BWW Blog: Stick With It - My Experience as a College Theatre Major
Hello, BroadwayWorld! My name is Holden Childress, and I am an incoming junior Musical Theatre major at the University of Central Missouri. I am thrilled to be taking part in BroadwayWorld's student blogger program!
I'd like to take my first post to talk to any incoming college freshmen or high school seniors that are interested in pursuing theatre in college. If you're anything like I was during my senior year, you've probably grown comfortable with performing on a stage in your hometown, and the thought of going to college is overwhelming. And while it might be at first, it certainly doesn't stay that way for long. I'd like to tell you about my experience as a theatre major at a community college, and the opportunities it has brought me that have helped me grow as both a performer and a person.
It was my senior year of high school, and while my classmates were looking at colleges and submitting their applications, I was still cowering at the thought of moving forward. With four years of high school theatre experience (not including the years I spent helping out in middle school) under my belt, I still had no idea if pursuing a career in theatre was what I wanted to do. I didn't have many other options; I was in marching band and choir, but beyond that... not much.
In January 2018, just three months shy of graduation, I had yet to even apply to college. By that point I had decided that I wanted to focus on getting my general education credits out of the way, then decide later on whether or not I still wanted to do theatre. But the more I thought about it, I knew that I would just get bored. Like they say in The Shining: "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy".
This "dull boy" was not ready to work without also getting to play.
I decided to apply to State Fair Community College in Sedalia, Missouri. Their theatre program is considered one of the best community college theatre programs in the country, so I thought, "Sure, why not?" It was fairly close to home, and Sedalia itself isn't a very big city. I felt like it would be a pretty comfortable place to start. I submitted my application, filled out some audition forms, and a few weeks later I was standing onstage in front of SFCC theatre program coordinator Eric Yazell and technical director Tim Wells.
Graduation and summer vacation went by fast, and in August I started attending SFCC on a theatre scholarship. Unsurprisingly, I was terrified. Months before, I was scared of even applying to college, and now I was actually there and it was extremely overwhelming. Crippling anxiety, daily calls home, feeling like I wouldn't last an entire school year before I had to move back home. I experienced all of that and more, just in the first week.
But as my theatre classes continued and auditions came to pass, I got to know some pretty cool weirdos (if you're reading this, you know who you are), and before I knew it, I had a tight-knit group of friends, and we started putting on some pretty incredible shows together. My freshman year started out with a bloody production of Dracula and ended with the fan-favorite musical Be More Chill, in which I played Michael. You know, the guy in the bathroom? It was an incredible year, full of ups and downs, but also full of tremendous growth.
Sophomore year was even crazier, but it was crazy in a good way. I got to perform in the lead role in a show for the first time, and our production of Be More Chill was selected to be performed at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) in Sioux Falls, SD. With very few rehearsals to get the show ready and several new cast members added to the mix, we successfully revived the show and performed at the Washington Pavilion in downtown Sioux Falls to a crowd of nearly 1,500 people. As someone who went from performing on a tiny high school stage in a redneck town, that was a massive deal.
Not to mention that they tasked me with performing the show's biggest number in front of all of those people. That definitely wasn't nerve wracking at all.
So, let this be a message to both my older self and anyone else who feels the same way that I did back then. If you're passionate about something, stick with it. Whether it be music, theatre, or art, stick with it. Even if it feels overwhelming, stick with it. I can assure you that if you do, you will not regret it. There are so many amazing things waiting for you in college.
But don't just take my word for it. Get out there and see it for yourself.