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Sharing an alma mater provides a base level of trust, smooths the path to developing a new relationship, opens the door to begin the conversation. The greatest gift Penn State gave me was all of you. I believe that this program is what it is because of the exceptional human beings in it. I am continually amazed by the level of talent, creativity, drive, and heart that Penn State graduates continue to bring to the table. As our community grows, so does the respect and admiration for the program among professionals in the industry. I have never been prouder to be a Penn Stater.

Addi McDaniel, Editor-in-Chief


Spotlight Students

Each April the senior class of Penn State's Musical Theatre B.F.A. program takes part in a special television production called "Music Theatre Spotlight," produced by WPSU. The series has been honored with a Mid-Atlantic Emmy® Award for best entertainment program.

The annual production, in its eighth year, provides the opportunity for students to showcase their talents in a television studio setting in front of a live audience. “It's such a rewarding project across so many levels. I've received some very positive feedback from the students and it's inspiring to see how much the opportunity means to them,” said Jeff Hughes, producer/director of "Music Theatre Spotlight.”

According to 2014 alumnus Sam Sefarian, the series was what made him apply to Penn State. “When I was looking at musical theatre programs, I remember finding some of these videos, watching them, and being amazed at the quality. Immediately it put Penn State on my map. It was such a huge deciding factor in why I came to Penn State.”

Students’ participation in the production adds a unique component to their professional portfolios, Hughes explained. Additionally, their performances, posted to YouTube, often attract the attention of casting agents.

Stephanie Cowan (’14) shared, “I know a lot of alumni who have gotten jobs from having this footage accessible online.”

“The ‘Spotlight’ videos show a care for the students and commitment to producing good work, and to me it resembled the professionalism that I wanted to emulate when I got out of school. Getting to perform on live television where it will be crystalized and remembered for years to come…I don’t think I could ask for a better opportunity,” added recent grad Michael Pilato. recently announced 20 stage productions that are currently in development to be adapted for film. The “Spotlight” project is perfectly aligned with this trend, providing a relevant and invaluable resource for alumni. 

The collaboration extends to the production staff, which includes faculty members Dan Riddle (music director), Curtis Craig (sound), and Susan H. Schulman (director for stage) and Penn State School of Theatre alumnus Andrew Giffin (lighting design).

Individual performance clips from the show are featured on YouTube and have reached over 1 million views and nearly 1000 subscribers.

Click here to watch the very talented 2014 class shine in this year’s “Spotlight” videos



Audrey Cardwell, 24, a 2012 B.F.A. graduate of Penn State’s Musical Theatre program, has been working continuously since her graduation in a range of regional productions and national tours.  Audrey grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, and chose Penn State over five other schools. During her four years at the University, she played Peter Pan; Flaemmchen in Grand Hotel; Shiny Girl in Bubble Boy: The Musical; Fiona in The Giver; Hattie in Kiss Me, Kate; and Adaperle in The Wiz, in addition to participating in the Penn State president’s tailgate shows and other ambassadorial duties typical of the University’s Musical Theatre students. Spotlight interviewed her during preparation for the national tour of Cinderella

Spotlight: Your performance as Peter was one of the highlights in recent Penn State theatrical history. How did playing that role influence you?

Audrey: It really pushed me to take risks. Especially in this show, I had to be okay with acting like a fool in certain situations. I was flying; I had no hair. To go out and be vulnerable enough and to go through this journey every night opened my eyes as an actor and person. It taught me to find the humor in myself and not take myself so seriously. 



          Carly Hughes ('04) as                     Matthew Hydzik ('03) as              Caroline Bowman ('10) as
          Leading Player in Pippin                 Buddy in Side Show                     as Elphaba in Wicked on
          on Broadway                                   revival on Broadway                    Broadway

10 fun facts about Carly Hughes         More about Matthew Hydzik          Caroline is the recipient of a
                                                                                                                      2014 Penn State Alumni
                                                                                                                       Achievement Award

“I have to be off-book when I audition because I can’t stand to look down at a page. Also, before I walk through the door, I fully embrace the fact that I may completely crash and burn. I all-out crash and burn one out of every four auditions” – Matt Hydzik


       Heartfelt inspiration from 2005 alumna Vanessa Reseland

"I have learned that if I never get hired again, I am no less talented, no less worthy, and I will not disappear. I will make my own opportunities.”

Vanessa Reseland is making things happen with humility and passion. This month she releases her debut album with glitterrock band WIFEY, and makes her Roundabout debut in the exciting upcoming production of Into the Woods. She shares insight on working in the arts, the joys of songwriting, and the importance of staying true to yourself.

What advice would you give to someone just starting a career in musical theatre?

Work really hard, and don't let other people's opinions get you down. Everyone's got something to say, and just about everyone is wrong. That, unfortunately, goes for praise as well. You're never as good or bad as anyone says, but if you share your truth, you can sleep at night. Be good to yourself, be good to other people, and don't be afraid to go down a path that might be controversial or confusing to someone else if you feel it's right for you. There is no secret to success, so focus on what truly makes you happy and put in the work to get there. Also, keep yourself as open as you can be. The audition process and a struggling life in New York City can make you want to turn inward or build walls to protect yourself. It won't serve you. Do yoga, meditate, find a therapist, laugh a lot, love people hard. Do whatever you can do to be a giving and receptive artist and human being.


More about Vanessa at Listen to WIFEY at


Private support from alumni helps Penn State’s Musical Theatre program to shine. Steve Wilson ('97 M.F.A. Theatre) recently joined the College of Arts and Architecture development team and will be travelling throughout the United States, including the greater Los Angeles area, to meet with alumni and friends who are seeking to support the program. A former professional actor, Steve appeared in numerous Broadway, national tour, regional, and stock productions around the United States before retiring from show business in 2010. For more on Steve, click here. He can be reached at


                            YouTube Sensation Natalie Weiss

I recently had the great pleasure of joining my long-time friend and Penn State classmate Natalie Weiss on part of her international tour. I spent ten days in London co-teaching musical theatre performance classes at the top universities and music schools. Natalie also made her London solo-concert debut performing to sold-out houses at the St. James Theater, which was packed with adoring fans. It was an experience, she said, that made her ask, “How did I end up here?”

Well, it all started in Musical Theatre program head Cary Libkin’s living room, during his annual holiday party in 2009. Natalie’s performance of “And I Am Telling You White Girl Can Blow” was recorded by 2010 alum Delius Doherty, and the video was posted to an 18-month-old website called YouTube. Since then, nearly 500 videos of Natalie’s live performances have been posted, totaling over 3 million views. Her YouTube presence has led to invitations and opportunities that she never in her wildest dreams could have imagined.

“My teacher and mentor, Mary Saunders, taught me how to essentially make my voice ‘one.’ Going into college I had all the right tools but had no idea how to use them to connect sound through my registers. Trust me, it took MANY lessons of cracking and sounding like a dying cow, but after trial and error, it finally clicked for me around the end of my sophomore year,” Natalie shared.


More on Natalie Weiss. Contact her directly at

Other alumni working abroad:

• James T. Lane reprises his role in The Scottsboro Boys in the West End.

• Marcus James is currently choreographing a Spanish version of Rent, which will open in Havana on December 24, marking the first time a Broadway show has come to Cuba in a half century.

• Ryan Watkinson plays Henry in Henry V in his final year at London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA)


SAVE THE DATE: January 24, 2015

The annual Theatre Alumni Reunion is getting a makeover in 2015! Get ready for delicious appetizers at Etcetera Etcetera, located at 352 W. 44th St., New York, NY 10036. We will be in the second-floor reception room from 9 p.m. to midnight. RSVP by January 16. See you there!



Check out Penn State graduate Aaron Galligan-Stierle’s new audition blog

“My goal for this blog is to share some of the many audition tips, hints, and ideas that I have picked up throughout my career. I have performed as an actor in shows of every level (from big Broadway hits to rinky-dink regional theaters…from musicals, to plays, to Shakespeare…to everything in between) and I hope to bring my breadth of knowledge to all of you.”



Penn State alum Jason Sparks discusses his training at Penn State, working on the Tonys, and advice for aspiring choreographers. 

Click here to watch the first video in this exciting series.



In our industry, we move around a lot—it's just the nature of the business. To make it easier to stay in touch and up-to-date on Musical Theatre alumni's jobs and locations, we have created a Google doc where you can update your own information, any time it changes. Because YOU provide the updates to this "live" document, it's the best resource for staying in touch. Fill in the blanks and make changes here: Thanks to all of you who have already shared a little about your current lives!

In addition to the Google doc created to help Musical Theatre alumni stay in touch, alumni of the School of Theatre have been working hard to create a way to keep all Theatre alumni connected and informed. Please help that effort by taking this short survey:



Please send any inquires, comments, or suggestions regarding the newsletter to Addi McDaniel and/or Cary Libkin.