Good mid-morning DSM Fans!
I can’t believe how quickly time has flown – Dakota and Cameron are already home from NYC! Yesterday was their last day at the National HSMTA, and it was a nice change from the craziness that had happened all week. Check out their final thoughts about their trip below!
The last day was bittersweet. We got to sleep in a little bit then headed over to Tisch for the last time. We were fortunate enough to have a casting agent talk to us about the business and answer any questions we may have. One of the best parts about this experience was hearing the different perspectives of every side of the professional theatre world. After she finished Ken Gash from NYU gave us a really inspiring talk about theatre. One of the things that really stuck with me was when he said “Theatre is the language of the soul.” He just kind of reminded us that even though this week was hard and frustrating, it was all worth it in the end (we performed on BROADWAY). And it’s true, I feel stronger. I feel like I have a new found confidence I didn’t previously have, and hopefully when I go to school this fall with a major in musical theatre performance everything I have learned during this experience will help me be the actress and person I have always wanted to be. They told us on the first day that we would come home feeling different and I definitely do. I feel even more passionate and driven then before, and it’s very exciting.
Alas, the adventure has ended. After the best night’s sleep I’ve had all week (probably due to a mix of relief and exhaustion), we headed to Tisch to have a discussion with a casting director from Bernie Telsey’s office–the biggest casting office in New York, I’ve been told. She told us about how a casting director’s mind works in an audition: they ultimately don’t care about where you were educated if you’re absolutely right for the role, the first moment they see you, they’re placing you in all different roles in their head based on your appearance, and they usually know if you’re right for a role vocally after the first 6 bars or so. She also added that although a person auditioning may not be right for the part in that specific show, casting directors are usually working on a number of projects, so in their minds they’re trying to see if you match any other parts they need to cast. After that, Ken Gash, head of the New Studio on Broadway, gave us an inspiring and educational speech about what we accomplished this week. Something he said that I really liked went along the lines of: “Theatre isn’t about headlining or being a star. It’s about seeing words or notes on a page and putting your humanity in it to reach out to the humanity in others.” That’s only a snippet of Gash’s speech. Almost every sentence was an inspiring piece of brilliance. Finally, it was time to say goodbye to all of the friends I had made this week… Some truly remarkable people. Performing alongside such fantastic young actors and actresses was an extremely humbling experience, and I know I’ll be hearing great things about plenty of them in the future. This trip was enormously educational, inspiring, humbling, unforgettable, and above all: FUN. I’ll miss the big talent and the big city, but it feels pretty sweet to be back home.
Thank you Cameron and Dakota for providing us with all the inside scoop from the National HSMTA this week! We’re so proud of you both and look forward to seeing your careers in the future! Thank you for representing DSM so well, and we wish you the best of luck at college in the fall!
Also, thank you to you all for following this blog during their journey! I hope you have enjoyed hearing from Cameron and Dakota as much as I did.
Have a great day!
Good morning DSM Fans!
Yesterday was the day Cameron and Dakota had been waiting for since they won Best Actor and Actress just a couple of months ago – the National High School Musical Theatre Awards show! Day 6 for them was an “emotional rollercoaster” day, but the best one they’ve had the entire week. Check out what they had to say below!
Hello again! I don’t even know where to begin. We arrived at the Minskoff and were held in the lobby before we could move into the dressing rooms. We had a fantastic view of Times Square from where we were. The first time we stepped on to the stage was incredible, and something I’ll always remember. I couldn’t believe that I was there in that moment, staring out at the house of a Broadway stage.
After we had a few minutes to look around we started right into rehearsals. It went by very fast, and before I knew it we were being mic’ed for the show.
I found out one of the guys who was running mics was the sound mixer from the original production of Little Shop of Horrors, so I had the chance to ask him a lot of questions about what the show had been like. We were sent back to the dressing rooms and were called back up a few minutes before the opening. I was so excited I kind of forgot to be nervous. In the beginning of the opening number, there is a blackout and we all run out to a big group in the middle. We ran out into our group, and bent down to our starting positions; during rehearsals I had always been focused and serious at this point, but the audience started going crazy and I couldn’t help but have this huge smile. That moment, along with stepping on to the stage for the first time, were completely indescribable. I remember thinking while we performed “Yup, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
While neither Cam or myself walked away with any award, the ones who received them were some of the most talented and deserving people I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. Congrats to Sarah, Taylor, Mackenzie, Jillian, Brian, Billy! The party afterwards was at Joe’s Pizzaria, which was a lot of fun but we were all pretty exhausted so we didn’t stay for very long. I feel so lucky and happy to have had this once in a life time experience. It was one of the few times in life where your expectations are so high that you think it couldn’t get any better, but the actual experience was everything I thought it would be and more. Thank you to DSM High School Musical Theatre Awards and the National High School Musical Theatre Awards for this opportunity, and to all of my family and friends who have supported me throughout this crazy adventure!
CAMERON (as written at 12:30am early this morning):
The experience of a lifetime is nearing its end. Today, we woke up and headed to the Minskoff to run through the show a couple times before the big performance.
We also got to change/hang out in the dressing room the the Lion King cast uses, so that was really neat. They have an assortment of dumbbells and workout material in there… I guess to get a pump on before going onstage.
The really awesome thing was getting to see all of the props backstage–that made the fact that we were really on Broadway settle in a bit more. The show was insane. The moment we hit our opening positions with our heads down, John and I started beating the floor from sheer excitement. Unfortunately, I did not make it into the top 3 performers so the only solo I sang on Broadway tonight was from my medley. But hey, I can’t complain–I was a Broadway actor tonight, and no one can take that away from me! I will admit, it’s a bit of a bummer, of course, that I didn’t place, but at least I have 58 other people to be disappointed with me! 😉
Any single one of the nominees could’ve won tonight and I wouldn’t have been surprised, but tonight’s best actor winner was Taylor from Connecticut who busted out some insane skills when he sang “Santa Fe.” I bet the Newsies in the audience were proud!
Also, congrats to Sarah Lynn Marion on winning best female performer! I had the pleasure of being in her vocal group and seeing her grow tremendously throughout the week. She’s an amazing person, and I’m honored to call her a friend! We ended with a perfect finale, and taking my bow on the Minskoff stage will forever be engraved in my memories. Hopefully it wasn’t the last time I’ll take a bow on Broadway! Now I’m on the bus back to Tisch from the after party at John’s Pizzeria. This has been such an incredible adventure, but I do miss home. I’ll see you tomorrow Dallas! Thank you, DSM and NHSMTA, for the unbelievable opportunity!
We are all so unbelievably proud of Cameron and Dakota! They worked their tails off this past week and were a part of something in which only 60 students from across the nation participated! I know it is an experience neither one of them will forget – what a way to finish your high school career!
Today, Dakota and Cameron have their final day in NYC. While it’s only a half day, they do get to meet with a casting director! After lunch, they are set to head back to Dallas, so their last post will be tomorrow. I’m so impressed with these 2 – I can’t wait to see where their career takes them.
Thanks for following our blog during their journey! Have a great Tuesday!
Good morning DSM Fans!
Yesterday was Day 5 for Cameron and Dakota at the National HSMTA. I know I speak for them when I say it was their most challenging and rewarding day so far! Check out what they had to say about their day below!
Today we finally finished the opening and closing number. After that we performed our different medleys for the director and the other nominees, which was a blast. We spent the majority of our time today cleaning everything, and I’m so excited for the show tomorrow. We ate lunch then dressed in our character costumes for the medleys (I had missed being my Audrey more than I realized). Performing for the judges was more fun than anything else, and after that we changed again into our black dresses for our solos. I was a little nervous for the solos, but I tried not to be and just have a great time singing. We gathered at the end of the day in a big group around our choreographer, and as she started talking about everything that would be happening tomorrow I just couldn’t believe that I actually will be performing on a Broadway stage. This whole experience has been so rewarding, and I hope it shows tomorrow in our show. Wish us broken legs!
(Note from DSM Amanda – WE WISH YOU MANY BROKEN LEGS!!!!)
I’m on a serious high right now because today was so epic. We started off the day by perfecting the opening number and proceeded to finish choreographing the finale–and might I say, both numbers are phenomenal. Next we finalized our medley numbers and performed them for the judges (just for fun; they don’t get scored until tomorrow).
After that it was time to perform our solo pieces for the judges… Probably the most nerve-racking experience I’ve had in a while. And it didn’t help that I chugged a bottle of water before the solos started and couldn’t leave the room the entire time (not an ideal situation for a nervous actor with a small bladder). However, I pulled myself together and did nearly the best performance of my solo that I could’ve done.
That being said, I think everyone did their best performance tonight, based on what I’ve seen throughout the week. I can’t get over how insanely talented these fellow nominees are. So now the grueling part is over, and I can relax and enjoy my first time performing on a Broadway stage! I get to sleep in a bit tomorrow, but it’ll still be one of the most taxing days we’ve had so far. In the end, I know all the hard work will be worth it. Even if I don’t “place” in the top 3 male performers, I’ve had the experience of a lifetime, and nothing can take that away from me. I’m beyond anxious to see what happens tomorrow night!
Today is the day! The National High School Musical Theatre Awards are tonight! All the rehearsing, the sweat and tears, it all is in preparation for tonight! We know that Cameron, Dakota, and all of the other nominees from around the country are anxious and excited for tonight. We wish everyone (especially Cameron and Dakota) the VERY best of luck and can’t wait to hear about their day today!
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I hope you have a Marvelous Monday!
Good afternoon DSM Fans!
Yesterday was Day 4 in NYC at the National High School Musical Theatre Awards for Cameron and Dakota. It was a full day full of surprises, stress, and so much fun! Check out what they had to say about their day yesterday below!
Today started off a little scary when we had to sing our solo songs in front of all of the other nominees. It was amazing witnessing so much talent in one room, and after a while it wasn’t stressful.
After that we worked on cleaning up our medleys, and I had the chance to really get to know the other girls I was working with. Once we cleaned up all of the medleys we finished staging the opening number. It has turned out to be pretty fantastic, and it gets more and more exciting each time we go through it. When we finished for the day we stopped for some frozen yogurt and headed back to Founder’s Hall. Only one more day of rehearsal before the show!
Today was full of pleasant surprises! The first pleasant surprise was bumping into Corey Cott, star of Newsies, after dinner at Tisch. I got to have a nice little chat with him and snapped a picture.
The second was getting out at 9:00 tonight to catch up on some sleep. We started the day by watching everyone’s solo performances, and each nominee is clearly here for a reason–the talent is remarkable. But I’d say that Dakota and I are holding our own! Next we finished choreographing our medley and moved straight into finalizing the opening number. Thus, everything except the finale is blocked! Hooray! Tomorrow we’ll be performing our solos for the judges and that performance, as well as how we do in our medleys, will decide the top 3 male and top 3 female performers. Those 6 will be announced at the show on Monday and they’ll sing their solo again on the Minskoff stage. The top performers will be picked off one by one (apparently) until the best actor and actress are left. Let’s hope Dakota and I get to do a solo performance on Broadway!
Today is Day 5 for Cameron, Dakota, and the other ladies and gents who are competing in the National HSMTA! Tomorrow is The Jimmys, and they are going to have a fun filled day of rehearsal for the show today, and most importantly, they perform their solos in front of the judges this afternoon. We’re rooting hard for you Dakota and Cameron! We wish you the best of luck tomorrow, and can’t wait to hear about your day today!
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Hope you all had a fantastic weekend!
Good mid-morning DSM Fans!
Day 3 in New York City for Dakota & Cameron was yesterday! They are in the thick of rehearsals and coaching, and they have been working their tails off! Please see below for pictures and their comments about their day yesterday!
Another busy day rehearsing (which is more fun than it sounds). We started off again by reviewing the music for the opening and closing then broke off to our coaching sessions. Throughout the lesson it was really amazing to see how myself and the other nominees progressed.
I’ve learned so much already and feel like I’m growing as an artist, which was the whole objective of being here in the first place. We had a costume parade and it was fun seeing everyone as their characters. After that we staged the majority of the opening number. Today we got a lot of work done, but we still have much more to do before the show Monday.
Today was action packed. We immediately continued choreographing the opening number after breakfast, then went to vocal training and worked medleys (you know the drill by now). Today was the last day with Schele, and she lived up to my expectations, once again, of being phenomenal. She’s part psychologist, part voice teacher, part superhero. She makes her students do creative exercises to establish serious connections to their song (for example: I packed a bag during one of my run-throughs as I was saying goodbye to “Sarah” in my solo, which brought out a little more aggression in my voice).
After a dinner break, we did a costume parade and continued to choreograph, and ended the night with a discussion with Charles Wood, a Tony-nominated playwright (whose first show was titled “Lesbian Vampires of Sodom”). I’m finishing this night by listening to my roommate, John Clay III, sing an incredible rendition of “Make Them Hear You.”
I’m loving every minute of this journey and can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds.
Today is another full day of rehearsal, and I feel that it will be their most difficult day so far. We wish them the best of luck this weekend – it’s going to be a busy one!
Be sure to follow the blog (enter your email address at the top right on the blog page) to get alerts as soon as we post them! We have more exciting posts ahead for you!
Have a great Saturday!
Good morning DSM Fans!
Yesterday was Day 2 in NYC for Cameron and Dakota. What a long, tiring, but amazing day they both had! Check out below what they had to say about their day! (These comments were from 11:30pm last night.)
DAKOTA: Hello again! After a quick review of the opening and closing number music, we jumped right into staging the opening. We staged the beginning then broke off into our solo coaching groups. Cam and I have the fabulous Schele Williams who is a professor here at NYU and has several Broadway credits.
We rehearsed with her and then had the first chance to look at our medleys. Right after rehearsal we got dressed, got on a bus, and headed over to Sardi’s to eat before we saw “Annie” at the Palace Theatre.
The show was great and we had the pleasure to meet with the orphans and Annie herself. They were the most down to Earth (not to mention wildly talented) group of kids I’ve ever met. Day 2 was pretty hectic but always exciting, can’t wait to see what happens tomorrow!
CAMERON: I can’t believe all of what I’m about to describe happened in only a day… And keep in mind we have an even longer day tomorrow. After breakfast, we went straight into choreography, learned a bit of the opening number, then were split up into groups for vocal training. Dakota’s in my group! Our vocal teacher is none other than Schele Williams, associate director of Motown and former star of Aida. What an amazing woman… She brought two of the nominees in our group to tears through her ability to bring out such raw emotion (one of those people being myself).
After coaching, we worked on the medley numbers, and then went to Sardi’s for a delicious dinner, followed by seeing Annie at The Palace Theatre. We also got to have a little talkback session with members of the cast (these 8-year old girls went through something like 11 callbacks to be where they are today). Might I say that I was pleasantly surprised at how fantastic the show was, and Jane Lynch did an outstanding job. Now I’m calling it a day, and I’ll be up in 7 hours 😉
Day 3 at the National HSMTA is happening right now for Dakota and Cameron, and it’s a long (but exciting) day ahead of them. Their day is full of rehearsals and coaching – I can’t imagine a better way to spend my day though! 🙂 I’m so excited to hear about their day today, and I hope you are too. Check back here tomorrow for our next update!
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Have a great Friday!
Good afternoon DSM Fans!
Day 1 in New York City for Dakota and Cameron (the Best Actress & Best Actor from the 2013 DSM High School Musical Theatre Awards) was yesterday, and what a great day it was for them both! Please see below for pictures and Dakota and Cameron’s comments about their first day!
DAKOTA: Today we checked in at our dorm rooms at NYU’s Founder’s Hall. The view from my room is incredible, but especially so at night. We had ate pizza and had the chance to chat with the other nominees before he went to our first rehearsal. We learned the entire opening number and closing number music; it sounds amazing, and I can’t wait to hear how we’ll sound by performance!
CAMERON (sent late Wednesday 6/26 evening): Day 1 in New York! We got here early enough to stroll around Union Square for a bit, and then we headed to Tisch for a nice little meet and greet with the other nominees. Tons of great kids. No matter who you sparked up a conversation with, they were outgoing and friendly. We went straight into rehearsal, learned the opening and closing numbers, and now I’m trying to memorize the lyrics as I write this before I wake up at 6:30 AM tomorrow. Sounds like a blast, right? Oh, and I figured out my vocal teacher will be Schele Williams so I’m STOKED about that. Here’s some pictures:
Today is Day 2 for Cameron, Dakota, and the other ladies and gents who are competing in the National HSMTA! Today they will be in rehearsals for the Opening Number, Medleys, and Finale for the National HSMTA show. They will also be coached 1 on 1 for their solos! After a hard day’s work, they will be in for a treat! Dinner at Sardi’s, a picture of ALL of the contestants in Times Square, and a great show: Annie! To top off their day, they get to have a talkback with the cast after the show! (Make sure you subscribe to/follow our blog to get updates as we post them! Just enter your email address to the right & don’t forget to confirm it via an email we’ll send to you!)
Stay tuned tomorrow for their thoughts about their day! We’re so excited for them!
I can’t believe it’s already that time again – National High School Musical Theatre Awards! I got the chance to sit down with Dakota Ratliff (2013 DSM HSMTA Best Actress) and Cameron Wenrich (2013 DSM HSMTA Best Actor) yesterday (Tuesday) to get their thoughts before they left for NYC! (Which is technically right this very moment – they’re on the plane on their way!)I just have to say that these 2 are so humble and down to earth – they are so easy to talk to, and they are so excited (and nervous) about the week ahead of them. Check out my interview with them below!
Amanda: So how does it feel to be only the 2nd DSM HSMTA Best Actor and Actress?
Dakota: This has all been so overwhelming, but exciting and fantastic at the same time!
Cameron: Ditto. This is such a huge honor! I didn’t realize it before, but this really is a big deal.
A: What did you like about competing in DSM’s High School Musical Theatre Awards?
D: Meeting all of the other best actor/actress nominees.
C: Yeah, ditto! Everyone just seemed to click immediately. We all got along so well!
A: When did you find out you were nominated for Best Actor/Actress?
D: I woke up at 5am and sat on the couch with my sister. We watched the news and got so excited when they finally announced the nominees. I was so surprised and excited to hear I got nominated!
C: I just want to say that I am not a morning person, so I didn’t get up to hear the nominations. Last year when I got nominated, I woke up to a bunch of text messages from a lot of people congratulating me. This year was the same. It felt so great! I taped it, so I watched it when I got home from school.
A: And what was it like to win?
D: So surprised! [Laughs and has a huge smile.] When I was walking to the podium, all I could think about was how I didn’t prepare a speech. Once I got off stage, it hit me. I cried. A LOT. But I felt incredible.
C: I wasn’t shocked by Dakota, but I was more surprised about me! I was expecting the “big parts” to get it, ya know like a Phantom or a Baker. I didn’t expect that I would win. It’s such an awesome feeling!
A: This award qualified you to compete on a national level at the Jimmy™ Awards in New York City! Are you excited to meet and work with students from all across the country?
D: I’m really excited but nervous at the same time.
C: Oh my gosh, the same. I hope it’ll be like how it was with the nominees for the [DSM] Awards, where it’s just really easy to connect with everyone.
A: Are you looking forward to performing on Broadway, for the first time, at the Minskoff Theatre?
D: I don’t think it’ll hit me until I’m on stage, but it doesn’t get any better than that – it’s a BROADWAY stage!
C: Like I said a minute ago, this is all a very big deal. I’ve only stood on a Broadway stage one other time, but I can’t believe I get to perform on one this time!
A: What do you hope you’ll learn from your National HSMTA experience?
D: I’m hoping this will be like a snapshot of what it’s really like to be in the business. What it’s like working with professionals, getting the highest education you can get with the best people in the business. I’m just so excited!
C: [In an exaggerated hick accent] “I hope to learn how to sing better.” [Laughs] But seriously, I’m really looking forward to getting a feel for what it’s like for professional actors.
A: Any college plans?
D: I’m going to Wichita State to major in theatre.
C: Ithaca College for musical theatre.
A: If acting wasn’t an option, what would you do instead?
[Both cringe almost simultaneously.]
D: I honestly don’t really know. I can’t even think about it – it’s so hard to imagine.
C: PR I guess. Really just something working with people. But not acting is hard to think about.
A: Any special hobbies or personal favorites we should know about?
D: I love to read, a lot, in my spare time. I really enjoy it.
C: Video games, like any teenage guy. I tried almost every sport, but it was just not for me. I do like snowboarding though.
A: What’s your dream role?
D: Wendla in Spring Awakening.
C: Max Bialystock from The Producers.
[Both mention that Spring Awakening and The Producers are at the top of both of their favorites lists!]
A: If you could work with any actor or actress, who would it be and why?
D: Robin Williams (if we’re just meeting them), but to work with, I’d have to say Ellen Greene.
C: Tom Hanks, hands down. Or Ewan McGregor.
A: Now that you’ve made it through high school and you’re pursuing your dreams, what advice would you give someone looking to follow in your footsteps?
D: Learn as much as you can: read anything you can get your hands on (scripts, plays, anything), see everything you can, listen to as much music as possible. Constantly be learning to make you a better actor.
C: Don’t give up, obviously! There are times that it’s stressful and really hard. It’s full of rejection. I used to have an agent and did commercials when I was in middle school. There is a lot of rejection there. It will make you stronger. Ultimately, I just want to make a living and provide for my future family by doing what I like to do.
After talking about logistics about their trip (things to pack, what to expect, etc.), I wished them the best of luck and safe travels. I’m over the moon excited for them – what an incredible opportunity! I was very fortunate to be able to sit down with them before they go to have one final vocal lesson before their trip. A very special thank you to Dakota and Cameron! I know I speak for us all when I say that we can’t wait to hear all about your experiences.
If you want to follow their journey, make sure you subscribe to/follow our blog to get updates as we post them! Just enter your email address to the right & don’t forget to confirm it via an email we’ll send to you. Dakota and Cameron will be sending in daily updates about their journey in New York City at the National High School Musical Theatre Awards. Check out the category “All in a Day’s Work” for all of their posts, which will be featured daily Today – July 1st, and any previous posts.
See you all tomorrow for our first update about their first day!
We will be featuring daily updates from the 2013 DSM High School Musical Theatre Awards Best Actor and Actress, Cameron Wenrich and Dakota Ratliff, beginning Wednesday, June 26th. Dakota and Cameron will be sending in their updates about their journey in New York City before, during, and after the National High School Musical Theatre Awards. Check out the category “All in a Day’s Work” for all of their posts, which will be featured daily from June 26th – July 1st, and any previous posts.
How did they get to go to New York City and participate in the National HSMTA? Because Cameron won Best Actor and Dakota won Best Actress, they continue on to compete against other high school Best Actor and Actress winners across the country.
What is the National HSMTA? According to their blog, “The NHS Musical Theater Awards will focus national attention on the importance of theater arts education and heighten the profile of communities and school districts around the United States that provide musical theater study in their curriculum and offer student productions as part of their school activities programming. It will also recognize the regional professional theaters participating in this national awards presentation. Two winners from each local event will be eligible to participate in the New York finals competition.”
What will they do in New York City? Other than rehearsals for the actual awards show and their performance for the judges, they will be eating at the legendary Sardi’s restaurant then they will see Annie The Musical, and to top it off, a talkback with the cast following the show! Also, they will be coached 1 on 1 with industry professionals, and of course, perform in the 2013 National HSMTA!
When is the National HSMTA Show? The Awards are on Monday, July 1st at 7:30pm at the Minskoff Theatre on Broadway. The Tony®-nominated stars Laura Osnes (Cinderella) and Santino Fontana (the Prince) will be the evening’s hosts! 60 talented teens perform songs & medleys from the roles that won them top honors at their local musical theater awards competitions. In this one night only engagement on Broadway, the race is on for the “Jimmy Award” for Best Performance by an Actress and Best Performance by an Actor. A panel of industry brass will score performers, winners will be chosen and college scholarships and other prizes will be announced live!
Want to check out more? Check out the Participating Theaters page on the NHSMTA website to learn more about each of the different programs across the country from New York to Texas to California. As the highlight videos and performance photos come in, they are posting them to their website as well!
Make sure you subscribe to/follow our blog to get updates as we post them! Just enter your email address to the right & don’t forget to confirm it via an email we’ll send to you.
We wish Cameron and Dakota the best of luck this year! We’re so excited for them, and can’t wait to see all of the experiences they will have!