The senior class of 2018 is the largest class the Manhattanville Musical Theater department has seen in years. With 10 recitals, varying from themes of love to magic to masculinity, the class showed off their incredible talent during their recital weekend in Pius X Hall from Mar. 23 to Mar. 25, 2018.
Seniors Sarah Buturla, Jennifer Faccenda, Shannon Gaffney, Erica Harris, Dashon Pratt, Anna Scherer, Thomas Ian Johnson, Kevin Kiley, Pasquale Libertino Jr., and Mario Pavón all performed in an hour long set which included a 15-minute classical music portion and a 45-minute musical theatre arrangement. The seniors were able to include duets and trios into their performances, which added to the excitement of their recitals.
Each theme was decided during the Fall semester during their thesis class through a paper and was brought to life during their recital. Anna Scherer, who double majored in Communications and Media and Musical Theatre, explored the idea of casual dating and explored why the millennial generation views love and relationships so differently from the generations before through music.
“I took a look at love songs from the Golden Age era and compared them to more contemporary pieces to gain an understanding of how we got to where we are,” explained Scherer.
She opened her musical theatre set with the song “Casual” composed by Georgia Stitt, which chronicles the struggles that are involved in the modern woman’s world as she tries her best to juggle both her career and a new relationship.
Thomas Ian Johnson, who recently played Princeton in Manhattanville’s most recent production of Avenue Q, chose the theme of masculinity for his recital. He believes that musical theatre is able to effectively break society’s rules for masculinity, without taking away from the fact that a guy is singing his emotions on stage. He explained that masculinity and displaying emotions have long been separated in American culture.
“On stage, male characters could be breaking down and crying or exploding with joy, and the audience accepts it. The thing about being human is that we can’t necessarily control our emotions, but our culture often teaches young boys to “man up” and not cry, which can actually be detrimental to mental health,” explained Johnson, who spoke about how mental health is connected to the emotional repression of men.
His thesis reflected on his recital with the song choices “Origin of Love” by Stephen Trask and “You’ve Got Carefully Taught” by Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Shannon Gaffney, who is a double major in Creative Writing and Musical Theater, chose “Following your Dreams” as the theme for her recital.
“Throughout my life, I’ve been drawn to all sorts of characters, from sweet ingénues, to evil villains, to sassy leading ladies, to best friends who help those leading ladies along the way. In my recital, I wanted to show that the dreams of all these characters are valid, and that not everyone is who you think they are through a first impression,” described Gaffney.
She used the concept of a dream, which is something that a character wants more than anything in the world, to build up her idea.
Founder of Broadway @ Manhattanville, Mario Pavón chose to feature character actors and the importance of their roles in theater. Pavón explained that a character actor is designed as an actor who specializes in playing eccentric or unusual people rather than leading roles, typically casted the support or other minor roles. Pavón was drawn to these roles because
“often times character roles have more depth than the lead roles.”
Musical Theatre is a big part of each of the senior’s lives. Pavón began his musical theater journey when he saw Les Miserables for the first time, when he was 18 years old. He explained how he met with the actors after the show, and spoke with the man that played Monsieur Thenardier, “We discussed the importance of his character to the show, and how important all character actor roles are to shows. Without his character, Les Miserables becomes an incredibly dark show with absolutely no laughs to be had,” said Pavón. From that point on, Pavón was incredibly drawn to theater and character actors.
According to Scherer, it wasn’t her choice when she began performing. “When I was little I was so shy, that when we did show and tell, I would hold up the other kid’s show and tell while they explained what it was, because I was too quiet to do my own,” recalled Scherer. For that reason, her mom signed her up for School House Rock to help her become confident in performing in front of others. From then on, Scherer loved performing and decided that she wanted to pursue it professionally.
Gaffney’s inspiration to be the woman that she is today would be Barbara Streisand. Gaffney explained that she is extremely drawn to artists who are unique and versatile.
“Streisand didn’t have the typical ‘look’ of someone in the theatre business, but she held her own and played so many incredible roles, despite adversity,” explained Gaffney.
She also attributes Bernadette Peters as an inspiration because of her incredible acting and singing ability.
Founder of the Born This Way Foundation, Lady Gaga is Johnson’s inspiration as a performer. He explained how though her singing is phenomenal, he is more inspired by the way that she uses her wealth as a platform to spread the message of love and kindness.
“Over the last decade, she helped countless homeless LGBTQ youth find loving homes through the Born This Way Foundation, fought for equal rights for the LGBTQ community, and used her music to spread awareness about sexual assault,” explained Johnson.
As a celebrity, her strength and humility are something that he aspires to be like as a performer.
All of the seniors attribute their performances to the incredible Artist in Residence, Mark Cherry and his wife, Beverly Meyer for their constant sup- port and love over the last four years. Both Cherry and Meyer have helped them learn and grow throughout their journeys. Voice coaches Diana Canova, Ron Cappon and Diane Guernsey have also helped push each of the seniors to their best abilities.
After graduation, each senior has a goal of moving into New York City and plan on auditioning and applying to jobs. Scherer, who has solidified her plans, was offered a position at the New York Power Authority and intends to work on their community relations team as an event coordinator.
Each senior hopes to have made an impact at Manhattanville and among the under- classmen. Scherer shared that her best advice to the rising seniors would be to make sure to take advantage of every opportunity they have to see live performances, because there is so much to learn. With accessibility to the city, the options are endless. Gaffney advised to “audition for everything, even if you think you won’t get it. Do something out of your comfort zone and never hold yourself back because you’re afraid of looking silly or making a mistake,” she said.
Pavón’s best advice for under- classmen is to get involved as best they can. Johnson agreed and explained that “growth doesn’t happen if you don’t dedicate yourself fully to the craft. And giving yourself room for growth is important, too, as everyone (even the professionals) has the ability to learn something new and get better as a performer. Going into something thinking you’re the best and don’t need to grow won’t get you anywhere in the department, or the field.”