December 6, 2016

Crowd-funding the road to stardom


Video by: Daniel Carcione

For the last 10 years, the seniors of the Conservatory of Theatre Arts have traveled to Los Angeles to attend a showcase. Musical theatre major Ari Axelrod said the event is a huge opportunity for these performers.

At showcases, students are able to perform for professional designers, directors, agents and casting directors. In addition, agents are able to interact with the performers and get to know them.

The students have two showcases this spring, the Los Angeles showcase and another in New York. Webster University includes the Conservatory’s New York showcase in their tuition, but not the one in Los Angeles.

The New York showcase is March 8 and while the exact date for the one in Los Angeles has not been announced, it is set for May.

In years past, students have held bake sales, trivia nights, car washes and other means of fundraising.

This year, in addition to these, they used online crowd-funding in the form of GoFundMe.

GoFundMe is a website in which people are able to receive direct donations through the website. On the website, people are able to set up a profile where they display their cause, pictures and videos.

In total, all GoFundMe accounts on the website have raised more than 1 billion dollars, according to the GoFundMe website.

The students shared their pages on Facebook in order to reach out to their friends and families. Senior musical theatre major C.c. Wells was able to reach more than $3,000 in ten days through her GoFundMe page.

“I think I pulled so much so quickly because just over break, I was able to do a show in front of a lot of my community members back home in Colorado,” Wells said. “So I kind of already did a publicity stunt in a sense. I think that’s how I got so much so quick, because people just saw me perform.”

Classes in the past sent out solicitation letters, but in this electronic age donating can be done online. Pages vary on how much the student is trying to raise, but overall, each of the 22 Conservatory students need to raise $1,500 each. Axelrod said he is trying to raise $2,000.

“That would pay my way in addition to covering food and expenses that might come up while I’m in LA,” Axelrod said. “$1,500 should be enough but in case other people don’t meet their requirement, I have a $500 safety net to help others.”

The $1,500 minimum per student would include airfare, hotel costs and the cost of the 14 agents that will attend. The agents attending the showcase are paid by the students to go to the showcase.

The location of where they would stay was also a big deal to them. They needed a hotel that was nice enough to where if a casting agent asks to have a meeting with the performer, the student is able to bring them to the hotel lobby and be professional.

“We want to invest in ourselves and show people we are professionals and we mean business,” musical theatre major Jeannie Moffitt said. “That comes at a certain cost.”

Although the students will fly out to LA on the same day, the students are not all coming back on the same day. Students may opt to stay a few days longer for callbacks and additional meetings with the agents.

Wells said alumni from the Conservatory have had success from these showcases and have booked shows immediately after graduation, such as Michael Williams, who got the role of David Shayne in the musical Bullets over Broadway.

“I just want myself to be seen, that’s probably my biggest goal,” Moffitt said. “[I want to] show all the casting agencies and directors who I am as a person and sell my personal business.”

The senior class hopes to reach their goal of $33,000 as a class by the beginning of April in order to get their plans set.

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