In our first ever "College Week," The Ensemblist is celebrating the myriad of ways aspiring theatre artists receive an education in the arts. Today, we hear from casting director Rachel Hoffman (Come From Away, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) about her experience at the University of Michigan.
Accompanist. The first thing any University of Michigan Musical Theatre major learns is how to correctly spell AND pronounce accompanist.
While that (important!) lesson is the one we alumni jest about most, it’s only one of many that stick with me still today.
Chat with any Michigan Musical Theatre graduate about the most important/impactful lesson they learned, you’ll hear many us talk about the importance of history. None of us would be here today, doing what we are doing, without those that came before us. Oscar Hammerstein II. Show Boat, Oklahoma! Stephen Sondheim. Company. We are taught to understand, respect and honor the past. And to pass it on.
Or maybe you’ll hear a few of us say something along the lines of, “You can’t move forward while looking to the side.” Advice I’ve applied and passed along to many actors over the years. You can’t be doing YOUR best work, if you’re focused on or worried about what others are doing. You only have control of YOU. YOU are an individual. No one else is like YOU. No one else can or will make the choices YOU make. Focus on what you DO have control of. How prepared YOU are. How specific YOU are. And don’t worry about everyone else.
While there are so many things I learned at Michigan that contribute to the person and professional I am today, the one that sticks with me most is a lecture that Brent Wagner (Emeritus Chair of the Musical Theatre Department at Michigan) gives during requisite Freshman class: Intro to Musical Theatre (also referred to as MT133). A few weeks into first semester, there is a lecture on the importance of gratitude.
For the last 18 years, I’ve worked in casting. A job that I love, have always loved, and hopefully will continue to love. And I wouldn’t be a Casting Director today if it weren’t for a thank you note. A thank you note I wrote and sent to a Casting Director after he’d spent time talking to me. He subsequently invited me to intern at his office and eventually hired me, changing the course of my career and life. And I’ve never looked back.
I’m forever grateful.
I also learned a lot about football, time management, getting to class in 2 feet of snow, paying my own bills, Pizza House Chipati sauce, Mafia, how far a car can drive when the gas light is on, falling in love, registering to vote, my parents’ calling card number, and so much more.
Listen to our episodes on college theatre programs here.