Getting to Know the Graduating Class of 2017

Jesse DavidsonJessie Davidson from Southington, CT

What is one of your most favorite Penn State memories?

Traveling to NYC with my class to perform at 54 Below. It was such an honor to be able to see my classmates shine and to work on such rich and innovative material for a New York audience.

What are you most looking forward to after graduation?

Having the opportunity to be exposed to a variety of new classes and performances. Penn State has given us such amazing training, and I am excited to continue to grow in a new place.

A skill or interest you've always wanted to cultivate?

Playing the guitar. I have a passion for singing pop, singer/songwriter, and folk rock music in addition to songs in the musical theatre canon and would love to be able to accompany myself and others on these types of songs. The guitar is in my possession, and now I just have to learn how to play it!

Describe your dream show, role, or project:

Getting the opportunity to be in Hair again. I was fortunate enough to be in the show last spring, and I felt like it was a show I could do every single day and feel fulfilled. Each show felt like we were fighting for something real, and I would love to experience this again in a professional setting.

An artist/person you deeply admire and why?

I have always had an admiration for my parents, and this has only grown stronger in my time in college. They are the kindest and most supportive people I know. Over the past four years and for my whole life, they have guided me in the right direction. They have always been examples to me because they prioritize family over all other things, they realize the strength and power of laughter in a home, and they work harder than anyone I know. Nothing I could say could possibly do them justice for how incredible they are, and I love them to the moon and back.

What would you go back and tell your freshman self?

I would go back and tell my freshman-year self that it is so important to give yourself a break in college and in life in general. I have learned that I do my best work when I balance it with a social life and my other interests. Penn State is the perfect place to learn this because it exposes you to so many new areas of study and groups of people. I am thankful for my friendships and have realized over time that sometimes I cannot work unless those relationships are maintained.

 

Alex DorfAlex Dorf from Lancaster, PA

What is one of your most favorite Penn State memories?

One of my fondest Penn State memories was freshman year, having just gotten out of the White Building swimming pool after some pre-ballet laps, and getting a call from my fellow classmate Lauren Moore telling me that we were both cast in Into the Woods! It was completely surreal to know we were about to embark on our first mainstage production at Penn State! The year before I had been studying pre-veterinary medicine at UD, and worked with dairy cows. So somehow, I felt like that whole year of tending to cows prepared me for my deep relationship with Milky White as Jack in Into the Woods. It was one of those "everything happens for a reason" moments.

What are you most looking forward to after graduation?

I'm most looking forward to getting the chance to travel the country and the world as a performer. Ever since I decided to pursue this career, I've dreamt of doing what I love while also experiencing different kinds of places and people.

A skill or interest you've always wanted to cultivate?

Having first gone to college for pre-veterinary medicine, and then changing to musical theatre, it’s no surprise that another passion of mine is animals! I'd love to continue to cultivate this passion alongside my performing career by learning animal training and husbandry. I've also thought it would be awesome to become certified in animal massage. Who doesn't want to get paid to pet dogs and cats for a few hours?

Describe your dream show, role, or project:

When I was really little, I used to tell people I wanted to be Mary Poppins when I got older. For some reason that movie resonated with me, and I've seen the production on Broadway and have performed in it at a regional theatre since then. I'd really love the chance to play Burt in Mary Poppins someday, and fulfill my desire to tap on the ceiling during "Step in Time"!

An artist/person you deeply admire and why?One musical theatre icon who inspires me is Harvey Fierstein. I think my first exposure to him was as Robin Williams’ brother in Mrs. Doubtfire, another integral movie to my young self. I've always been drawn to his sense of humor, captivating presence, and of course, his charming voice. I also commend him for the projects he chooses to involve himself with. They always seem to have a touching message of staying true to oneself, while also providing campy, outrageous entertainment. I'd love the chance to meet him one day, and maybe even work with him!

What would you go back and tell your freshman self?If I could go back and tell my freshman self something, it would be to take more advantage of the world outside of the musical theatre program at Penn State. While I was here, I focused mainly on my training, and cultivating friendships with my fellow theatre people. I wish I had joined at least one other club, or gotten involved with more activities on campus besides those of the School of Theatre, because this university really does have so much to offer outside of our program, and expanding your involvement past what's comfortable to you can allow you to grow as a person and actor in many ways.

 

Miranda GelchMiranda Gelch from Newton, MA

What is one of your most favorite Penn State memories?

Performing for the first time in NYC at 54 Below with my best friends by my side. I cannot imagine a better way to launch our careers into the business. The entire weekend was magical; along with our 54 Below show, we had a casting director master class, and performed at BroadwayCon!

What are you most looking forward to after graduation?

After graduation, I am most looking forward to applying all of the skills I gained at Penn State to my upcoming life and career. I am also excited to meet NYC Penn State Musical Theatre alumni and reconnecting with my beautiful friends from the class of 2016.

A skill or interest you've always wanted to cultivate?

I am always finding new skills and interests. Over my time here at Penn State, I learned how to knit, play the ukulele, do my taxes (thank you, John), and so much more. My most recent interest is entrepreneurship. I would love to start a business.

Describe your dream show, role, or project:

I have always dreamed about performing in Phantom of the Opera. To me, the show is utter perfection.

An artist/person you deeply admire and why?

I deeply admire Mary Saunders-Barton. She is brilliant, kind, caring, and the most wonderful human I have met. I aspire to be like her and feel honored to be one of her students.

What would you go back and tell your freshman self?

Be yourself. It sounds very simple and cheesy, but who you really are is wonderful. I am happy to say that I now feel like the goofy, intellectual, and happy person I am meant to be, and for that I thank Penn State.

 

MAggie MalaneyMaggie Malaney from Farmington Hills, MI

What is one of your most favorite Penn State memories?

I cannot limit it to one moment, but a lot of them come from the nights spent in my house with Miranda and Jessie, sitting on the ground and spending hours laughing over who knows what.

What are you most looking forward to after graduation?

I am excited to be in a place full of art and artists. I am excited to get involved in unique projects that would only happen in New York.

A skill or interest you've always wanted to cultivate?

Well, for American Idiot we had to learn to play guitar...I kinda failed and would love to try that again.

Describe your dream show, role, or project:

Honestly, at my core I am a diehard Golden Age girl. In high school I was in

Carousel and since then I have been in love with all things Rodgers and Hammerstein.

An artist/person you deeply admire and why?

I have looked up to Jessie Mueller for a long time because she is so versatile in her work and does not let anyone put her in a box. Her ability to jump from role type to role type is something I hope to find in my career.

What would you go back and tell your freshman self?

Breathe. Not everything is the end of the world. You are not going to remember the nights you stayed up stressing to finish homework. Go out with your friends and laugh—those are the nights you will remember.

 

Lauren MooreLauren Moore from Mount Kisco, NY

What is one of your most favorite Penn State memories?

My favorite Penn State memory was when the cast list came out for Into the Woods my freshman year and I found out I would be playing Little Red Riding Hood. This was a really special moment because Into the Woods was the first show I did at my educational theatre back home, so it being my first show in college brought everything full circle.

What are you most looking forward to after graduation?

I am looking forward to being closer to my family and reconnecting with alumni in the city.

A skill or interest you've always wanted to cultivate?

I would love to perfect my baton-twirling skills. My mom taught me the basics when I was a kid but after a recent baton-twirling workshop in our styles class, I realized I definitely need more lessons.

Describe your dream show, role, or project:

Working on any Sondheim show.

An artist/person you deeply admire and why?

John Fanelli is my greatest inspiration. He is the founder and artistic director of Standing Ovation Studios, the educational theatre I attended back home. He has made me the artist I am today and gave me the confidence to pursue this as a career.

What would you go back and tell your freshman self?

Do the things that make you happy and don't change yourself to please others.

 

Hannah Michelle ProvisorHannah Michelle Provisor from Los Angeles, CA

What is one of your most favorite Penn State memories?

When we all got together to write our senior skit. We sat on the grass outside in the sunshine, and laughed and laughed about all of the funny things that have happened to us here over the years. It was fun to relive hilarious, embarrassing, and heartfelt moments and write scenes around them so we could share them with our friends in younger classes.

What are you most looking forward to after graduation?

I'm looking forward to discovering ways to incorporate all of the different art forms I love into some kind of path for myself. I am also looking forward to food outside of State College.

A skill or interest you've always wanted to cultivate?

I love drawing, cooking, and writing, and I can't wait to work on all three in the future. I also kind of want to learn how to yodel.

Describe your dream show, role, or project:

My absolute dream roles are Peter Pan and Jerusha Abbott—but in general, I want to work on projects that are either deeply imaginative or socially conscious, or a bit of both. I'd also love to play every sister in Little Women. I love the whole trend of 1800s stories with beautifully lyrical, contemporary music.

An artist/person you deeply admire and why?

I can't pick one, so I'll pick eight. Every single person in my class. I'm terrible.

What would you go back and tell your freshman self?

It's okay to speak up for yourself, voice your opinions, and make your truth heard, even if it isn't always peachy!

 

Libby RosenfieldLibby Rosenfield from Lexington, MA

What is one of your most favorite Penn State memories?

One of my favorite memories at Penn State was traveling to London last Christmas break with Raymond Sage, Bev Patton, and fellow Schreyer Honors students. We spent a couple weeks immersed in the theatre scene in the West

End, and explored countless museums, markets, towns, pubs, etc. around London! Mostly, it was a great opportunity to meet new friends who had a variety of unique majors and interests (other than theatre!).

What are you most looking forward to after graduation?

As much I have loved being in State College the past four years, I am getting really excited about moving to the Big Apple. I’m looking forward to living in a progressive, high-energy, culturally diverse city with a ton of places to explore, people to meet, and yummy restaurants to eat in!

A skill or interest you've always wanted to cultivate?

I have yet to conquer learning a language. I would love to travel to a foreign country for an extended period of time, and spend as much time necessary there to become fluent in their language!

Describe your dream show, role, or project:

I have a couple! Last summer I played Agnes in Gypsy at the Sharon Playhouse, and performing in the show made me realize how much I would love to play Louise! A couple other shows I’d love to be in include: Fiddler on the Roof, Spring Awakening, Cabaret, Next to Normal, Beauty and the Beast, and more. I am also really into experimental theatre and would love to be in a company such as “Punch Drunk.”

An artist/person you deeply admire and why?

There are lots of artists out there who I admire greatly. But the people I look up to the most are, without a doubt, my parents. They have taught me the importance of a strong work ethic, patience, compassion, generosity, and having perspective.

What would you go back and tell your freshman self?

Take advantage of all that the university offers as soon as you come to school. Don’t wait until senior year to become part of clubs, THON, the honors college, student films, or even meeting new people. Because time here at Penn State really does fly. So enjoy all that the ride offers!

 

London SperryLondon Sperry from Saratoga Springs, NY

What is one of your most favorite Penn State memories?

Most of my favorite memories include the lovely people in my program and my classmates. We’ve gone through some of the worst days together and some of the best, and I remember a lot of the feelings from those moments, but not specific details. Something I definitely look forward to every year is Blue-White weekend. It’s one of the few days that almost all of the members of the School of Theatre come together for tailgating and football (but mostly tailgating) and the weather is beautiful and everyone is in good spirits and it’s really a lot of fun. Another favorite is when we take the annual New York trip, and we always have the class dinner. This year particularly, we ate at Bare Burger, and talked about our roses and thorns of the year so far and it was the first time I felt like we were all going to be okay after graduation—that we were all in it together. It was nice to stop for a minute and breathe and enjoy the company for a while in the place we will soon call home.

What are you most looking forward to after graduation?

I'm looking forward to taking on the post-grad life with my class and seeing what everyone ends up doing. We've really become a tight-knit family of nine over these four years and while I'll miss seeing them all every day, I really look forward to being front row for all of their opening nights. Also, I look forward to reconnecting with people I've gotten to know at Penn State or even in high school whose paths may have taken them to different parts of the country than central Pennsylvania. That’s the fun part, because New York is the theatre capital of the world, and everyone ends up there at one point or another. While it’s scary to think that I'm an "adult" now (quotes are definitely needed for that term), I certainly don't think my training or growth is at all finished. So I'm looking forward to continuing that, and of course auditioning my little heart away. I'm definitely looking forward to really good friends, really good food, and really hard work in New York!

A skill or interest you've always wanted to cultivate?

I've become very interested in writing in school. I would absolutely love to write a play or musical one day.

Describe your dream show, role, or project:

To be a part of a project from birth to Broadway. To originate a role would be amazing. To be with a project for every step of the way, I imagine would be a great experience. I also think I would be a pretty good Veronica in Heathers!

An artist/person you deeply admire and why?

Not to sound too obvious, but I'm simply obsessed with Lin Manuel-Miranda. I wake up every day wondering if it will be the day I'll finally be sick of listening to the Hamilton soundtrack, and thankfully, that day has yet to come. I could go on and on about how much I admire him and his brilliant brain, but I don't have three days to spare to write it all!

What would you go back and tell your freshman self?

I would tell freshman London to take a chill pill! Not everything that goes wrong is the end of the world, even if it feels like it. Become comfortable being uncomfortable; in fact, learn to love it because it’s going to happen a lot. When in doubt, journal it out, focus on friendships alongside your studies, and don't feel guilty watching a marathon of Dexter on Netflix—it’s research! You will be okay, so stop worrying so much. Oh and also, Chipotle three times a week isn't always the best choice…maybe cut down to only twice.

 

Aidan WhartonAidan Wharton from Kamuela, HI

What is one of your most favorite Penn State memories?

My favorite Penn State memories revolve around the first unexpected, warm days of the year. Everything takes a back seat to sitting on the Old Main or HUB lawn. There’s nothing to do—just spend time with people you love and enjoy the sun.

What are you most looking forward to after graduation?

I’m looking forward to re-exploring New York. I spent my freshman year at Pace University and I can’t wait to get back to the city and find out how I exist there as a young adult rather than a student.

A skill or interest you've always wanted to cultivate?

Definitely playing the guitar. American Idiot made me start to learn, but I want to keep practicing and get better!

Describe your dream show, role, or project:

I love doing new works. I’ve been a part of a few now and there is something inexplicably artistic about helping to create a role and watching a piece of theatre change as you’re a part of it.

An artist/person you deeply admire and why?

Someone I deeply admire right now is Brené Brown. I’ve been fascinated with her work all year and talk about her with anyone who’ll let me. Her research on shame, fear, and vulnerability has changed the way I view myself in so many ways. She manages to write down feelings and traits I’ve never managed to articulate in illuminating ways. This is not a plug, but I think everyone could benefit by reading her books.

What would you go back and tell your freshman self?

Relax and breathe. Everything you do will be a lot better if you do what makes you happy and not what you think will make other people happy. I’m definitely telling this to my senior self, too, though.

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