While many of us were using our final days of the holiday break to relax and prepare for spring semester, several musical theatre majors were making the School of Theatre & Dance proud at the National Opera Association's Musical Theatre Scenes Competition in Houston, where they won first place. According to Assistant Professor Casey Joiner, the January 5th competition accepted virtual submissions from all over the country, choosing four groups to compete in person. This marks Texas Tech's third time winning first place and fourth time as finalists.
Sophomore Sebastian Archibald and Juniors Mary Lantz, David Postlewate, Savannah Rhodes, Sierra Roberson, Thomas Schnaible, Samara Shavrick, and Emma Tedder competed with the song “The Key” from Alice By Heart, written by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater (composer and lyricist of SoTD's Fall 2021 musical, Spring Awakening).
Unlike past entries from Texas Tech Theatre and Dance, the students directed, music directed, choreographed, and chose their material without any faculty oversight, according to Joiner. Postlewate and Rhodes oversaw the scene's direction and choreography; Lantz and Archibald handled the music direction; Shavrick not only chose the piece, but also acted as the class coordinator, organizing rehearsals and managing day-to-day activities in Houston.
With only a week to prepare the scene before their initial video submission, the students relied on each other to get the job done. “Everyone had a hand in its development, so placing first was a testament not only to our performance, but to each group member's ability to piece together this number and make it something special,” says Rhodes.
The time crunch wasn't the only challenge they had to overcome as a group: Shavrick led a rehearsal at a Houston park when their hotel couldn't provide a space. A last-minute conflict left one student unable to attend and Archibald, who acted as co-music director and rehearsal pianist, stepped in to save the day with little time to prepare.
Shavrick is quick to note that the trip wasn't all business. They enjoyed group trips to the Houston Museum of Fine Arts and Galleria Mall. They also toured the facilities at Rice University.
The students' win emphasizes not only their ability to effectively collaborate, but a collective initiative to achieve greatness. They join a growing list of Tech students whose excellence has been recognized by the National Opera Association. Their ability to translate skills from the classroom while supporting and empowering each other has set an example that's sure to inspire School of Theatre & Dance students for years to come.