase shared via email with industry professionals earlier this month.
Penny Maas, associate professor of theatre, who created and leads the course that prepares students for the Senior Showcase along with Alan Shorter, professor and associate chair, said that many adjustments had to be made for the virtual format.
“We usually structure the live showcase like a show with transitions and pieces flowing into each other, but with video we couldn’t do that,” said Maas. “We don’t have a big opening number or closing number like we have had before. This year, students have a very brief video clip where they introduce themselves and then perform their material — a slate — which we don’t usually do when it is a live show.”
Despite shifting from a live to a prerecorded performance, students like musical theatre major Annabelle Woodard say it was a positive experience for growth.
“The pre-recorded performance made me put in more time in the practice rooms and dance studio leading up to our filming date,” said Woodard. “With a live performance, you do it, and it’s done. With the recording element, this performance had to be even more top notch since we only had [a few] takes to record our best.”
Maas said she is proud of the “tenacity” shown by her students because this experience is crucial for their future.
“The Senior Showcase is a big stepping stone for students between academia and the professional world,” said Maas. “It introduces them to the ‘industry’ and helps them make contacts with casting directors and agents, [which is] very hard to do by yourself. The showcase makes the next step possible.”
Typically, students receive feedback or responses from agents in attendance immediately after their performances; however, they had to wait at least a few days to hear back due to the virtual format. Notably, there were 13 requests for immediate callbacks and several requests for students to contact an agent after graduation – a positive sign of things to come for this year’s class after a different than expected senior year.