Get To Know The Blogger: Jeilianne Vazquez

Jeilianne Vazquez
Sophomore BA Theatre major

Hello GTA blog readers! I’m Jeilianne Vazquez, and as of today, May 7th, 2021, I am 20 years old. I have learned a lot these past 20 years while also knowing nothing at all.

Humor aside, this semester has had its up and downs for me. However, one of the great ups has been able to post blogs for you to read. I never saw myself as a “blogger.” I honestly didn’t think I’d be up for the task. I am grateful to Keri (GTA Marketing Manager) for giving me this amazing position on the GTA Marketing Team. Thank you.

Today’s blog will be all about me. It is my birthday, after all. This is a “get to know the blogger” kind of post.

Baby Jeilianne

I was born in Buffalo, New York. I am the firstborn child to my parents and this firstborn grandchild to all four grandparents, so I was a pretty big deal. I was then blessed with two younger brothers. I have a lot of memories of Buffalo. Mostly good ones. I remember the only painful memory when my parents told us we were moving to Gainesville, GA. Aside from leaving my grandparents, aunts, and uncles, I was most hurt by my parents needing to give away our pet Guinea Pig (R.I.P. Scooter).

Gainesville, GA, was actually the best decision for my family. We soon set into a routine. My father got an agent and was a part-time actor and full-time educator. He began teaching acting classes on weekends at an academy for K-12. Because he was a teacher, his kids could get courses for free. Wanting my brother and me to be more social and involved, he took us to his acting class and several others. I was not happy about it. In school, I had dreams of becoming a veterinarian. I loved animals, so that career choice made sense at the time. I did not want to go. After a few weeks, I began to open up more. I made some friends and was really starting to enjoy the classes. I even loved improv (yes, I love improv)! Soon, plays were being put out and even short films. This all sparked something in me, and I knew I wanted to be an actress.

My 10-minute play “Sex Eyes,” directed by the amazing Michael Dotson!

While I loved acting, I loved my dance classes and singing. I wanted to do all three. That’s when I learned about musical theatre. The incredible discovery was shut down when I realized I didn’t seem to fit in that world. I didn’t see anyone who looked like me. So why even bother, right?

A few months later, my grandmother bought tickets to see a musical and invited my brother and me to go. I remember walking into the building and immediately falling in love with the atmosphere. We walked into the theater, sat in our seats, the lights dimmed, and I heard these lyrics.

“Lights up in Washington Heights…”

I was in awe. The songs, the dance, the characters were all familiar to me. I was in love with the show. It was then I knew I wanted to pursue theatre once again. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized that theater was the Hosch building, and the production of In The Heights was a Gainesville Theatre Alliance show. It all comes back full circle.

Me and the Legally Blonde Run Crew fam

That’s just a snippet of my story, but thank you for reading. I look forward to doing more blog posts. I am so grateful for my experiences so far in GTA.

I am approaching my junior year, and I am so excited for what this year has in store for us. See you in the fall, and be blessed!

Finals Week Survival Tips

Finals week is approaching. Freshman are taking all their notes, and seniors are prepping for the last exams and presentations they ever have to do. It’s a stressful time, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t always stress well. I know many students can relate. We try to avoid our stress and sweep it under the rug. We tell everyone, “It’s fine, I’m prepared,” but we are dying inside. Let’s make finals week a little brighter this year! Read on for some tips to help us get through.

Make a To-Do List

Make a list and write down everything. Making a list can help reduce stress. It puts things in perspective. The best way to get things organized is to write down everything you need to do—studying, doing laundry, groceries, getting some sleep, etc. It’s simple but makes all the difference. Trust me, you will feel a sense of accomplishment when you start checking things off.

Daily Agendas

Set aside time in your day to concentrate on each subject that needs to be done. It is crucial to set aside the correct amount of time for studying. You can do this on the super cute agenda you got from Target or on your phone!

Avoid Stressful People

Stress is contagious. While we are approaching finals week, fight the urge to have a study session with your tense friend, especially if they are complaining about all the work they have to do. If you’re in a tense environment at home, go to the library, park, or anywhere where you can relax and focus. I know you might feel the need to study with friends but let’s be honest, you might end up talking the whole time and get very little studying done (been there, done that!).

Take Care of Your Body

Eating healthy seems simple enough, but many people forget it. Skip the sugar and go for snacks like fruits, veggies, and granola bars. If you’re studying for an extended period, eat some protein too. Sugary food won’t do you any good. Making sure you are eating foods that are good for your body and soul. I’m not saying don’t treat yourself every so often, but don’t rely on the sweets for your energy. Also, take a walk outside and get some fresh air and clear your head.

Take Breaks

For every hour that you work, take a 10 or 15-minute break. Let yourself do whatever you want. This gives your brain some rest and will help keep you be more focused. Watch some TV, color, or call a friend! My personal favorite is a dance party. I play all my favorite music and dance out the stress! (I recommend Taylor Swift’s new album!!)

Visualize

Imagine yourself taking the test or presenting your project and feeling confident that you know everything you have to know. Picture getting all of the answers correct, and focus on how relaxed you feel. When you have good thoughts, only good can come from it. Being negative and doubting yourself will only make it worse. It’s time to get yourself into confidence mode. Do whatever works to convince yourself you are going to do well. Get there mentally and keep yourself there!

You’ve prepared as much as you could, and now it’s time to kill it! May is around the corner, and that means summer. If you need any help, reach out to a professor or a fellow student. You got this, GTA!

Meet BFA Theatre Design & Technology Major Clara Woodfield

BFA Design & Technology major Clara Woodfield

Clara Woodfield is a Brenau University junior BFA Theatre Design & Technology major with a focus in Costumes Technology. When Clara first enrolled here in GTA, they started as an acting major, but now Clara has found a passion for technical design and costuming. Clara shares about their transition from acting to costumes and what inspires them today.

What are you working on currently?

Clara: In the shop, I’m working on repairs. I finished a sculpted mask for The Tempest a few weeks ago and I’m working on a corset as a personal project.

What or who motivates you?

Clara: My siblings in Alpha Gamma Delta have been SO supportive of everything I do. When I wasn’t sure if I wanted to change my major, they were there to help me. They hype me up when I’m about to run a show and help me work through road bumps in my costumes, and I just really want to make them proud.

What inspires you and your work?

A quilted vest built by Clara

Clara: It’s few and far between, but when I design I’m really inspired by nature. I love taking pictures of nature, whether it’s a forest or the sky or a snowfall or a sunset and using them as inspiration for a costume. I also find myself inspired by my fellow costumers. Their work is ridiculously impressive, and they inspire me to strive to be the best I can be.

Other than costumes, what other side of technical theatre do you love?

Clara: Lighting! My favorite thing in shows are when the lights perfectly convey the tone of the scene and enhance the story. I get so excited when there’s creative lighting in shows.

Any advice on building up a portfolio?

Clara designed and crafted this headpiece called Megoosa

Clara: TAKE PROGRESS SHOTS! Take pictures of every step of the way, it’s good to show how hard the build was because it’s not always obvious at first. Get creative. If you craft in your spare time and you make something you’re really proud of and could see it being relevant, put it in. I make flower crowns as a hobby and I have a whole section of my portfolio just on those.

The photo to the left is a creation of Clara’s called Megoosa. The headpiece is based on art by Teal Sather, that drew inspiration from the popular indie game, Untitled Goose Game. Each head has its own personality and is fully poseable. The bread is also removable.

What led you to switch from a BA in Theatre to a BFA in Design/Tech focusing in costumes?

Clara: My freshman year, I just really found my home in the costume shop. That’s one of the beauties of practicum. Don’t get me wrong, I still love acting, but I love costuming just as much if not more. I love watching flat fabric turn into beautiful costumes and the pride I get seeing them on stage, being performed in, is unparalleled. Aimee Johnson, GTA’s costume shop supervisor, encouraged me to pursue costuming as my degree because she saw something in me, and I’m so glad I’m here now. I found myself wanting to take more costume classes and fewer acting classes as the semesters went on, and switching my major allowed me to focus more on costumes.

What advice would you give to high school seniors or college students who want to make the transition but are unsure?

Clara: Don’t be afraid of change. I struggled with making the choice for a year and a half because I just refused to “give up” on acting. I still get opportunities to act, and if you find yourself feeling more at home in the shop and backstage, or you love challenging yourself with costumes, then talk to some of the costumers and the teachers! They will coach you through it and make sure whatever choice you make is good for you. BA degrees allow for more exploration than a BFA, so don’t be afraid to add a few costuming classes to your schedule!

The coronavirus has definitely changed our everyday lives. How has your experience been with hybrid classes?

Clara: It’s definitely challenging. I’m in person in the costume shop but two of my other costume classes are online and we meet through zoom. It’s difficult for my Theatrical Makeup class specifically because it’s not always apparent what my makeup actually looks like in my little zoom square. I think we’re all doing the best we can given the circumstances, and I’m still learning a lot!

What is your favorite part about GTA shows?

Clara built this design for GTA’s 2019 production of Legally Blonde: The Musical

Clara: Backstage, I love the quick changes! I love a challenge, and quick changes are a true demonstration of just how in sync technicians and actors have to be. While it’s sometimes frustrating learning it and getting the timing right, the rush of adrenaline and pure joy you feel the first time you get it right and the actor gets changed and out on stage in twenty seconds flat? Wouldn’t trade it for the world. From an audience point of view, I love seeing all the technical elements come together and enhance the already fantastic story the actors are telling.

Why should aspiring theatre students choose GTA?

Clara: We’re a collaboration between two schools, so there are already more opportunities, and we hire professionals to come in to work on shows! It’s great for networking and it gives such insight to how it works out in the real world. My portfolio is already so full with pieces I’ve made and the opportunities here are endless. I’ve also found lifelong friends in the program, and I’m so excited to see where they go!

Meet Spring Rep Cast Members Sarah Kay, Ariana Long, and Justin Williams

Spring is in the air and the excitement is growing for our upcoming Spring Rep productions Songs of a New World and The Tempest! This semester has been hectic for students, especially seniors. However, theatre has the power to reignite! Theatre is not dead—it’s just intermission.

Sophomore BFA Musical Theatre major Sarah Kay (Navigator, Songs for a New World), sophomore BA Theatre major and Education minor Ariana Long (Alonsa, The Tempest), and sophomore BA Theatre major Justin Williams (Stephano, The Tempest) share their experience with the rehearsal process and what they hope the audience takes away from each show.

BFA Musical Theatre sophomore Sarah Kay

BA Theatre sophomore
Ariana Long

BA Theatre sophomore
Justin Williams

Tell us about the role you are playing!

Sarah: I am Woman 2 in Songs For A New World. She’s the realist of the group of navigators, so she always tells you like it is.

Ariana: I am working on The Tempest! I love bringing Alonsa, the Queen of Naples, to life! She’s very regal and a little sassy. Overall, though, she truly has a big heart, and she loves her son and her country.

Justin: I am currently working on Shakespeare’s The Tempest! My character, Stephano, is a drunken clown who wanders the island after being washed ashore after a devastating storm. With nothing but a bottle of wine and sea shanties to keep him company, he discovers a fish-creature named Caliban. He is reunited with his best friend, Trinculo, who is the Queen of Naples’ jester. Stephano is the king of the misfits! Now with this trio of drunkards on the island, chaos ensues.

Is the rehearsal process different than it was pre-COVID?

Sarah: This is my first show at GTA that hasn’t been shut down by COVID, so my knowledge of the rehearsal process is somewhat skewed, but I see my directors working so hard to jump through the hoops of COVID guidelines for the sake of a good show.

Ariana: I’ve never actually performed in a GTA show pre-covid, but from my experience as the child wrangler for The Bra and Panty Club in February 2020, it seems very similar. Of course, we are wearing masks and social distancing, but other than that, rehearsal for this show feels like every other show! Even with social distancing, the bond between our cast is very strong.

Justin: As an actor, you have to be resilient and flexible. This rehearsal process has tested me on both of those attributes! We started rehearsal in mid-February, so COVID guidelines were still very strict. Blocking, for example, started off very far apart. As new guidelines came out and more people became vaccinated, we adjusted accordingly. Along with three-quarter character masks, the costume department has created custom protection shields to cover the other quarter of our faces! It is very challenging, but the cast and crew of The Tempest prioritize safety… and then clown bits. But mostly safety!

Do you feel less stressed about the performance knowing there won’t be a live audience?

Sarah: I feel very safe knowing there won’t be a live audience. Even though I miss live theatre dearly, the health of performers and patrons should always be at the forefront.

Ariana: No! if anything, I feel more stressed. One of my favorite things about theatre is forming a connection with the live audience. I’m still confident that the show is going to be great though, with or without a live audience!

Justin: Au contraire! I am actually more stressed about the performance. Shakespeare’s work thrives on audience interaction and delivering asides to the crowd. Instead of a group of family and friends, we will be performing to five cameras! Usually theatre is done and then it disappears forever, so it is pretty rewarding to know our performance will be captured forever. However, it is somewhat strange to be delivering jokes to deafening silence with or without an audience.

The coronavirus has changed our world and daily lives. How has it affected you as a performer, and do you think these are long-term changes?

Sarah: COVID has made it so much more difficult to be a performer, with less in-person classes, less workshops and projects available, and less public spaces to practice songs and monologues. I am excited to be vaccinated and back to a somewhat normal life of rehearsing in public spaces and attending shows.

Ariana: Covid has definitely made me a lot more conscious of my movements as a performer. Before, I used to rely solely on my facial expressions to convey emotion, but now, since I’m used to having most of my face covered up with a mask, I’m much more aware of my body language.

Justin: During the first quarantine, I had the epiphany that for my mental well-being, I just need to stay busy and creative. Virtual productions, drawing and painting, and writing kept me from pulling hair out last year. I learned that I should not stress about things out of my control. As a performer, this translates so well! I am happy to report that even after returning to the stage, I have remained busy and creative in my free time. Everyday, I am more thankful to be able to perform in person. The Tempest is just a first step into normality, which I think will eventually come back in some form.

Who or what keeps you motivated?

Sarah: In all honesty, this show has kept me motivated. There was a time when I thought about switching majors because the future of theatre just seemed so doomed, but this show has reignited the fire within me.

Ariana: My family and my Delta Delta Delta sisters keep me motivated. I’m so lucky to have such an amazing support system!

Justin: The cast and crew keep me motivated! End of story. I am constantly inspired by this amazing group of talented, funny, kind, generous people. Zechariah Pierce (Director) and Joshua Daugherty (Assistant Director) have created a lively, innovative energy on set. My favorite part of my day is getting to meet up with Darcy Barnfield-Jones (Trinculo) and Michael Dotson (Caliban) and just explore the space and create comedic moments. I am blessed to be associated with this group in any capacity.

What do you love about the show?

Sarah: I love that this show is being directed in a way that allows for so many people to be a part of the process. Having navigators and explorers is such a brilliant idea that fosters growth in so many actors.

Ariana: I love working with this insanely talented cast. We all work together as a group so well. I also love working with Shakespearean language!

Justin: The Tempest is one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. On stage, I feel like a Rolling Stone playing one of the hits. It is exhilarating to think about how many generations of performers have done this show. Our version of The Tempest can only exist right now with this very specific group of people. That is something that keeps me crawling back to theatre in general.

What do you hope the audience takes away from these shows?

Sarah: My biggest hope is that audiences take away the idea that theatre isn’t dead because of the pandemic, and taking chances and entering the breech is all that is necessary to grow.

Ariana: I hope the audience is inspired by the fact that love and kindness persevere throughout these stories. At the end of the day, connection reminds us of our humanity and COVID has definitely reminded me of that. I hope the audience feels that connection as well.

Justin: At the end of the day, The Tempest is about disillusioning ourselves and bringing communities back together. I would hope that our show keeps people proactive in searching for truth in an era of so much false information. During the pandemic, it can feel like you have been stuck on an island with a small group of people. COVID has divided us in so many different directions, but we all have our close family and friends. For me, this is the cast and crew of The Tempest. I hope the audience leaves the show feeling thankful for their strange band of castaways.

“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what is to be a human being”
Oscar Wilde 

Meet Katie Ivey: Senior BFA Acting Major

Senior BFA Acting Major
Katie Ivey

Katie Ivey is a senior at GTA and is graduating this May with a BFA Acting major at Brenau University. Katie has graced the GTA stage in Sophie and the Pirates, Legally Blonde: The Musical, The Bra and Panty Club, and Henry V. Her next project is the upcoming GTA musical, Songs for a New World. Katie tells us how she started acting, her after-graduation plans, her role on the GTA Marketing Team, and why she choose Gainesville Theatre Alliance.

What is your year and major?

I am a Senior BFA Acting Major at Brenau University.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I am busy busy busy. I have class typically from 9:30-5 PM every day and then rehearsal starting at 6:30 PM. For example, this semester, my Monday is Ballet 9:30, Advanced Stage Management at 11 (even though I’m an acting major, I have room to take stage management classes, which I enjoy), and then Marketing Practicum from 1-5 PM. It’s like this every day of the week. I’m also in a sorority, Alpha Chi Omega, and President of our chapter of Alpha Psi Omega, so I am one busy lady, but I live off the adrenaline.

What are you currently working on?

Currently, I am working on Songs for a New World at GTA. I am singing “Just One Step.” It’s a song about a woman who threatens to throw herself off the 57th floor (it’s hilarious, I promise) because she wants her husband (Murray) to love her.

When did you start acting?

Katie as Serena in GTA’s 2019 production of Legally Blonde: The Musical

I started acting when I was in middle school. I did a few 20-minute plays in my drama club, but things really took off for me in high school when I started doing four shows a year until I graduated and came to GTA!

You are also on the GTA Marketing Team. What can you tell me about your position?

I am the Head of the Digital Content Creation Team at GTA. We create all of the content (go figure!) for the GTA social media pages and the YouTube channel. We interview faculty and students, edit all videos, and produce anywhere from 6-10 videos a week. We work on the ad videos for GTA and the promotional videos for the shows on the GTA Instagram and Facebook accounts.

How has the pandemic affected you and what kept you motivated?

I am one of the rare few who had the best year of my life during the pandemic. I took the time to learn to love myself. I started doing yoga every day, I spent a lot of time with people I love most, and I finally slowed down. It was hard at times because I tended to get lazy, however as I’ve mentioned above, I RUN off of being productive, so I always found things for me to do. I took up baking a lot of bread and doing a LOT of puzzles. Knowing that things are temporary is a really good mindset I have tried to have throughout this time.

What plans do you have after graduation?

I’ve gone to audition conferences and have applied to specific apprenticeships that I am really interested in. Nothing to announce yet, but I want to stay in Atlanta and take classes in film and focus on submitting to agencies. I would love to do an apprenticeship because it would get me actively involved in a theatre, taking classes and workshops while possibly understudying professional roles and exploring my arts administration love. My goal after graduation is to find a day job in the theatre, regardless of what I am offered. I want to be surrounded by creative theatre artists who will remind me of the work and keep me involved and motivated.

Why was GTA the place for you?

Katie as Alvilda in WonderQuest’s 2018 production of Sophie and the Pirates

I grew up in Gainesville my entire life. I went to preschool at Children of Grace, across from Brenau’s campus. I saw Sophie and the Pirates when I was little, on a field trip. I grew up watching GTA shows, and who would’ve thought that my first show at GTA over a decade later would be Sophie and the Pirates, the very first show I ever saw and made me fall in love with theatre. I’ve known GTA is the place for me. I explored other options, but nothing felt like home compared to GTA. The show quality is unmatched; the collaboration between two schools is unique, being the only collegiate program in the country to do so. The training and guest artist connections you get in your time here is so helpful to your career as a theatre artist, whether you’re an acting major or a technician.

What advice would you give to high school students? Any audition tips?

Don’t give up. I have been told no so many times, but I promise your time will come. You’ve got to get through the bad auditions to get to the good ones. You just do. Jenna Fischer says that you’ve got to be told no 50 times in order to get one yes. Instead of getting upset at a no, she gets excited because it means she is one ‘no’ closer to getting her yes! It will make you work ten times harder than everyone else, and whenever you do finally get what you’re working towards, you will appreciate it ten times more than everyone else. It makes those experiences that much more special. Also, with auditioning, this sounds very morbid, but it genuinely helps me… We’re all going to die one day anyway, so no one’s going to remember how badly you do, so just be you and have fun!!!!! Give your gift, act like it’s a performance rather than an audition.

What is your favorite show?

My favorite show is Wit by Margaret Edson. I played Dr. Vivian Bearing in high school (I know, sounds crazy), but I fell in love with it. It solidified my passion for acting, and I was also going through a lot emotionally when I did it, so it became such a release for me. It’s about forgiveness and has such beautiful poetry. “Death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die” is one of my favorite lines in the play. So much so, I got “no more” tattooed on my body as the only tattoo I will probably ever have. I cherish that experience and will always be attached to the story.

As you get ready to graduate, what are you taking away from your GTA experience, and why should prospective students choose GTA?

I am so thankful for GTA because I could explore who I am as a theatre artist instead of just an actor. My freshman year, I was on run crew twice and was even trusted to be the Projection Operator for The Odyssey. I was in Lighting Practicum, I have been in Recruitment and Marketing Practicums. I’ve learned I am an excellent videographer and even served as videographer on the virtual GTA Cabaret Series. I’ve worked in the costume shop. I’ve been able to take voice and dance classes even though I am an acting major. I’ve been cast in musicals even though I’m an acting major. I’ve taken Stage Management and Principles of Design. I feel confident going into the industry that I am capable of so much in the world of theatre and am easily marketable to professionals in Atlanta. If you want to be a well-rounded artist, choose GTA. If you want a network of people who will push you outside of your comfort zone and teach you new things you’d never think you’d love, choose GTA. My resume is now set up to where I could apply for almost every job in a theatre and have enough credits to back it up.

Meet Olivia Pelton: BFA Musical Theatre and Acting double major

Olivia Pelton
Senior BFA Musical Theatre & Acting Double Major

Olivia Pelton is a senior at GTA and is graduating this May with a double BFA in Musical Theatre and Acting. Her past GTA productions include Crazy For You, The Wizard of Oz, Cabaret, The Ugly Duckling, Pippin, and Monster Girls at Sunshine Doughnuts. Olivia shares her experience as a double major, her advice for actors, her best audition tips, and her thoughts on her last four years with Gainesville Theatre Alliance.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Busy! On weekdays I have classes from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm, followed by rehearsals from 6:30 pm to 10 p.m. On weekends you’ll typically find me submitting auditions for professional contracts, on set for short films, tackling homework, or working on post-graduation plans.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently juggling collegiate theatre with professional auditions and work. Right now I’m a part of our production of Songs for a New World, and I’m finishing up a busy audition season for year-round work. I’ve auditioned for over two hundred companies as of right now, through four different audition conferences, and dozens of individual submissions as well.

Why did you decide to double major?

Olivia as Sally Bowles in GTA’s 2019 production of Cabaret

I added the second major my freshman year when I realized I could finish the BFA Musical Theatre track within two years. I came into the program with my college core classes already finished, thanks to dual enrolling in high school at Georgia College. I’m a Brenau Scholar, so I have the wonderful opportunity to study at Brenau on a full scholarship for four years. I wanted to take advantage of that opportunity, and really dive further into my training within the program, so I added the BFA Acting degree so that I could stay for four full years.

When did you start acting and singing?

My first show was a Missoula Children’s Theatre production of The Frog Prince. I was four or five years old, and I played the Ugly Duckling. My part consisted of me waddling onstage in a little fluffy grey costume, honking, and then exiting. So being a part of our WonderQuest production of The Ugly Duckling in 2019 was a full circle moment! I began studying voice with my grandmother when I was about six years old, and I began working with a voice teacher consistently when I was eight years old.

What advice would you give to high school students deciding about college?

Finding the right collegiate theatre program is so important. Make sure you do your research on the different kinds of programs, and start planning for those auditions. Choose material that is a good fit for your voice and your abilities. While a college program is meant to polish your skills as an auditioner and a performer, don’t be afraid to start that work on your own before you get there. Take a dance class, talk to your high school theatre director about your future, work with them on building a resume, go see shows, read new plays, and start prepping audition material (song and monologue cuts) now. The more prepared you are, the more confident you will feel in the audition room.

Any audition tips?

Olivia looking stunning
in Atlanta, GA

I walk into every audition with confidence and understanding of the material, having fleshed out the role as much as possible on my own before I get there. I read the script extensively, work on character development, watch different productions, prep audition material that fits the voice/range/character type of the part I’m auditioning for, I choose appropriate audition attire that hints at the character, and I always come with choices in hand. If I get a callback, I also try to be off book for the provided sides and songs in advance. It’s important to go into the audition room and make the director feel comfortable with you, and confident in you. They want to know that you’re a reliable professional. If you are a confident, prepared actor who can take their feedback and run with it in an audition room, they’ll feel much more comfortable in giving you the responsibility of being a part of their show.

Not many people think of theatre as a business, and how important it is to create your own brand. How do you market yourself as a professional performer?

Olivia as Sally Bowles in GTA’s 2019 production of Cabaret

Being an actor is not just defined by the amazing work that you get to do on stage or in a rehearsal. It is the constant work that you do before you ever even land the role. I think that when we’re young, and just starting out in our theatre training, it is very easy to get starstruck with the romantic idea of Broadway, Hollywood, and the success that comes with. It is sad to say, but the real world is not like the plot of our favorite feel-good success story films. It is very competitive, very rigorous, and filled with the word “no.” It is up to you to take charge of your career. You are your own business.

A polished resume, a book of song cuts in every style of music, a book of audition monologues, and a great audition wardrobe are baseline necessities for the life of a performing artist. Auditioning is 95% of the job. An understanding of your “types” or the “worlds” that you could believably be a part of is the next step. High school or community theatre, where you played any range of roles from an evil step-mother to a young romantic ingenue, is not an accurate reflection of your current professional castability. Talk to a mentor, a professor, or a teacher about your potential “worlds.” It is important to be honest with ourselves about how our choices and abilities are perceived in the professional industry by others. For example, while you may dream of being an Elphaba, you may actually be considered as more of a Glinda in vocal ability, or physicality. You have to know your brand, before you can market your brand. Beyond this understanding, a great website, lists of companies you want to work for, an understanding of which market you want to work in, a plan for post-grad work, experience working in undergrad, networking skills, and a humble and positive attitude will really help you market yourself as a professional performer. Remember, this career is what you make of it. Nobody can put in the work for you.

How has the pandemic affected you and what kept you motivated?

The pandemic has been difficult to navigate in many ways, but it has also provided some much needed perspective. Being away from the collaborative space of a show, and the amazing people within it, has been tough, but it has given me even further appreciation for the very special work that we do. That appreciation has ultimately motivated me to come out of this time even more excited and determined to pursue this life.

What plans do you have after graduation?

Starting in May I will be performing professionally in Bigfork Summer Playhouse’s summer season in Bigfork, Montana. I’ll be playing Judy Bernly in 9 to 5, and other various roles in Bonnie and Clyde, Jersey Boys, and Lucky Stiff. I’m still in the process of auditioning for work for this coming year, and I plan to move to NYC in the fall of 2022.

Why was GTA the place for you?

It was the perfect combination of getting the Brenau Scholar scholarship, sitting in on Gay H. Hammond’s playwriting class, and seeing GTA’s Broadway-quality production of Peter and the Starcatcher my senior year of high school. All of the pieces just fell together, and I knew I was in the right place.

What is your favorite show?

Phantom of the Opera, Cabaret, A Chorus Line, and Chicago are some of my favorites!

As you get ready to graduate, what are you taking away from your GTA experience, and why should prospective students choose GTA?

I have had four of the best years of my life in this incredible program. I have made lifelong friends (if you’re reading this, I love you guys so much), worked with the most amazing guest artists, directors, and choreographers, and have studied under remarkable professors who have shaped me not only as an artist, but as a person. Because of this program, I am completely ready to take on the professional world. If you’re thinking about coming to GTA, run (don’t walk!) to audition, see our shows, and talk to our professors and students. There is no other program in the country quite like Gainesville Theatre Alliance.

Self-Care in Quarantine with Anna and Maleah

It’s been an interesting year at GTA! We have done hybrid classes, Zoom calls, and Zoom shows, all while masking up and staying safe. Our students have pushed through the pandemic to finish this semester strong. But, we understand that some days are harder than others. It’s important to take a step back and make your self-care a priority, so you can be the best version of yourself. Sophomore BFA Acting major Anna Nowosielski and junior BFA Musical Theatre major Maleah Boyd share their quarantine experience and their self-care practices.

During quarantine, what did you do to keep your mind strong?

Anna Nowosielski
BFA Acting Sophomore

Anna: I found that finding different creative outlets was super helpful. I painted A LOT over quarantine!

Maleah: During quarantine, I had to focus on putting my mental health first. I had a hard time doing that before quarantine, but I knew that my mental health would go downhill if i didn’t pay extra attention to it! So I made sure I had schedules to keep my routine, spent time with my family, and continuously used my coping skills!

What or who kept you inspired?

Maleah Boyd
BFA Musical Theatre Junior

Maleah: My Fiancée, our dog, my family, and my sorority sisters all kept me inspired. They continued to push me when I needed pushing and continued reminding me of what I’m meant to do.

Anna:I tuned in to a lot of filmed live theatre that was made free on YouTube, like the National Theatre’s adaptation of Frankenstein. Just being able to see those performances really helped me remember just how important this craft is, and how amazing it’s going to be when we get back to it.

Not being able to perform is the hardest. What helped you keep your skills sharp?

Anna: As an acting major, a lot of our work is mindset and being in the moment. When there is no moment to be in, you can only work on your mindset! I read a lot of plays and books to kept myself going!

Maleah: PRACTICE. PRACTICE. PRACTICE. I slacked off at the beginning of quarantine, but realizing that I won’t have any performing opportunities any time soon, I honed in on practicing and enjoying the process of being a better performer!

Did you get any new habits and/or hobbies during the quarantine?

Anna’s cat, Kiwi!

Anna: I don’t know if this counts as a hobby but I did get a quarantine kitten named Kiwi, and taking care of him has definitely felt like a full time job.

Maleah: I love coloring, and I got an iPad for Christmas before quarantine, so I started drawing on Procreate and creating stickers!

What does self-care mean to you?

Maleah with her fiancé and family

Maleah: Self-care means putting yourself first in any and every way you deem fit. It’s putting your needs above others and valuing yourself.

Anna: Self care truly is all about taking moments by yourself to unwind. For me, it’s stretching every morning, and doing one small thing everyday that I genuinely enjoy.

Hybrid classes can make it challenging to focus. What helps you keep on track?

Anna: I’m definitely leaning on my classmates for support during this time! It’s very helpful to have a community that you feel close enough to that you can help each other out when you’re struggling, to know that they’ve got your back.

Maleah: definitely NOT being in my bed during class! I try to create schedules for myself at the beginning of each week so I can follow a guide and not be lost in the amount of “free time” I have between classes. I also make my bed every morning, because if the bed is made you’re less likely to want to get in it.

Why do you think college students forget to take time for themselves?

Anna: I think there is definitely a narrative among students that unless you’re running yourself into the ground, you aren’t doing enough. That couldn’t be farther from the truth of course, but sometimes the amount of work can feel super overwhelming and it feels like burning yourself out is the only option. In my personal experience, there is always another option, if that means taking a day for yourself, or just having an honest conversation with professors about where you are, it can be really beneficial to advocate for yourself.

Maleah: College is a rough time for students. It’s hard to continue to push yourself and depend on only yourself. You feel like you constantly have something to do, your schedule gets so busy that you forget to check if you’re okay or not. There’s many times where I’ve forgotten to eat, or drink water, or take my medication, all because I had something to do.

What did you learned during quarantine?

Anna: I would be lying if I didn’t say my biggest learning experience didn’t come during this summer’s series of protests for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain and the other countless victims of police brutality. As a white student, I’ve always tried to consider myself a good ally but I didn’t realize I was so oblivious about so many injustices until George Floyd’s death and the events that followed. All I did this summer was protest, listen and educate myself, and it’s still a process of unlearning biases and listening to my fellow student’s experiences.

Maleah: I’ve learned that nothing, NOTHING, is more important than your mental health. I know we all get excited and stressed and forget to check up on ourselves, but I’ve tried to make a habit of looking myself in the mirror and asking if I’m okay. Or when I feel overwhelmed or struggling, I give myself time to sit in that, feel it, and try to push myself past it. If you can’t do it yourself, there is NOTHING wrong with asking for help!

Meet Phoebe Sweatman, BFA Technical Theatre & Design Major

Meet Phoebe Sweatman, a BFA Technical Theatre and Design major at the University of North Georgia. Technical theatre is an important part of theatre. Technicians and designers are responsible for what the show looks like and for making what you see happen onstage feel magical. At GTA, technical theatre students learn lighting, costumes, scenic design and carpentry, sound, technical direction, and stage management. GTA faculty and staff not only teach students how things work, but they provide opportunities for students to find out what they are passionate about. Phoebe tells us why she chose to major in technical theatre, what inspires her, how to build a portfolio, and why she’s so proud to be at Gainesville Theatre Alliance.

What is your year and major?

I am a third year senior set to graduate early this fall! My focus is in Stage Management, I’m a B. F. A. Design & Technology major.

 What are you working on currently?

Currently, I am the stage manager for one of our Spring Rep productions, The Tempest!

 As a technician, what has been your favorite tech role at GTA?

Honestly, this is a bit of a hard question for me. A lot of the productions I have had the chance to work on have been so fulfilling and rewarding because I’ve learned something valuable from each opportunity. For sentimental reasons however, I would have to say being the Assistant Stage Manager on Waiting for Godot has been my favorite because it was my first show, during my freshman year at GTA. The company was small, so we really got to know each other and bonded over our little project. Many of my mentors and people I look up to came from this show. It really felt like I was being welcomed into a family and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.

Why Technical Theatre?

In high school, I was pretty equally involved onstage as I was offstage. I’ve always loved telling a story through theatre and being a part of the creative process. Helping facilitate the creative process through designs to rehearsal and through to production has always been where I most excel. I love working with the people and helping make the magic happen. In deciding what I wanted to do in the world of theatre, ultimately it came down to me asking myself, “What are you really good at?” Surprisingly, a huge deciding factor was during my senior year at ThesCon. I had taken my prompt book to enter as an I.E. (Individual Event) and I managed to get an all-superior rating. This put me in a mainstage slot for the closing ceremony. That was when it sort-of hit me, and I remember thinking “Holy crap, is this actually happening right now??” and “Yeah, maybe I can do this.” This moment reaffirmed my choice to follow stage management, into college (and hopefully a career).

 What is your favorite part about GTA shows?

As I mentioned before, there is always a learning opportunity and something to take away from each show. Any show I’ve worked on at GTA has always challenged me and pushed me to be better, either through my paperwork, people skills, or just production work in general. However, the best part is, hands down, the people. I’m lucky enough to get to work with both actors and technicians throughout rehearsal, and the camaraderie that is built is unmatched. There are always inside jokes, fun backstage moments, horror stories to share and laugh about afterwards. Plus, knowing that we’re all learning and are down in the trenches together juggling show responsibilities, class assignments, and work schedules, all while trying our best to be a human being, altogether makes for a healthy appreciation of those around us. It is incredibly humbling to get work alongside some of the most talented, and genuinely amazing people (many of whom, I’m lucky enough to consider friends).

What side of technical theatre have you not tried but want to?

The fun thing about being a stage manager with Gainesville Theatre Alliance, is how much the faculty and staff want you to learn and branch out. Your education and interests are yours to play with and explore. I have been grateful to learn from each department, as it has enhanced my understanding and skills as a stage manager. I’ve found I really enjoy the artistry side of the scenic world. By some computer fluke, last spring I was placed in the scenic painting class and I loved it! This semester I’m in the advanced scenic painting class, as well as the drawing for theatre class and I’m learning to explore my creative, artistic side. From this experience, I’d say that if you have reservations about something, you should try it. Try to push yourself to do something new and challenging because you may enjoy it. You may even have a natural talent for it!

Any advice on building up a portfolio?

Take. Process. Shots. If there is one thing that I’ve learned (for any technician), it is to take process shots! This is super beneficial for many reasons but being able to see where you started and how you got to the finished product is important. In addition to process shots, have some production photos. Either of what you built as it is used onstage or simply to provide a visual of the quality, and potential challenges of the show. The latter is especially important for stage managers, as our work is typically shown through the paperwork we create. While this can be impressive, adding a visual certainly doesn’t hurt.

Any advice for high school seniors applying to college for technical theatre?

Over everything else, just be yourself. Most places don’t want a robot, they want a person who is excited and ready to learn. Think about what it is you want for your college experience and education. Don’t settle because you think you have to. Also, speaking from experience, I know it may be difficult, but try not to only focus on theatre. Find a hobby, or something you like doing outside of theatre so when you’re asked, “what do you like to do?” you have an answer that isn’t solely based around theatre. Understand, many of the people you will be interviewing with, want you to succeed. Take a breath and relax, you’re doing great!

What has been your experience with hybrid classes?

It has been… interesting. I’d say many of us have become masters in the art of pivoting. Learning about theatre through a computer screen seems a bit counterintuitive as theatre brings people together. It is an art form that cannot be done without people. However, shifting to online classes along with some online productions have proved to be informative as many of us have learned some new skills. Really, the key is all about perspective. Glass half full or empty? We get to decide how we view our situation.

Why should prospective students choose GTA?

It is true what people say about college, you find your people. And you will find your people here. I have learned a lot from the hands-on classes and production work, as well as my friends. The environment at GTA pushes you to be better. If you are willing to put in the work and the time, you can take away so much from the program, regardless of your degree focus. Gainesville Theatre Alliance offers a lot of opportunities for students, that other programs don’t including student leadership roles, working with guest artists, certification courses, and many more. Ultimately, as cheesy as it might sound, GTA feels like family.

What do you love about theatre?

One of the things I love about theatre, that I think we all can relate to, is the memorable one-liners that stick with us. They always seem to hit close to home right when you need it. That’s where I find a lot of the magic of theatre to be, is in these vulnerable, emotional moments with which we all experience and share together. For me, “Wait For It” from Hamilton has been a song that for the past year is a grounding reminder for me. Whenever I need a confidence boost, maybe some inspiration or I’m feeling like I’m not where I’m supposed to be, these lyrics serve as a reminder for myself that we are all on different paths and different points in our life and careers.

I’m willing to wait for it

I am the one thing in life I can control

I am inimitable

I am an original

I’m not falling behind or running late

I’m not standing still

I am lying in wait

You may be tempted to compare yourself and your path to those around you, and start to think that you may be behind but that is not the case. You are the one thing you can control and you are right where you need to be. Trust yourself and trust the process.

Meet GTA Student Jenna Patton: Theatre and Dance Major!

I have had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Jenna about her major. She is a sophomore B.A. Theatre and B.A. Dance major at Brenau University. Jenna shares her day-to-day schedule, why she loves to dance, and how she realized GTA was the place for her.

What is your major?

Jenna: I’m a double major in BA Dance and BA Theatre.

What does a typical day look like?

Jenna: My days are filled with so much creativity and excitement! On Mondays and Wednesdays, I take Voice and Diction, Film Appreciation, World Dance, History and Musical Theatre, and Ballet. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I take Directing 1, Tap, and Flexibility and Conditioning. In my free time (Free time? What’s free time?) I lead a Bible study, spend time with my Alpha Gamma Delta sisters, read, or get coffee with my friends.

When did you start dancing?

Jenna: I started dancing when I was three and I haven’t stopped since! Growing up, I was always quite the bunhead, and my main focus is still ballet. But I started incorporating other styles of dance into my training in middle and high school, and now of course, college has introduced me to even more styles of dance that I’m so excited to explore.

When did you start acting?

Jenna: I didn’t actually start acting until I came to GTA. Becoming a theatre major with a decision that I kind of made on a whim, knowing that I wanted to walk away from Brenau at the end of my time here with two degrees. Of course, ballet comes with its own sort of acting, mostly pantomime. But now, taking classes like acting one and voice and diction, I’m learning a lot more about the technique behind acting.

What is the best part about having combined majors? 

Jenna: I love everything about it. Firstly, I get to interact with so many different people. I’m not confined to just one group. These majors of mine also go hand-in-hand really well. I have found that there’s a good amount of overlap between what I’m studying in all of my classes. My acting classes inform the characters I play in ballet, and my choreography experience has helped me in my directing class. I may only be a sophomore currently, but I trust that being part of both these majors will make me a very well-rounded artist by the time I graduate.

What is the most challenging?

Jenna: Scheduling for sure. Being part of two fine arts means choosing what you want to be part of at a certain time. I tend to try to plan out my schedules so I have a more dance class-heavy semester, followed by a more theatre class-heavy semester. This takes a lot of commitment and communication between the two departments, with me as the middleman. As the first person to attempt this double major, I’m really hoping to help pave the way for both the Brenau Dance Department and GTA to continue to collaborate.

What do you love about theatre?

Jenna: Oh everything, but especially the vulnerability and empathy it invokes. As an artist, one of my main goals is to be sure that an audience leaves a performance changed in some way. Theatre is so collaborative and creates such a sweet community; you create not just for yourself but for others too. And of course, I found that a lot of my purpose as an artist is to double as a missionary. If I can use ballet, theatre, or any sort of medium to bring people closer to the Lord, that is my ultimate goal!

When did you realize GTA was the right place to be?

Jenna: When I was looking into coming to Brenau, a former GTA student gave me her phone number and was so gracious about answering any questions that I had and giving me all the information I needed to know about both theatre and Brenau as a whole. I realized that her kindness and her friendship were a microcosm of the wonderful community that GTA has cultivated. Everyone is so close and so ready to drop anything to help a friend. I attended a really huge high school, and as much as I loved it, I really desired that small, close-knit family that you find in GTA.

How has the pandemic affected you?

Jenna: This strange and difficult year has affected me in so many ways. I’ve really learned to appreciate the opportunities I have to make art and to be in a community with others. Both the dance and theatre industries are really struggling, but the ways in which people have learned to adapt despite the circumstances are incredible to me. And after attempting to stay in shape throughout quarantine by using my kitchen table as a ballet barre, I will definitely never take another ballet class for granted! The pandemic has also led me to draw nearer to the Lord and learn how to trust Him even more.

What keeps you motivated in your classes?

Jenna: The fact that I have so much to learn. Artists absolutely never stop growing. At Brenau, I frequently feel like a sponge, trying to take in as much information as possible. I’m also so motivated by any and all opportunities to work, dance, and play with my friends. How rare and beautiful it is to have so many passionate, talented people all together in one place.

What is something you look forward to this semester? 

Jenna: The semester, I’m so stoked to be taking part in Gainesville Ballet‘s production of The Wizard of Oz. I will be playing Toto and the Yellow Brick Road Soloist. This ballet has actually been a year in the making! We were about one week out from the performance last March when the university closed due to the virus. I can’t believe we finally have the chance to put this show on stage this April. I’m also so incredibly excited to cheer on my friends in the upcoming productions of Songs for a New World and The Tempest. These casts are full of people that I love and look up to.

Lastly, what is your favorite production? 

Jenna: My favorite musical is, without a doubt, Anastasia. Everything about it is simply gorgeous. But my favorite ballet is unique to my favorite company: Ballet Magnificat! (A professional Christian ballet company located in Jackson, MS.) The ballet is called The Scarlet Cord, and it tells the story of God’s grace for two missionaries in the Soviet Union. It leaves me in awe of the wonder and majesty of our God every time I see it.

Black History Month: Meet GTA Students Savion Gates and Brianna Gutierrez

It’s the last week of Black History Month, and I have reached out to Savion Gates and Brianna Gutierrez, both sophomores at Gainesville Theatre Alliance. You may remember them from last spring’s musical, Pippin. As this month comes to a close, we hope you remember why we celebrate Black History Month. Don’t celebrate just in February, do it every day!

“Stretch your mind and fly”- Whitney M. Young

 

When did you know you wanted to major in theatre?

Brianna Gutierrez
B.A Theatre Sophomore

Brianna: Personally, I really wanted to be a musical theatre major in college from the moment I started to attend my performing arts high school. It was my dream to go to college, get my degree and then hit Broadway. Dance became an important part of my life and was my first major until I got to be a part of GTA’s production of Pippin and from that first audition I knew I had to find a way to be a part of this family.

Savion: The first time I knew I wanted to pursue musical theatre was in middle school when I attended the Junior Theater Festival in Atlanta.

What have been your favorite roles?

Brianna: Well, I loved being in the ensemble of Pippin but I am not going to lie—my favorite role I have ever gotten to play here was Mrs. Hart in this year’s New Play Festival performance because I don’t often get the opportunity to play an evil but glamorous character and that is such a fun thing to do and play around with even through Zoom.

Savion Gates
B.F.A Musical Theatre Sophomore

Savion: One of my favorite roles to perform was in Pippin when I got to dance in the Manson Trio. Another one of my favorite roles was playing Javert in Les Misérables my senior year of high school.

What’s the best part about being a performer?

Brianna: For me, the best part is getting to embody someone else’s experience as a vessel for a change. I feel as though entertainment arts does not get the props it deserves for the way it can challenge and change the perspective of how society operates. It is a beautiful thing when the message of the work comes alive in the things stated and unstated.

Savion: The best part for me has been getting to see how much of an impact telling a story can have on people’s lives.

What do you think when you hear “Black History Month”?

Brianna: Honestly, “Black History Month” feels like a gimmick to me. It comes around once a year, is the shortest month out of the year, and is basically used to acknowledge the “better” parts of African American history. My personal dislike for the month is why it is not indoctrinated into us from the beginning like colonization. It is literally history so why is it not taught all year round, why do we not acknowledge the truths of our history as Americans, and why is that as an American I only get the opportunity to learn about my past for a month because of my race while others get to from Kindergarten til 12th Grade?

Savion: When I hear Black History Month, I think about all of the beautiful things that black people have been able to create in spite of systems of oppression.

Is there any specific black figure that inspires you today?

Brianna: There are many that do, but a big inspiration for me would have to be Nina Simone and Debbie Allen. They are two black female artists who went against the grain and did what was then unthinkable for African American females. They both created art that will last lifetimes and gave themselves not only to the movement but gave pathways to little girls like me who want to redefine what it means to be a black female artist in this time.

Savion: My younger sister inspires me to work hard and set high goals for myself.

What does being a black person mean to you?

Brianna: Being black to me is sharing an unspoken sense of lost identity with many other people. It is being able to be able to stand in my own truth and accept the fact that I will not be accepted by everyone. It is looking in the mirror and knowing that my history does not define me but empowers me to strive for something bigger than myself.

Savion: Being a black person means being a part of a beautifully unique and diverse community of people. When I think about being black, I feel joy because I know that I can strive for greatness in my life no matter what challenges I face.

What would you tell your younger self?

Brianna: I would tell myself not to apologize for being who you are and by that I mean in all aspects of life. You do not need to perm and straighten your hair to not be a “distraction” in class. You do not need to code-switch for people to think you are professional. You do not need to seek validation in white people to get somewhere in life.

Savion: I would tell my younger self to continue being yourself and doing the things that bring you joy no matter what other people have to say.

How did you discover GTA?

Brianna: I discovered GTA through another dance major, Jenna Patton, who was double majoring in Theatre and Dance which I did not know was possible. By that point, I had missed Legally Blonde auditions but as soon as Pippin auditions were posted I was signed up and ready with character shoes in hand.

Savion: I first heard about GTA in high school through a mom of a student that had gone through the program. I also learned a lot about GTA while attending the Georgia Thespian Conference my senior year of high school and became very interested in the program.

When did you realize GTA was where you wanted to be?

Brianna: The first audition for Pippin is when I knew GTA was going to be my home. I remember getting prepared for it with (GTA student) Maleah Boyd and freaking out thinking I was going to make a fool of myself but I knew I wanted it bad. I remember giving my audition information to (GTA students) Alyssa Elben and Sara Cook and I just remember they were so sweet and helped with where to go and how everything was going to go. I remember being in one of the last groups of the night yet the faculty was so nice, the kids while auditioning were so encouraging and kind. Up until then, I had never been to an audition where everywhere you looked you could find a smiling face or someone approachable and that was just amazing.

Savion: I knew GTA was where I wanted to be when I auditioned for the program and saw GTA’s production of Cabaret. I was blown away by the performers and the quality of the production.

What is something you look forward to for the future?

Brianna: For me, I am looking forward to change within the theatre community of how it treats people of color. We have come to terms with the fact that there are problems and things need to be changed, but I am wanting the change. I want to see my friends being cast as leads. I want to perform in roles written by people of color. I can`t wait for us to embrace those of mixed ethnicities like myself. I cannot wait for the day that I can walk into an audition and be judged on the content of what I can bring to the stage and not just my outer appearance.

Savion: I look forward to continuing my artistic growth at GTA and using what I’ve learned to enter the professional world of theatre after graduation.