Musical theater students take their talents to the next stage

Ava Razavi

For many, college applications consist of writing a plethora of essays, scheduling dry interviews and filling out activity lists. However, a select few take a different route. Students who are applying to college for musical theater engage in a unique application process; from singing to dancing to acting, applicants work to showcase their talents through minute-long videos and bars of music. Applicants send prescreens, which are videos of themselves singing and dancing in various musical styles, such as classical, contemporary, broadway and more, in order to showcase their talents. If colleges are interested in accepting the students then they are called back to do a live audition on Zoom or in person. 

In her element, Ellie Lauter smiles during a show with her co-performer. (Photo courtesy of Ellie Lauter)

Many who engage in this application process believe that their art has an immeasurable influence on their life. Senior and musical theater applicant, Maisie McPeek, accredits musical theater to building her confidence and stepping into her true identity. 

“[Musical theater] has always been an emotional outlet for me and somewhere where I could channel any negative emotions I was feeling. You get to become someone else for a bit and transform yourself,” McPeak said. “It was the first thing that I could relate to my self-confidence. I liked that I was really good at [musical theater] so it helped develop self-love.” 

A fellow senior and aspiring musical theater major, Ellie Lauter, discovered her love for musical theater by seeing a musical in action. 

“I saw Matilda the Musical when I was really young in London, and it was kind of weird because there’s a part where they throw paper planes into the audience and [one fell on me and] it said my name ‘Ellie’ on it. I was like ‘Oh my gosh, this is a sign,’ and decided I wanted to do musical theater,” Lauter said. 

Although many follow their passions during high school, few carry them out to college. College and Career Specialist, Becky Bjursten claims that because of the rarity of students applying to college for performing arts, those applying for arts strongly identify with their medium. 

“[College] is very individual, but I think a student who chooses the [artistic] route really knows that [their art] is at the core of who they are and is something important to them,” Bjursten said.

Hoping to further her passion for musical theater, Masie McPeek auditions for competitive shows to challenge herself. (Photo courtesy of Maisie McPeek)

Regardless of the different ways in which McPeek and Lauter fell in love with musical theater, they both felt that they wanted to pursue their art medium professionally once they recognized their talents. 

  “I would love to do it as a profession … It’s fun and something that I’m good at. [I] would regret it if I didn’t try to pursue it,” Lauter said. “I’ve done [musical theater] for so long that I don’t want to stop now. I want to keep going and take it to the next level.”

However, the process is extremely thorough and can be difficult at times. As a result, McPeek tries to keep an open mind about criticism and advises students only to apply if they are sure of their intentions.

“If a program doesn’t want you, it’s not a ding to your talent … There’s just someone else that’s doing the same thing as you and they liked it better. Try not to compare yourself to others,” McPeek said. “If you are not 100 percent sure that this is what you want to do, don’t do it. It’s a lot of work for someone [who is on the fence].” 

Bjursten recommends that students who are unsure about the commitment attend colleges that integrate art into their college life in the form of extracurriculars.

Having performed in shows since grade school, Ellie Lauter is hoping to pursue musical theater as a profession. (Photo courtesy of Ellie Lauter)

Having performed in shows since grade school, Ellie Lauter is hoping to pursue musical theater as a profession.
(Photo courtesy of Ellie Lauter)

“I think that there are a lot of levels of how to explore performing arts in college,” Bjursten said. “Whether it’s clubs or singing groups or drama, sometimes you don’t have to be a part of the actual major program to do [performing arts]. There are a lot of different variations. If [majoring] is too strong of a focus, there are still other avenues to do it.”

Despite knowing that she can still fulfill her passion for musical theater through extracurriculars, Lauter is sure of her path. Pursuing musical theater is a dream for Lauter, and she is looking forward to her future being surrounded by like-minded people. 

“It sounds so exciting to major in what I love to do because it’s obviously something I have had to put on the side with Redwood’s academic program. So it’s exciting to have musical theater as my main focus and be surrounded by a bunch of theater kids,” Lauter said.