Shenandoah Conservatory acting students took their senior showcase to New York for the first time ever, with two April performances at an Off-Broadway stage. The students have waited for this opportunity for four years, as they trained under the acting faculty at Shenandoah University.
Senior acting students Tyler Clarke-Williams, Darcy Maxine Pierce, Tony Matteson Jr., Makayla Lepley, Trevor Stevie Ray Ontiveros, Kathleen Reed, Sabrina Torres Peña and Steven Peyton, as well as musical theatre major Chris Godshall performed in the play, “Royal Flush,” a play written specifically for the showcase. In addition to the students, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Acting Hank Stone, M.F.A., also joined the cast. Interim Director and Professor of Acting Kirsten Trump, M.F.A., directed the performance, and Kaitlyn De Litta ‘18 acted as stage manager.
Trump connected with the students early in their Shenandoah careers. “I’ve known them since day one,” Trump said. “To see the growth of where they are now, it’s tremendous. The crafts they have honed… It’s a moment of humility and pride that we have a program in place now that is really working.”
“[Trump] has been working us very hard on this show, and she is really the person who got us here,” said Peña. “She has been with us since freshman year, and we could not have done this without her.”
“Royal Flush” written by Reed’s mother, New York Times best-selling novelist Susan Donovan, was tailored to give each of the actors a character they could portray and really show off their acting skills. From a security guard with post-traumatic stress disorder to a silent guardian, this show presents a varied set of characters and a script that holds the audience’s attention.
“It’s so surreal,” said Peyton. “This is something you work toward in all of your years. In other schools, you never actually get this far. They make promises that they can’t keep. Here, they actually kept their promise.”
“If you would have told me that this is where I would have been four years ago, I would not have believed you,” said Ontiveros. “Essentially, we’re leaving college already having an off-Broadway credit. Some of us also already have movie credits at this point.”
“I hope that other classes from [Shenandoah] take this and run with it,” he added.
After the first performance ended, the entire cast jumped and cheered with excitement in a hallway at The Studio Theatre at 410 W. 42nd Street in New York City.
“Man, the first show,” Clarke-Williams said. “It is the most adrenaline-filled show that will ever be done out of our three shows; but, it is also the most rewarding. It was definitely the most fulfilling show, the biggest hug of a show. I’m glad and sad to see that it’s over.”
“The energy of New York is a wonderful thing for a theatre person,” said Trump. “You just come in and you’re ready to do something artistic.”
“Everyone has that little special place in their heart for working in an intimate small studio theatre, and I am glad that we got the chance to do it,” said Godshall. “We’ve spent four years getting ready to do exactly this. All the way from taking acting classes to taking tech classes that get us used to working under lights like this. Everything that we’ve done for the past four years is engineered to set us up to do this.”
By Rachel Deanne Sherman ‘18
Photos by Damon Mackin