Contributed by Julie Bonk
Mackie Saylor eats macaroni and cheese in The Repertory Theatre lobby. She just came from a class and is going to her yoga class next. She squeezes in statements between bites of pasta from a Tupperware dish, while other students stroll outside the windows of the Loretto-Hilton center.
Saylor is a senior musical theater major and the senior Conservatory class president, which puts her in charge of fundraising for the senior class. Her position includes helping raise funds for the class trips that are skill exhibitions — the Showcases.
The improved showcase
Two different showcases happen each spring, one in New York City, the other in Los Angeles. All senior Conservatory students attend New York City trip, while only performance students go to LA. The New York City trip expenses are factored into the students’ tuition, the LA trip is not.
For technical students, the showcase is similar to a gallery. Students get an allotted space and can set up pictures of their work and drawings of designs. Performance majors perform scenes, songs and monologues. The semester before the showcase, seniors meet weekly in a special showcase class to shape their performances.
Changes to this year’s LA trip intend to bring more exposure and opportunities for the students. The new model will give students time to work directly with agents. While the official schedule has yet to be released, Saylor said she expects students to spend three to four days working with agents in one-on-one and group settings.The changes target structural differences between the different cities. Saylor said the LA showcase engages the film and television industry.
“By the time we go, all the pilots have been cast,” Saylor said about the May LA showcase. “It hasn’t been as successful for agent interest. Not because of the talent, but because of the city. It’s not a showcase town.”
The film department at Webster gives performance majors an opportunity to build a “reel” — a portfolio of clips from student films — before they head out to LA. Students like Meagan Stevenson, a senior acting major, already have experience with student films.
“Luckily I’ve gotten to be in some student films.” Stevenson said. “You can take cuts, clips and put together a reel.”
By the time seniors graduate, they are required to create a web page where they can post headshots and reels for agents to view.
The goal of the LA trip is to have students build connections with industry professionals. The trip’s expenses grew accordingly. The goal is for each student to help raise $1,000. Altogether, that means the senior class needs to raise about $17-18,000. The expenses do not faze Saylor.
“It seems to be the best bang for your buck,” Saylor said. “Every year, every class thinks it’s a lot of money, but every year, they do everything they can and band together. It always works out.”
While the LA trip is only for performance majors, technical students can still help with the fundraising process. The skills of technical students can be crucial for performance students to efficiently exhibit their craft.
Senior technical director major Stefan Azizi will attend the New York City trip, but not the LA trip. Technical students spend their conservatory experience growing along with performance students. Their skill sets compliment performance students’ and can be necessary for a proper exhibition.
“Sometimes if they need help with lighting, maybe they’ll ask (a technical student) to do the lighting for it,” Azizi said.
The Conservatory hosted its annual trivia night on Jan. 18. A silent auction, a raffle and entertainment accompanied the trivia feature. Alumni hosts Ben Nordstrom and Shanara Gabrielle entertained guests while reading the questions and sang through the lyric round.
Saylor said the event usually brings in a large percentage of the needed fundraising money. This year the trivia night brought in more than $3,000 of the needed $18,000.
One past event was a “Princess Party” open to the community. For $20, parents could bring their children to spend time with Conservatory students dressed as princesses. The children received treats and could dress as princesses themselves.
“We try to use the skills we have,” Saylor said.
Other fundraisers include After Performance Recitals (APRs) and apparel sold at Conservatory productions. APRs, held after shows, give the performance majors opportunities to perform and raise donations by singing, dancing or both.
Additionally, Saylor hopes to soon launch a donations page online.
“We work for three and a half years preparing for our breakout into the business,” Saylor said. “We’re fortunate to go to a school where we have opportunities in New York and LA.”