A total of 17 local students were given the opportunity of a lifetime when they traveled in March to New York City for a Broadway student summit.
Initiated by the Actors’ Attic in Columbia, the four-day trip involved students from Gibault, Columbia and Valmeyer high schools. The summit spanned two days while the rest of the trip involved excursions in the city.
MaryBeth Babcock, director of the Actors’ Attic, served as trip chaperone and said students learned from a number of Broadway professionals. Students attended a total of six different workshops led by these professionals.
“Students in the Midwest very rarely have access to people who are currently working in the entertainment industry,” she explained.
Gibault student Isabella Garcia said the professionals provided helpful insights into the world of acting. Finishing out her senior year, Garcia will be attending the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Los Angeles for a degree in acting.
“It was really similar in structure to the acting camp I went to over the summer. They taught a lot of similar ideas liking being in the moment and speaking in a way that is true to your character,” she shared.
Of the different workshops, Valmeyer High School student Maddie Roever said she enjoyed learning new steps in the dance class taught by “Hamilton” cast member Brandon Hudson, a native of Pekin.
“It was fun. The class was less about dancing and more about the path to coming from nowhere and working hard to have a really successful career,” she said. “That made me feel special because he’s from around the area, and it’s like, ‘I can do that, too.’”
Columbia High School student Kaytie Schmidt noted the dance class taught her the challenges of going into an audition.
“He went through the moves once and told us we had to pick it up on our own after that. I liked that because it’s how the world works,” she said.
Schmidt added that every workshop seemed well-organized and useful to her pursuits. Though she would like to stick to education for her career, the junior said she may minor in theater.
Roever will attend Illinois Wesleyan University next fall for theatre arts and enjoyed seeing the play “Dear Evan Hansen” as part of the summit.
The play centers around a high school student with social anxiety who writes a letter to himself that is later stolen by a classmate who bullies him.
The bully kills himself after reading the letter and Evan lies about the events leading up to the bully’s death to bring him closer to the bully’s family.
“It was awesome. Everyone was crying throughout the show,” Roever said.
She and several other students attended other plays outside of the summit, including “Kinky Boots” starring actor Wayne Brady.
In a surprise twist, Babcock, who through her career had become close friends with Brady, texted the Hollywood star to see if he could meet with the students following the show. Brady obliged and even answered questions from some of the students.
“He gave honest answers. He kind of just set us straight,” Schmidt said. “There are things you think about being a Broadway star that aren’t true.”
Outside of meeting celebrities and learning about the entertainment industry, the students enjoyed attractions such as Times Square, sampled different New York foods and experienced the culture of the Big Apple. Some of the students are even planning a return trip.
“New York is one of those places where you go and see something you like. Then you go again and it’s a totally different experience,” Schmidt said.