Department of Theatre
In the field of theatre performance, a lot of our research is hands-on. That means the bulk of my research is literally playing for and performing in shows! (Tough gig, I know.) I received the bulk of my artistic training in the field of piano performance, culminating in a master’s degree from the University of Maryland. That has paired well with my MFA in Musical Theatre from San Diego State University, allowing me to work in theatre as both a performer and music director.
In 2019, I was a part of the development of a new musical based on The Tale of Despereaux, written by PigPen Theatre Company, a group of performers that play all of their own music onstage. As a swing (an understudy for multiple roles), I was responsible for learning not only four actors’ tracks but also all the music they played in their roles. This involved memorizing music for guitar, keyboard, percussion and flute instruments. In this production, we explored the use of “low-tech” storytelling techniques, like puppetry and shadow puppetry, to invite the audience to embrace a sense of childlike wonder in experiencing the story.
Most recently, I was assistant music director and associate music director for productions of Beauty and the Beast and A Chorus Line, respectively. I shared rehearsal pianist duties with the music directors, worked with singers in individuals and groups to clean and clarify music, and sat in the house to take notes on the music when the shows moved into the theatre. Beauty and the Beast, especially, uses underscore music throughout the scenes to help set the mood. In scenes like Belle discovering the rose in the West Wing of Beast’s castle and Beast saving her from attacking wolves, the music tells a very specific story, and the staging and choreography must be timed to hit specific music cues. The job of the music direction team is to help guide the rest of the cast to find and honor the music changes.
In every theatrical production, a theatre company gets to ask questions and examine truths about who we are as people. Whether it’s about being more than your community has told you that you can be, like Despereaux, or seeing past appearances to discover another’s humanity, like Belle, or having to put everything on the line to pursue what you love, like the dancers in A Chorus Line, theatre seeks to shine a light on the struggles and triumphs that make us human.