Performing Their Authentic Selves: Third-Year M.F.A. Students Prepare a Cabaret

By Annie Sears

The M.F.A. class of 2018 joins hands at the end of October 2017's third-year cabaret Now. Here. Us. Photo by Alessandra Mello

In crafting this year’s M.F.A. productions, Conservatory Director Melissa Smith promised “a panoply of theater that will challenge and grow our students.” Third-year actors are seeing that promise come to fruition. They recently explored complex, serious characters in Chekhov’s Three Sisters, and next week, they’ll explore a different kind of performance, a performance that doesn’t require a character: musical cabaret.

“Music is so primal,” says Avanthika Srinivasan. “It’s ingrained in our human nature. It’s how we express emotions, communicate, and connect with each other. It’s exciting and nerve-wracking to be emotionally vulnerable, but as actors, we’re always trying to practice being vulnerable.”

“Preparing a cabaret is about coming forward with myself alone,” says Carlos Andrickson. “It’s a very exciting opportunity to show our audiences who I am outside my actor craft.”

Not only will M.F.A. students perform as their authentic selves, but they’ll also perform material they’ve selected for themselves. Director Milissa Carey set a loose theme for the show: Songs in Living Color. “It’s just about life,” says Srinivasan. “The different aspects of human nature, the ups and the downs, and just how colorful life is.”

Carey encouraged students to sing songs relevant to where they are right now. Looking towards their futures post-graduation, Srinivasan has selected “A Million Dreams” from The Greatest Showman, while Ash Malloy has selected “I’m Not Afraid of Anything” from Jason Robert Brown’s Songs for a New World. Looking back on elements in his life that have made him the artist he is today, Andrickson will perform “Everything I Know” from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights.

“The songs we’ve picked for ourselves are vulnerable,” says Belle Aykroyd, who will sing “One of These Days,” written by Earl Montgomery and recorded by Emmylou Harris. “For someone who isn’t entirely comfortable with musical theater but loves, loves, loves music, I’m grateful to pour my emotions into a different medium than usual.”

Music not only requires emotion of the performer, but also conjures emotion in the listener. “In a cabaret,” says Andrickson. “I love that you can go from crying over a broken heart to crying over a hysterical number. You see a medley of different artists and the things they’re passionate about.”

“Getting to hear my classmates sing and express who they are is one of my favorite things I get to do here at A.C.T.,” says Göran Norquist. “We have a very musical class. It’s an incredibly passionate, kind, ridiculous, generous group of people, and it’s amazing to watch them work.”

Songs in Living Color runs October 18–20 in The Garret, the smaller theater above The Geary. Seats are limited, so reserve your tickets here.

Want to make a night out of it? Students will sing from 5:30–6:30, leaving an hour and a half before curtains rise on Sweat (closing October 21) downstairs in The Geary. In between, grab dinner and drinks at one of our favorite local restaurants and enjoy a full night of theater with A.C.T. Get your Sweat tickets here.

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