One And Done

Personal Column: Sydney LaCour’s experience in her first and final theater production
Ensemble member, senior Sydney LaCour, sings and poses with her feather during All I Care About is Love.
Ensemble member, senior Sydney LaCour, sings and poses with her feather during “All I Care About is Love.”
Isabelle Rask

Blinding lights, music, dance; it’s all I’ve ever wanted. However, leaping off platforms and sweating through my clothes is not how I planned to spend over two months of my senior year. Last fall, mid September, I made the decision to audition for this year’s spring musical: Chicago, Teen Edition. Prior to this show, I did not have any real theater experience (if we aren’t counting when my dance company did “Annie” in the third grade, or when I was in a community production of “Tangled” in the fourth grade and played Mother Gothel), but I have always been obsessed with Broadway and its musicals. I have been an avid fan of theater and its aspects for a very long time, but I never put myself out there to pursue my desires. There was a theater program in my middle school and I wanted to join, but I let my anxiety of feeling out of place and my lack of experience hold me back. Many would think that by high school, I would have put these same worries behind me to follow my heart, but it did not work out that way. 

For theater’s spring show, they opened up auditions to any student, even if they were not in the program. I said to myself, “It’s my senior year, why not.” This has been my mantra for the year and I plan to stick to it. I found out about open auditions in my sophomore year and I spent a few days considering if I would take the leap of faith, but I ultimately decided against it. I contemplated auditioning again my junior year but with such a hectic schedule, I knew I couldn’t swing it. Senior year was my last opportunity.

The audition process was broken into four phases. The first phase was the dance clinic. This clinic was not an audition necessarily, but during this time, everyone who planned to audition was taught a dance by the department’s student choreographer, Samantha Imena. I learned a few hours before this clinic that it is customary to wear black to rehearsals and thankfully, I happened to have worn all black that day. As we learned the dance, I was doing my best, but I felt like I was falling behind. This worried me quite a bit, so I practiced at home until I felt I was fully prepared to dance at the audition. After that rehearsal, I made it my goal to be a part of this cast no matter how hard I had to work.

I remember being so insanely anxious, literally shaking while saying my lines. I was nervous, but I wanted a role, so I tried to work past it and gave the scene my all.

— Sydney LaCour

The second phase was the singing audition. Prior to this audition, we were given clips of a variety of songs from the musical to choose from. Although I was still overcome with an enormous amount of nervous energy because I would be performing in front of other people, I was able to gather up enough confidence to put myself out there. After all, singing was in my wheelhouse. Singing has always been a part of my life because of my innate passion for it, and because I have a family full of musicians and those who value music. In addition, I was lucky because I am also a part of the school’s choir, and the audition took place in the choir room, which is a familiar environment for me. We went into the room two at a time and sang our audition songs separately. After my audition, I remember the director, Jami Sauls commented that I had a strong voice. I was able to walk out with a smile on my face.

The third day was the actual dancing auditions. There were at least 30 of us auditioning, and we went on stage to do the dance in groups of two. After meeting whatever criteria Sauls had, I was brought in for callbacks the following day.

At callbacks, I was asked to read for two different parts, Mary Sunshine and Mama Morton, neither of which I was cast for. I remember being so insanely anxious, literally shaking while saying my lines. I was nervous, but I wanted a role, so I tried to work past it and gave the scene my all. After we were done reading for our respective parts, myself and all the other girls who were called for Mary Sunshine were asked to sing. By the end of callbacks I was feeling quite dejected. While acting my scenes, I felt I didn’t do very well and during the singing portion, I hit the correct notes but my voice cracked. As I was packing up my things, already preparing to buy an audience ticket for the show, two students in theater who were sitting in the auditorium watching the callbacks, came up to me and told me I did a good job. I received an instant boost of confidence when another student came up to me and said the same thing. I have never felt so welcomed in an unfamiliar space.  In the end, I didn’t get either role. 

Ainsley Smith, cast as Mary Sunshine, and Willow Nwamadi, cast as Mama Morton, absolutely deserved the roles and were nothing short of phenomenal. 

I ended up being cast as “Ensemble Number Twelve,” where I was tasked with speaking a few introductory lines, and played a role as a minor character in the second act.

Our rehearsal schedule was pretty rigorous, and got more hectic as we got closer to the show. From right after school to 6:30 p.m. almost every day of the week, we would be on the stage practicing. We occasionally had a long 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday rehearsal, and I remember being so sore. We even practiced during winter break. All of the rehearsals only served to make the show better, and the hard work was evident once the show premiered. No matter how exhausted or sore we were, everyone came into practice prepared, ready to do what needed to be done to make the show a success. 

I tend to stress about many things, even though my rational brain knows there is really nothing that crucial I need to be stressed about. Although I would work myself up over countless things, the rehearsals were the best stress reliever. I was in my element because I got to sing and dance all day. Even when I knew that I would be in for a long rehearsal, I was still excited because I knew I would ultimately have the best time. 

Getting to know the cast and bonding with them was enjoyable, and the easiest part of this experience. Everyone was so fun to talk to. I have only been in the same space as these people for a few months, but I formed some wonderful relationships. It was also such an informative experience. I enjoyed seeing how everything came together through the effort and participation of everyone working hard.

Sydney LaCour, left, sits with Madeline Leveridge, right, during dress rehearsals. Photo courtesy: Madeline Leveridge

In every rehearsal, I became immersed in the story as I witnessed this group of very talented people perform. The cast was a very gifted group of singers, dancers and actors, with some having talent in all three areas. While many were extremely talented, the brilliant directors deserve so much credit for their hard work and guidance as we prepared for this production. Many people outside of the cast had parts to play to deliver an amazing show, from those behind the stage to those in the booth. 

Before opening night we did a few of theaters’ rituals before shows. At the end I was left with tears in my eyes. From the morning of that day all the way up until I was standing in my opening place in the wings, ready to go on, I was strangely very calm. I had zero anxieties, which is extremely abnormal for me. I think I just knew we were ready. I knew I was ready to show off our amazing show. 

This wasn’t my first experience performing on stage in front of an audience, but this was different. It was absolutely exhilarating, knowing I was a part of something people were enjoying. I was so lucky to have people in the audience supporting me as well. My friends and family came to various shows, and my mom came to see me in all of them. At the one show my sister went to, she came up to me after and told me that she “actually really liked it” and coming from her that’s a huge compliment, because she is truly a tough critic. The positive feedback from audience members enhanced both personal satisfaction and confidence for me.

Ensemble member, senior Sydney LaCour acts surprised while hearing Billy Flynn answer the reporters questions during “We Both Reached For The Gun” (Isabelle Rask)

This adventure has opened my heart and mind to further pursue an artistic path. I can feel how much love and care is in the cast and crew, and it has occasionally made me emotional. The three things I can take away from this experience are: the significance of collaboration and teamwork, not being afraid to push beyond the boundaries of my comfort zone and the importance of community and everyone in it. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.

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