GTA Blog

What’s The Most Important Thing You’ve Learned?

By Jeilianne Vazquez

 
Happy Friday, GTA! The semester is coming to a close. What a great fall semester, in my opinion! We started with the beautiful show Living Out, solved a mystery with Murder on The Orient Express, and tonight we open the iconic show 9 to 5. A few of our students tell us the most important thing they have learned this semester.

Allie Hill, Senior, BFA Musical Theatre

I have learned how important prioritizing myself and self care is, and the power of saying no.❤️ That I can’t be who I need to be for others if I am not there for myself first! And that means sometimes shutting off the laptop, putting your phone on airplane mode, and sitting with yourself for a little while!!! And it’s helped a lot.
 
 
 

Nicko Gonzalez, Sophomore, BA Theatre

What I have learned this semester is time management. Being a full time student, but also a person involved in a major production, I have learned how to carve out time to do my homework and time for me to relax and watch some Netflix.
 
 
 
 

Anna Nowosielski, Junior, BFA Acting

I learned to just let go of the things I can’t control. With all the twists and turns that this semester took, there were definitely moments when I got caught up in all the challenging parts and almost didn’t fully enjoy all the wonderful and joyful parts of the semester, which were plentiful.
 
 
 

Aiden Anzaldua, Freshman, BA Theatre

I would say I learned a lot about managing my stress and my mental health throughout my first years of college, especially having moved from Texas to here. Tt took a little bit to adapt to everything.
 
 
 
 

Rentavious Buffington, Senior, BA Theatre

I learned that the most important thing you can do is to put yourself first. Everything else will follow.
 
 
 
 
 

Michelle Stover, Sophomore, BA Theatre

One thing I learned was to trust the process, and not be discouraged, because things have a way of working out in the end.
 
 
 
 

How to Prep for Finals Week

By Jeilianne Vazquez

 

“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will” –Karin Seddiki

We hope you had a very safe and fun Halloween last weekend! It’s now November, and this semester has flown by. Finals are coming up for GTA students, and on top of that, we have the beautiful fall breeze coming in, a new holiday coming up, and the incredible production of 9 to 5, opening next week. It is a delicate balance for students, so this week’s blog post gives you my top 5 tips for preparing for finals week.

Go To Class Regularly

I know those 9 am classes are getting harder to go to. I love to sleep in, but you cannot afford to miss those classes this semester! Go to bed early, so waking up isn’t so hard in the morning, or establish a nice morning routine to get you up. I know it’s hard, but the break will be here before you know it, and you can sleep in through Thanksgiving! At least that’s what I’ll be doing.

Stay On Top Of Your Homework

Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can get done today. If you have the time, get it done!

Talk To Your Professor

If you are confused about the final or haven’t received a study guide yet, reach out! I personally get anxious about talking to my professors, but our professors want us to succeed. If there is any confusion on what is expected from you, go ahead and send an email.

Come Up With A Study plan and start studying now

If you already have your study guide or know what to study for your finals, start studying now. Look over your notes or do the first draft of that essay. It will make things easier come finals week.

Be physically prepared

Eat food, get sleep, and hydrate! I don’t know who needs to hear this, but pulling an all-nighter and cramming a bunch of information in your brain is not a helpful studying habit. It’s not worth losing sleep and burning out your brain. Study at an average pace and set the alarm to get ready for bed. Everyone is different, so people can run on different sleep schedules. No matter your agenda, make sure you sleep. Also, stay healthy! The weather is changing, and colds are common but do your best to not get sick.
 

GTA, we got this!

APO Big/Little Reveal

By Jeilianne Vazquez

It’s APO Big/Little Week at GTA! APO stands for Alpha Psi Omega, which is the National Theatre Honor Society, and GTA’s chapter is the Alpha Beta Kappa Cast. APO’s philanthropy is Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, which helps men, women, and children across the country receive lifesaving medications, health care, nutritious meals, counseling, and emergency financial assistance. Learn more at AlphaPsiOmega.org.

For Big/Little Week, GTA student Bigs have been leaving secret gifts and notes for their Littles to get them excited for the reveal today! Everyone enjoys the process (especially me!), and I have reached out to several Bigs who want to leave a message for their Littles and tell us why they love being a part of APO!

BFA Acting major Anna Nowosielski

Why do you love APO?

Anna Nowosielski: APO is a wonderful community, it’s helped me feel closer to people within GTA and it’s so fun to be a part of events!
Emily Starace: I love APO because it is a really amazing community of people who share the same interests. We all strive to be the best that we can be and hype each other up!
Sarah Kay: I love APO for a few reasons, but the first reason that comes to mind is the fact that it’s an organization that has been encouraging theatrical excellence for almost 100 years. To be a part of something that so many actors have taken part in before me is an honor.
Jeilianne Vazquez: APO is a great organization with a beautiful community of people!

 
 
 
 
 

BFA Musical Theatre major Emily Starace

Who is your Little and how excited are you about the reveal?

Anna Nowosielski: My Little is the amazing Maddie Watts! I’m so, so excited for the reveal! Ever since I joined APO I’ve been so excited to get a Little and I couldn’t be happier with the one I got!
Emily Starace: My Little is the amazingly talented and brilliant Paris Aguilar! I am super excited for reveal!! I already love her so much and I cannot wait to continue to grow our friendship as Big and Little.
Sarah Kay: My Little is Joshua Daugherty! He actually won’t be at the reveal as far as I know, so I’m a little bummed. He casually mentioned it and I had to hide my disappointment so he wouldn’t know that I’m his Big. Haha.
Jeilianne Vazquez: I have the honor of having two Littles! My twins are Michelle Stover and Brianna Gutierrez! These are two beautiful and talented ladies and I’m so excited to be their Big and for the reveal!

 
 
 
 

BFA Musical Theatre major Sarah Kay

If your Little is reading this, what message would you like to share?

Anna Nowosielski: I know you’re going to do incredible things, because you’re already killing it. I don’t know you super well, but just from getting to know you this past semester, your kindness and your humor is truly wonderful, I can’t wait to watch you grow in this program!
Emily Starace: Paris, if you are reading this, know that you have my whole heart and I adore you!! You are so sweet and truly a light to everyone you encounter. I am so honored to be your Big! I LOVE YOU!!
Sarah Kay: I am so, so proud to be your Big! I genuinely believe that you will have a big and important impact on theatre, whether it be in writing, directing, acting, or whatever else you choose to do. I haven’t seen you fail in the theatre. Everything you touch is filled with individuality and truth. I have never met anyone so filled with a lust for understanding of the world and how theatre impacts and reflects it. You will do great things.
Jeilianne Vazquez: Michelle, just know I’ve always noticed you! I remember seeing you and thinking, “Whose that pretty, shy girl with the cute glasses and curls?” You reminded me of me, HEHE! I can’t wait to get to know you more and I’m so excited! Brianna, you wonderful being! You are so talented and I loved the time we spent together during Living Out! I’m so happy to be your Big!

BA Theatre major Jeilianne Vazquez

Why should future students consider joining APO?

Anna Nowosielski: The biggest part of APO for me is the sense of community and leadership opportunities it can provide! And now that we’re able to do in person events again, it’s gonna be even more exciting!
Emily Starace: Future students should consider joining APO because it is 1) A TON OF FUN and 2) a really good chance to form bonds with people in the program that you wouldn’t already have. It really is a welcoming community of people and I love knowing and existing with all of these amazing artists.
Sarah Kay: APO is such a fun thing to be a part of. Between cabarets and philanthropy events, there are always ways to pitch in to help the community here.
Jeilianne Vazquez: APO is a great way to bond with your fellow GTA peers and there are so many opportunities! I cannot wait to see what we do this year!

Hispanic Heritage Month: Meet Nicko and Brianna

By Jeilianne Vazquez

“We need to help students and parents cherish and preserve the ethnic and cultural diversity that nourishes and strengthens this community–and this nation.” –César Chávez

Brianna Gutierrez & Nicko Gonzalez

Today is the last day of Hispanic Heritage Month, a month honoring and celebrating Hispanic/Latino cultural and historical impact. We end this month’s celebration by getting to know BA Theatre major Nickolas Gonzalez and BA Theatre and Dance major Brianna Gutierrez. GTA audiences may remember Nicko from last year’s GTA New Play Festival, in the short plays Sex Eyes (Daniel), Little Bonnie Blue-Bell (Benny Harper), and Asking for a Friend (Ryan). Audiences will remember Brianna from New Play Festival shorts Sex Eyes (Jailine), The Séance Respond Squad (Sasha), The Cryptic Case of Howard Hart (Mrs. Hart), as well as 2019’s Pippin, and most recently Living Out (Sandra).

What is your current major? What do you hope to do after graduation?

Nicko: I am currently majoring in BA Theatre. My hope after I graduate is to work with theatre in some aspect. I have always had a dream of working professionally whether that is National Tours, Off-Broadway or Broadway but recently I have delivered a new dream. I want to teach theatre to students. I was inspired by my old high school theatre teacher that theatre is more than the recognition or the applause for less than a minute. Theatre changes life and has changed mine for the better. My goal in life is to spread the power of theatre.

Brianna: I am currently a double major pursuing my BA in Dance and Theater. After school, I plan on working on cruise lines, then a few national tours, and then head to Broadway to either choreograph and or be a part of some amazing ensembles.

What does being Hispanic/Latino mean to you?

Nicko: Being Puerto Rican and Cuban gives me a sense of purpose and understanding who I am.

Brianna: For me, being Afro-Latina is very important to me. I lived with my grandparents for a while in some beautiful Latin American countries that are my home and neglect the fact that my family is Latina/o just because of the darkness of my skin is something I did for a long time but do not anymore because I am proud of where I come from and always will be.

Brianna’s family

How has your family and their culture impacted you? Any unique family traditions?

Nicko: I always love hearing new stories from my parents and other relatives on how I got here. The stories never get old! I think the way we live our everyday lives is so different from everyone else. Simple things like greeting everyone in the room with a kiss and making sure the people we care about are okay. Also my family is extremely close. Sometimes a little too close and I’m like, okay now let’s wait a minute. But I also love it at the same time. Some traditions my family conducts are getting together for the holidays, calling each other close to everyday and sleeping in the same room on Christmas Eve. There are so many more!

Brianna: I think it has really shaped my determination, work ethic, and my music taste as a performer and choreographer. I feel as though my family was not always blessed to not have to struggle. I grew up watching my grandparents work hard, my parents work even harder, and I feel as though within my industry I have to work even harder than my white counterparts because they can be seen playing any role while I am put into a box that I have to fight to escape.

How do you celebrate Hispanic Heritage month? What does it mean to you?

Nicko: In a month like this I think about my grandparents coming to this country to give my parents a better life. My parents spend their lives making my life better and the kindness continues for generations. I spend this time reflecting and celebrating who I am.

Brianna: For me, I enjoy learning more about my own culture but also other countries’ cultures. My family is only from 2 out of so many Latin American countries so this month is a time to reflect, learn, and embrace others and myself. I honestly am glad we have the month because I learn something new every year but I truly wish that we were allowed to be proud of our culture everyday and that it may not define who we are as individual people but our community and traditions overall.

Nicko’s family

How does your family feel about theatre?

Nicko: When I first joined the theatre my family was okay. I have two brothers and ever since they were born have always had a ball in their hands. So my parents thought I would be the same, but (hehe) no. I really enjoy watching the people I care about play sports. I can be a strong fan but nothing else. My first show was Footloose and I played the Reverend (Father of Ariel). After the performance my mom was hollering because my dad and two brothers were crying during scenes. After I heard that I was like, wow. That’s the moment they knew I had a passion for theatre.

Brianna: My family is supportive but I promise it was not always like that. It took a lot of convincing before seeing that I could do this long term. After seeing me in Pippin my freshman year, I will never forget my mom just holding me and saying “I see it now.” She has never wanted me to struggle or have to work hard for things in life but after seeing how much work I have put in to be here and that the passion and love I have for theater is unmatched my whole family came around. I am so excited because for 9 to 5 my grandmother is flying in from Belize to see me perform in a musical for the first time and I am very excited. I lost my grandfather a few months ago and he never got to see me perform and so having her here is just something I hope can make them proud.

 

What do you love about theatre?

Nicko: I was so lost on what to do in the world but theatre gave me a purpose. I love the way theatre brings people together. Theatre has a goal, but while working towards it you develop new skills, learn new things and form memories to last you forever. At the end you broadcast your hard work to an audience. That audience can be impacted by that production for the rest of their lives. Theatre changes lives and tells stories that need to be told.

Brianna: I love getting to show that if I can do it, you can too. I grew up seeing people like Debbie Allen, Ariana Debose, and so many more women of color get their chance to shine on Broadway. I feel like I want to be that for some little girl. Theater has helped me get through some really dark times but to get here I have had to work super hard. Unfortunately, being a woman of color has worked against me more times than not but my talent and work ethic gets me in the door. Which I want to show, that us women of color can create a seat at the table. Even though we may be consistently uninvited we can for sure show that our work ethic and drive is unmatched. We can change hearts, tell stories, and change the world if we want to through theater.

What is something you want people to know about you?

Nicko: At this moment in my life I am allowing myself to be a student and trying not to plan my future. I have overwhelmed myself in the past trying to determine every moment of my life. Now I am going to allow myself to be a student and become a better artist.

Brianna:I want people to know that being black does not mean that we as individuals are just that. There are many of us with different cultural backgrounds and I encourage those who do not know to look into it. I am grateful that my family has a lot of records to trace back my lineage but I think knowing the truth in where you come from only makes you want to live life to the fullest and embrace the culture, the traditions, and the loves that others might have been discriminated against and/or beaten for.

Five years from now, where do you hope to be?

Nicko: In 5 years I hope to have graduated from Brenau with a BA in Theatre and hopefully working at a school teaching.

Brianna: Not in Georgia. I am just kidding, I honestly want to be working on a Broadway National Tour and be looking to move to NYC. I want to take the next 3 to 5 years to travel while performing because I have not gotten to explore the world in awhile and I just want to do what I love while getting to explore and navigate through different cities and countries.

It’s Fall, Y’all! What GTA Loves About Fall

By Jeilianne Vazquez

Happy October 1st! The official fall month, in my opinion! October is a great month to start off the fall festivities. Though times can be stressful, and we have those midterms approaching, fall has something about it that makes all things clear. Simple and festive! Some things I like to do around the fall time are binge Gilmore Girls, bring out my sweaters, go to a pumpkin patch, go hiking, and anything pumpkin spice (no shame)!

I asked senior BFA Musical Theatre major Allie Hill and sophomore BFA Theatre Design & Technology major Peyton Wehunt some of their favorite things about fall and their traditions!

What do you love to do for the fall season?

Allie Hill

 Allie Hill: Around fall time, there are a few things I absolutely love to do! If there is a record store, a thrift store, and a small coffee shop, I’m there! A perfect fall day to me would be going to the city with my friends, having brunch, and spending all day walking around outside, talking, laughing, and drinking anything pumpkin-flavored. (Basic, I know, but I can’t help myself). I love to go on picnics, photo shoots, and long walks at the park during fall. Any time I can be in nature and surrounded by good music and good people is a perfect day to me.

 

 

 

Peyton Wehunt

Peyton Wehunt: Spend time outdoors! I work in a zipline park and seeing the leaves fall while out on the trails and courses makes me so happy! At work, we have a really big net trampoline way up in the air. We love to rake all the leaves in the middle of the net and take turns jumping into them!

 

 

 

 

Do you have any fall traditions?

Allie Hill, Grace Deedrick, Abby Hand

Allie Hill: My roommates, Grace Deedrick, Abby Hand, and I have a tradition of decorating the minute it hits September 1st. We always say that we can’t control much in life, but we can control when we decorate for the holidays! We also like to take silly, spooky pictures together, and decorate cookies. When we have the time, we like to watch scary movies together, too! If the school year allows me to make it home for a weekend, I love to paint and/or carve pumpkins with my mom and go antiquing with her and my dad!

 

 

 

 

Peyton Wehunt: In the fall, my parents and I always go down to Orlando and spend a few days at Disney World! It’s the one time of year that all our work and school schedules line up, so we can spend some quality time together. It was actually on one of these trips many years back that I learned about the Disney College Program. While working at Disney, my love for theatre and creating was reignited and is what made me transfer to GTA!

 

 

 

 

What is a fall must-have?

Allie Hill: A fall must-have to me is a good pair of platform boots or combat boots! I love how browns and burgundys and blacks look on me, so those are usually my favorite colors to wear. I think having a staple button-down to layer with, and your favorite leather jacket can make any fall outfit elevated! Oh, and also, an iced pumpkin spice dirty chai, because duh.

Peyton Wehunt: I think everyone needs a good group of friends who are willing to do fall activities with them! Last year, my friends and I had a ghost photo shoot outside and had an incredible time doing it! I’m really looking forward to carving pumpkins and making those little ghost sugar cookies with my favorite people this year!

 

 

 

 

This is your sign to relax and enjoy the cool breeze! Take a walk, get that fall-themed drink, and enjoy the fall because it will be gone before you know it. (I highly encourage you to meet up with some friends and take some cute ghost photos!) Tag us @gainesvilletheatrealliance so we can join in all the fall fun!

“Autumn leaves don’t fall; they fly. They take their time and wander on this their only chance to soar.” – Delia Owens

Student Tips for Staying Healthy On Campus

By Jeilianne Vazquez

COVID-19 is the worst. Last week, due to COVID, the opening weekend of Living Out was canceled. We had to reschedule the opening night and now are only able to perform four performances. GTA students have become pretty good at making the best of difficult situations, however, and Living Out is a show that no one should miss.

A big thing I’ve noticed on campus as a student is how confused we all are about how we approach coming back fully on campus. Masks are not required, but should we wear them? I’m vaccinated, so I’m good…right? I’m going to hang out with my friends…is that okay?

I am no doctor, and I am not certified to tell you how to live your life. But I’ve put together a few suggestions to help you continue to stay healthy this fall!

WASH YOUR HANDS

As an ex-employee of Chick-Fil-A (shout out and thank you for supporting GTA!), I am used to washing my hands a thousand times a day. You don’t need to do that, but I recommend washing your hands every time you enter a new building, before and after a class, and maybe after shaking hands with some new, just to name a few. (Of course, you should also wash them after you use the restroom…I hope I don’t have to tell you that!)

ALWAYS HAVE HAND SANITIZER

I have a bottle of hand sanitizer that I keep in my car to always have on hand. They are always nice to have and very convenient!

 

GET GOOD SLEEP

This is a piece of advice that I need to take myself. Getting quality sleep on a regular basis strengthens your immune system. Sleep is good for you in general, so I’m telling you (and myself) to get some sleep!

BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM

I feel like a mom telling you to do this, but take your vitamins, honey! Make sure you are taking vitamin C and vitamin D3 daily.

 

STAY AWAY AND STAY HOME

If you are sick (or even starting to feel sick), stay home. Also, be sure to tell your friends that you are feeling under the weather, so they know to stay away from you. And get some rest!

Stay healthy and stay safe. This semester is going by so fast! Let’s make it to the end as healthy as we can!

 

 

 

 

 

Hispanic Heritage Month

By Jeilianne Vazquez

Hispanic Heritage Month is a period from September 15-October 15 recognizing the contributions and influence of Hispanics to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States. It’s a month of celebration, remembering those who came before us, and recognizing the people who influence us now.

GTA has several students of Hispanic heritage that grace us with their hard work and dedication. I and two of my beautiful friends, Ethan and Marcello, share what being Hispanic (and this month) means to us.

Jeilianne Vazquez, BA Theatre
Ethan Baez, BA Theatre
Marcello Valenica, BA Theatre

What is your current major and what do you plan to do with your degree?

Jeilianne Vazquez: I am a junior BA Theatre major. I have interests in theatre, film, playwriting, and marketing. I love all four with a passion, so I think, for now, I will continue doing what I love and putting myself out there. Letting God open the doors. 

Ethan Baez: I am a junior theatre major pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in the program, and I’d like to use my degree to either perform professionally or teach high school.

Marcello Valencia: I am a BA Theatre major with a minor in entrepreneurship. I plan to pursue a career as an actor, but I’m also very interested in the business side of theatre and how it operates.

What does being Hispanic mean to you?

Jeilianne Vazquez: Being Hispanic means being unapologetically myself. I love being Puerto Rican. It is a beautiful culture and people. It’s the connection with our family and roots that make it all so wonderful. 

Ethan Baez: Being Hispanic means being proud! Growing up, I quickly learned that culture and family is something to be proud of, so I was always excited to learn new things concerning my Venezuelan heritage.

Marcello Valencia: Being Hispanic to me means having a rich culture full of love and passion. I have such fond memories of watching my dad cook and play his favorite salsa station on the TV while he made empanadas. The aroma that would fill the home was amazing and I always felt so special to be a part of a culture that was so centered around celebrating life and cherishing all the gifts we are given. Both of my grandparents came from a very poor rural part of Puerto Rico and I’m so fortunate to have parents and grandparents who were willing to work day in and day out for the chance to better their families. At the end of the day being Hispanic to me has truly shown me the importance of family and the endless possibilities I’m able to achieve.

How has your family and their culture impacted you? Any unique family traditions?

Jeilianne Vazquez: My family taught me to love music, dancing, food, and being a Latina in general. I listened to Juan Luis Guerra, Marc Anthony, Gloria Stefan, Jon Secada, Jesus Adrian Romero, and DLG. Whenever I was told I didn’t sound or look Latina enough, my mother would always remind me to be proud or quote her, “haters gonna hate.” My mother taught me a lot about Puerto Rican culture, and I loved hearing stories about her experience living in Puerto Rico and moving to Buffalo, New York. My father taught me bachata, salsa, and merengue! We would play music and dance in the kitchen. He taught me the proper steps and how to move my body. The downside is that I feel awkward dancing with anyone else because my dad has been my dance partner for 20 years now. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

I remember traditions of Three Kings Day, celebrating the Kings who brought gifts to baby Jesus, Coquito and having it for every holiday, playing dominoes, and singing happy birthday to someone very, very early in the morning.

Ethan Baez: Going off the idea of being excited to learn new things about my culture, it was very easy to get close with my father in that he would be the one to teach me about the things that made our family unique. It was through him that I learned about arepas, Oscar DeLeon, how to dance bachata, he connected me to other Hispanic people, and he was instrumental in teaching me what it means to be Hispanic. As far as tradition goes, the only one that comes to mind is eating 12 grapes every hour in the 12 hours before new years. You make a wish with each grape for how you want the year to go, and eating the grapes is a means of obtaining good luck and prosperity for the new year.

Marcello and his family

Marcello Valencia: When my siblings and I were really young my parents made the decision to move to Georgia from New York. It wasn’t easy, to say the least, because for over a year my mom raised me and my two siblings while working all on her own. My Dad had to stay in New York and continue to work with Amtrak in order to receive the retirement benefits that he was entitled to after being with the company for so many years. I remember watching my mom not only work as hard as she could to provide for my siblings, but then come home to cook us dinner and make sure we were adjusting to the big move. I honestly don’t remember missing my dad because we knew he was working hard and he flew down to visit us as much as he could. Seeing their work ethic and drive to be the best parents was always an inspiration for me and really pushed me to become self-sufficient financially and allow me to pursue higher education without being a financial burden for them.

One of the biggest traditions we have as a family is we have game tournaments in where we either play dominoes or bingo and each round has X amount of prize money and the final has a pretty big jackpot that brings out the competitive side of everyone. To me, it’s one of those things that no matter how bad of a day we are having everyone leaves happier than we started. 

How do you celebrate Hispanic Heritage month? What does it mean to you?

Jeilianne and her family

Jeilianne Vazquez: I celebrate by being in touch with my family and just being all-around proud of who I am! Though learning more about Latin culture can be any day of the year, Hispanic Heritage month is an opportunity to learn about other Latin cultures. It’s such a beautiful community. 

Ethan Baez: I celebrate Hispanic heritage month by being Hispanic, I think that’s all I need to do. I’m in a constant state of being proud of who I am, so I’m already in the habit of appreciating the Hispanic qualities that make me who I am. Growing up, my dad and I would go to the occasional party to meet with friends and enjoy each other’s Hispanic company, but even back then it was more to celebrate friendship more than it was to celebrate being Hispanic.

Marcello Valencia: I celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by giving thanks to those who came before and dreamed of a better life. I know I wouldn’t be anywhere without them and I’m forever in their debt.

What is something you want people to know about you?

Jeilianne Vazquez: I am a passionate person! I love hard! That sometimes intimidates people, or they use it to their advantage. (Be kind). 

Another thing I want people to know is that my experience as a Latina is valid even though English is my first language. I am still learning Spanish, and I learn every day. Don’t ever let anyone tell you how Latinx you are; only you decide that. 

Ethan Baez: My favorite color is orange! For the past ten years I’ve left the house every day with at least one orange thing on me, whether in clothing or accessories. I know this because in August of 2011 I decided to make orange an every day part of my life considering how much I love the color.

Marcello Valencia: I’m a people person! I love getting to know people and listening to their stories. I also want to see the world and do every possible thing I can regardless of the risk or how crazy it seems. My main goal in life is to be able to say I followed my heart regardless of the outcome. We have one life to live and I’m going to do whatever it takes to live to the fullest.

How does your family feel about theatre?

Jeilianne Vazquez: My father is a film actor and minored in theatre in college. My family has always been involved with the arts. When I first told them I wanted to major in theatre, they were concerned at first. They wanted me to be sure this was what I absolutely wanted. Since then, they have never stopped supporting me! 

Ethan Baez: My family loves theatre! I think they love seeing me on stage more, but I’ve never had to struggle with them to support me in my endeavors concerning theatre and I’ve always been extremely grateful for that, considering that isn’t the case for a lot of my peers.

Marcello Valencia: They honestly are really supportive of me. I have been a part of theatre since middle school and I can’t ever recall a time they didn’t approve of it. I think their main concern was if I was going to pursue higher education. Like all parents, they want the best for their kids and they know life doesn’t always go the way we want it to and by having a college degree it gives them peace of mind that I have the ability to pursue other things if push comes to shove. 

What do you love about theatre?

Jeilianne Vazquez: When I was a child, I was very shy. As I got more comfortable with the people around me, I got loud, happy, and goofy. A lot of people found me weird. When I did that on a stage, I was accepted and told I had a great presence. So I decided theatre was my safe place. Theatre is an art that can never die. I take everything I learn in theatre wherever I go. Storytelling is my favorite thing, and I get to do that in theatre with my performance and writing. 

Ethan Baez: I love that theatre is fun more than anything else; it’s profound and it’s bigger than ourselves, yes, but before all that I’ve always maintained that the purpose of theatre is fun, regardless how you participate it.

Marcello Valencia: I love its heart and the ability it has to transport you to another world, experience things you could have never dreamed of, or feel things you’ve never felt and make you leave the theatre with a completely new perspective. 

Five years from now, where do you hope to be?

Jeilianne Vazquez: I don’t know exactly where I’m going to end up. I can see myself in different cities, and I like the idea of traveling for work. But I do eventually want to settle down. (We’ll figure it out.) I love acting for theatre and TV and film, playwriting, screenwriting, and theatre marketing. There are many opportunities right now, and I’m excited to go out there and find them. 

Ethan Baez: I hope to be in Washington D.C. with a job in theatre, whatever that means. A lot can happen in a year alone, so to think of what my life is like five years from now is almost unfathomable when I haven’t figured out what I’m going to do for the rest of this week.

Marcello Valencia: I would love to see myself still within the realm of theatre and able to financially support myself. While I would prefer to be a performer, I know things happen and life doesn’t always go to plan, but as long as I can still be a part of the theatre world regardless of what my role is, I’ll be fine.

 

“Your individuality is important, but so is belonging. Recognize the parts of your culture that have shaped your past, and the parts you want to carry with you into the future.” – Sol Peralta

GTA Students Share Their Living Out Experience

By Jeilianne Vazquez

Living Out is the story of two hard-working mothers who want better lives for their children. One happens to be an undocumented Latina worker named Ana, employed by the other, Nancy. The story is funny, warm, and heart-breaking. This post is extra special for me as I have the honor of being the Swing for Ana. I get to see firsthand the rehearsal process and experience. Everyone involved in this show is passionate. Our fantastic director, Elisa Carlson, has really taken her time with every scene, blocking, and reading. The details matter, and she stays true to the script. Her dedication and our fantastic team of actors and technicians really bring it to life. This play has had a special place in my heart for a while now. I am so grateful to be a part of this production.

I was able to ask my fellow cast mates their feelings on the show and what their role means to them.

 

Emily Starace, senior BFA Musical Theatre Major

What is your role in Living Out?

I play Zoila! She is a very fun and bold nanny from Guatemala. She tells it like it is and isn’t afraid to be herself. Playing this role, I found myself pulling tons of  inspiration from my very unique Abuela. She is a very passionate woman who is never afraid to voice her opinions.

Why is this play important to you?

As a Latina actress, I have always found that it is sometimes difficult to find plays that are about our culture. Of course, there are the ones that everyone has heard of like West Side Story or In The Heights, but I have always wanted to see or be in a show that is a little more personal. As soon as I read the script for this show, I fell in love instantly. Without saying too much, the show drew me in with its clever jokes, but completely won me over with how real it can get. I could truly see each and every one of my family members in all of the characters. That is why I am happy to be a part of a show about my people.

Why is it important that people see this play?

I love how this show reflects on the struggles of not only being a woman in society, but also the challenges of being a wife, mother, and person of color. That is a story that needs to be heard. These are still issues that are seen today. People should come and see this play to open up their hearts, have a good laugh, and also get in their feelings. This show is an amazing piece of art and I truly believe everyone should experience it.

 

Sarah Kay, junior BFA Musical Theatre Major

What is your role in Living Out?

I play Wallace Breyer. She’s an upper-class mom who finds trouble connecting with other people, specifically undocumented immigrants. Despite this, she is incredibly charming and loves her children with her whole being.

Why is this play important to you?

The play is important to me because it tells a story that was relevant for it’s time and is still relevant today. Undocumented immigrants are frequently treated as less than, due to racism, classism, and misguided patriotism.

Why is it important that people see this play?

This play teaches compassion and understanding, with all of the characters feeling real and truthful. It will keep you laughing and crying.

 

Emmanuel Cologne, senior BA Theatre major

What is your role in Living Out?

I play Bobby Hernandez (Ana’s husband). Bobby is a hard-working carpenter who has had a rough upbringing, but he has a good sense of humor and a big heart. He loves his family more than anything and just wants the best for them.

Why is this play important to you?

This play is important to me because it exemplifies the disparities between race and class, but despite all of this, it reveals the humanity in all of us despite those differences.

Why is it important that people see this play?

I believe audiences will resonate with these characters, and even move them to see beyond cultural and economic differences.

 

Estef Martin, senior BA Theatre major

What is your role in Living Out?

My role is Ana, and she is a Salvadorian immigrant mother and a nanny who just loves children and is trying to get by in her unique reality. She’s just trying to figure out how to go about her situations for her family to be a family.

Why is this play important to you?

My sister-in-law is from El Salvador. I’ve known her since I was seven so she is my sister. She and her mom share a very similar story to Ana and the people in the play. It’s important because I’ve never been able to represent a Latina on stage. I’ve been a witch and an Italian, and I’ve never been so close to who I am. I think it’s essential for people who look like me to watch me in a leading role.

Why is it important that people see this play?

People should come to see this show because it’s lovely! It makes you think, loves differently, thinks of others differently, teaches empathy, causes catharsis. People should come and support students, learning actors, and their community. We are members of the world of our community members. We are trying to survive in the same space, so why not support?

 

Tyus Martin, senior BA Theatre major

What is your role in Living Out?

I was honored with the role of Assistant Director, from which I gained valuable experience from. I worked alongside Elisa, who entrusted me into the part and helped her maintain rehearsals and work alongside actors both onstage and offstage, which I fully loved every minute of. I then got the opportunity to work with Jayme, who stepped in and finished the rest of the process. My role as Assistant Director got more hands-on in the experience since Jayme relied on me a bit more to help with rehearsals, so it was a blessing to learn from two different wonderful directors and dive into the process in various ways.

Why is this play important to you?

This play is important to me because it tells a beautiful story of struggle, love, and sacrifice in the lives of different races and cultures, but keeping the warmth of laughter everyone will get to share together.

Why is it important that people see this play?

It is important that people get an opportunity to hear the stories of different cultures and their experiences of making it in America and wanting acceptance and everyday life just like any other human being. The world is going through some exciting and historical moments right now. The most important thing for everyone to remember is that we are all human, and we all deserve countless chances at a better life and the importance of spreading love.

 

Paris Aguilar, sophomore BA Theatre major

What is your role in Living Out?

I am the dramaturg, along with being the swing for Zoila and Sandra. As a swing, I learn the roles of my two characters and work as an understudy in case something happens to one of the actors. My role as a dramaturg is different than what I’ve done for previous works. I guide the actors playing Spanish-speaking roles in this production, working as a translator, dialect coach, and cultural advisor.

Why is this play important to you?

I have a deep connection to this show, as this is something I’ve grown up around. I grew up on the southern tip of Texas in Brownsville, a city on the border of Matamoros, Mexico. As a Latina woman who has permanently been submerged in Hispanic culture, it’s beautiful to see the same things I’ve known all my life to be onstage. Although, it’s painful to see the hardships of “legal ethics” surrounding people who choose to move to America for a better life, even if it means losing everything in the process.

Why is it important that people see this play?

The audience needs to understand that these powerful women are real. They’re not farces, not satire, and they’re not stereotypes (although there are a few comments). They’re meant to be interpreted as realistic fiction; it could happen. Even the white couples go through their struggles, though not as legal. I love my culture, and I love this cast that brings it to life. I’m so proud of the work everyone in this production has done – I can’t wait for everyone to see it.

Come see this lovely show September 17-25th at the Ed Cabell Theatre. We hope to see you there. Salud, amor, dinero y el tiempo para disfrutarlos.

GTA Welcomes Michael D. Jablonski

GTA is delighted to introduce Michael D. Jablonski, Assistant Professor of Musical Theatre at Brenau University. Michael will be teaching courses in dance, directing and musical theatre. He has been a successful musical theatre artist for over 20 years, and has taken his experience on the stage and has transitioned it into the classroom.

Michael performed on Broadway in Cry-Baby, The Book of Mormon and the 2009 revival of West Side Story. He toured the world with 8 different National Tours including Matilda, The Book of Mormon, West Side Story, Saturday Night Fever, Doctor Dolittle, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas starring Ann-Margret, Victor/Victoria, and Brigadoon. Michael also performed with the Radio City Rockette’s in the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. On film, he can be seen as a featured dancer in the movie version of The Producers starring Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane. Michael also performed at many prestigious theatres across the United States.

Michael is an award-winning Director and Choreographer. His credits include Fame, Edges, Mamma Mia, We are Proud to Present a Presentation about the Herero of Namibia…, Wildwood Park, Another Day (Devised), Grease, The Producers, Hello Dolly, Eurydice and multiple productions of West Side Story. He created additional choreography for the National Tour of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas starring Ann-Margret. He supervised 4 national tours and multiple regional productions as their Dance Captain.

Michael holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and Dance from SUNY at Buffalo and a Master of Fine Arts in Directing from Florida State University. He has been a Guest Lecturer and Master Instructor of dance & Musical Theatre technique at many universities and academic programs across the U.S and Canada. His previous academic appointments include Elon University, Florida State University and is thrilled to be joining the faculty at Brenau University this fall as an Assistant Professor of Musical Theatre.

Michael is a member of American Actors Equity Association, American Guild of Variety Artists, Society of American Fight Directors and Canadian Actors Equity Association. He serves as an Assistant Faculty member of Theatrical Intimacy Education. Visit Michael’s website at michaeldjablonski.com.

What drew you to Brenau University and Gainesville Theatre Alliance?

As a professional actor, I always enjoyed the artistic community in and around the Atlanta area. I came across Brenau University and Gainesville Theatre Alliance while in Graduate School at Florida State University by the recommendation of one of their professors. As I was researching possible academic institutions, GTA and Brenau kept floating to the top of my list with the incredible collaboration that is present, with facilities of the highest professional quality and a focus on honoring integrity in the artistic process. Although, what truly won me over was the incredibly supportive and welcoming community that I was able to engage with during my search.

How did you first get involved in dance and what keeps you involved?

I was an athlete my whole life and played almost every sport imaginable in some type of organized fashion. When I was in 7th grade, the news reported how many NFL and NHL professional athletes were taking dance to help with the coordination. This led me to taking a jazz class at a dance studio in hopes to help me in my agility on the ice playing hockey. Unfortunately, it was your typical story where I was made fun of by “friends” at school and I chose to quit. Fortunately, that did not stop my journey as I have supportive parents that introduced me to theatre and dance at a young age and I never lost that interest as I grew older.

In my undergraduate days at the State University of New York at Buffalo I fell into the dance program. I initially went to UB to study mathematics and compete in division 1 athletics on their track & field team. Because of my interest in theatre, I was able to minor in acting. During an acting class a professor said “you should take a dance class to loosen up your body for acting, plus it would help with flexibility and stretching for track & field.” Because of my many years of playing sports, dance felt like an extension of that training. I fell in love with the euphoric energy of performing. I realized that the life of an artist and athlete runs many parallels of hard work, discipline, and emotional expression. The many years of being an athlete helped me transform into the artist I am today with the passion and drive that not only do I love the arts, but that I need the arts.

What is a memorable project you have worked on that you felt made a great impact or moved you in a significant way?

To be honest, it is difficult to pinpoint one project as every project I work on lives with me forever. I will share a couple that stick out in my mind. First and foremost, as a professional actor, I will never forget being in rehearsal for Dreamgirls here at the Atlanta Fox Theatre, starring Jennifer Holliday. One day during that process I received a phone call from my agent that I was receiving an offer to make my Broadway debut in NYC in the original musical Cry-Baby. I will never forget that moment the rest of my life, as our Atlanta cast had many Broadway veterans, they created an energy circle and started improvisational singing to celebrate this wonderful opportunity I had on the horizon. It went on for like 20 minutes and the supportive energy in that moment still lives with me today.

Second, I will have to say playing Riff in the Broadway revival of West Side Story. Currently to date, I have performed in 10 productions of West Side Story and worked on the creative team in three professional productions. But this experience of the Broadway revival allowed me to gain an intimate knowledge of every aspect of that show directly from the original writer Arthur Laurents as he directed this production. The one-on-one conversations I had with him during rehearsals were priceless. I never tire of that show, and it has become a passion of mine to pass on this priceless knowledge.

Finally, I have to share that directing We are Proud to Present a Presentation about the Herero of Namibia… by Jackie Sibblies Drury during my graduate school directing program had a massive impact on me personally and professionally. It is a difficult play that confronts tough racial issues through a devised format. Because of my research and training with Theatrical Intimacy Education we were able to build a community of trust and empowerment to bring that production to life. The performance was impactful but the journey toward that performance was life changing.

How are you preparing for your new position with GTA?

Currently I am continuously prepping our production of 9 to 5 for the Fall. It is a massive show that is going to take the entire team working in collaboration to bring this to life. I also am working on the foundation of each class I will be teaching with a focus on how to create the greatest learning outcome for each individual artist.

What is your theory of teaching and theatre education?

My main goal as an artist and teacher is to enlighten young minds. I want to prepare students for every possible opportunity. As a professional, I believe that integrating theory and practice in the classroom, as well as on stage, is very important to succeed as a professional artist. I want to help each student develop their confidence, both intellectually and ethically, to develop talents and abilities to achieve their goals. Exploring many different styles and techniques helps prepare the artist for the multitudes of various art forms they will eventually encounter.

I believe that it is important to build a foundation of trust with a consent-based practice revolving around a praise-correct-praise methodology. The professional world is not easy so we must build the confidence necessary now with rigorous training so that our students can succeed in the competitive professional market. I also believe in building the professional work ethic from day one with our students. In my eyes, the academic world we live in must be the road leading to professional success. That success is different for every individual artist and bringing that professionalism into our studio work and productions will set our graduates up for a lifetime of growth no matter what path they choose.

What message would you like to share with Gainesville Theatre Alliance students?

I just want to say Thank You for welcoming me with open arms into this community. I am here for YOU and I will do everything in my power to support your journey as a young artist. My only success is when you find success.