By Jeilianne Vazquez & Ethan Baez
The spring 2022 semester is coming to a close and seniors are preparing for graduation. We spoke to seniors Maleah Boyd-Gouveia (BFA Musical Theatre), Clara Woodfield (BFA Design & Technology for Theatre), and Joshua Daughtry (Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies with concentrations in Theatre & Philosophy) about what they have learned in their time with the program, their career prospects, and advice they have for GTA underclassmen.
How are you feeling about your upcoming graduation?
Maleah: I have mixed feelings! I used to be so ready to leave and get out there, but this past year I’ve made a lot of great friends and relationships. I’m going to miss seeing everyone everyday, but I’m ready to stop being a student and start being an artist!
Clara: I’m super excited! I’ve been so focused on school and nothing else for so many years now that it’s both exciting and terrifying to know that, come fall, I’m not going to have to worry about essays and class projects.
Joshua: Well, I’ve got a lot of stuff that’s definitely keeping me focused to the point where I’m not really focused on being absent in any way, shape, or form. As much as I’d love to be able to say that I set up the last couple weeks as a senior completely stress-free, I chose to not do that. Right now I’m working on Heathen Valley, which is my senior capstone, and a lot of students have very generously donated a lot of time and energy into that production and a lot of hard, hard work, so that’s been taking up a lot of my time along with other standard school final exams and projects.
How has your senior year been different than your previous years at GTA?
Maleah: 2 words: Michael Jablonksi. Not only did he quickly become my favorite professor, but a really big mentor to me. He put faith and trust in me like no one else has. He was confident in what I could do before I was. He saw so much in me that I didn’t even know I had. For the first time in all my years here, I felt seen. My growth this semester is all thanks to him, and Giovanna, my vocal teacher. I would not be anywhere close to ready for the professional world if it wasn’t for them. And I am so so so grateful that they came in my last year here, when I really needed them. I will forever hold them in my heart and in my life.
Clara: The people. I’ve both met new people and gotten to know people better this year and it has made so much of a difference in how happy I am in the program. I didn’t make that many friends my freshman year, but I’ve been putting myself out there more this year, and it has sure paid off. The GTA leadership has made a massive difference, too. I got to be Wardrobe Crew Head for The Secret Garden, directed by our lovely Dr. C (GTA Associate Artistic Director & Brenau Chair of Theatre, Dr. Tracey Brent-Chessum), and I loved getting to see the great leadership she’s shown us! GTA seems to be on a path of change from where it was my freshman year and I think it’s changing for the better (and I’m someone who hates change, so that says a lot!)
Joshua: My age! Yeah, My first year with GTA was back in 2009. So naturally, a lot of things have changed around here and in my absence, as well. I stayed for two years and took time off to get acclimated and get an understanding of other ways of the world, and I think the biggest change is how my curiosity has turned into passion. What once used to make me feel excited in a naive way is now excitement that comes from “I know what I’m doing.” I’ve also had time to become more of a patient person, which has led to a lot of close relationships with the people here.
What advice would you give to the “freshman you”?
Maleah: I would say, “It’s going to suck. It’s gonna be hard, I’m not gonna lie. You’re gonna want to quit, pack up, and go home. But I promise you, it will all work out at the end. If I were to tell you, you’d never believe me. Just know, you’re gonna make it. And it’ll all be worth it.
Clara: You don’t have to prove yourself to anyone, not even you. If you feel more at home in the costume shop, just change your major, don’t wait until halfway through sophomore year.
Joshua: Don’t settle for anything until you’re where you feel you need to be and if you’re somewhere you feel like you shouldn’t be, learn and be friendly as much as you can while you’re there. Let yourself be known. If there’s a project that you desperately want to work on, even if you weren’t cast, do what you can to at least sit in on rehearsals because just getting in the room and being in the audience finds you that much closer to what you want to do on the stage. I’d tell him to do all that with humility as well. Everything that you take part in is never beneath you, and that’s crucial to keep in mind as an artist.
What is your biggest takeaway from being at GTA?
Maleah: Control what you can control, and what is meant to be yours, will be yours.
Clara: Do what makes you happy, honestly.
Joshua: I mean, besides the knowledge that I should check my schedule before I make plans, the ultimate takeaway is that this place is here, and that’s a blessing in itself. You can get from it what you need, as long as you know what that is.
What advice do you have for upcoming seniors?
Maleah: UTILIZE YOUR CLASS TIME!! There was a time here where classwork did not matter much. But now it does, so USE IT! The best work that I’ve ever done here was in class. I know it’s your senior year and we all want to be involved in shows. As a BFA Musical Theatre major who was never in a musical, I know how hard it is to not be involved in shows. BUT you have some great professors here who can and will guide you to where you need and want to be. All you have to do is listen, and be fearless in the room. You got this.
Clara: For the love of all things, TAKE PROGRESS PICTURES OF YOUR WORK! Take pictures of that prop you’re making, get pictures of yourself in rehearsal and backstage, take pictures of that really straight line you sewed or painted
Joshua: Don’t take classes that don’t make you want to learn and if you’re in classes that you don’t necessarily care about just find something to make the best of that. Separate from that, I truly believe that mentorship is the most important thing as a senior. Find the time to go reach out to people that you’re working on projects with and offer them your perspective. You’ll often find they’ve been itching to give theirs and you could really learn something from that. The first time I came around I didn’t ask for one, probably out of how audacious I was, but even then I had a lot of really close friends that taught me a lot of things. In coming back, I’d definitely say that I’ve been more specifically mentored by (GTA faculty) Gay Hammond, Zechariah Pierce, and Jayme McGhan and I’m forever grateful for their eagerness to help me with my passions and loves regarding theatre.
What are your after-graduation plans?
Maleah: You know the life of an actor, always auditioning. At this present moment I am still waiting on casting notices from a few summer stock theatres. I am still sending in auditions. If I don’t get booked for summer stock soon, then my plan is to go to New York right after graduation to stay with my high school best friends and go on all of the open call auditions I can. And then depending on that, my wife and I will either head straight to New York, or they will stay and work their interior design job in Atlanta while I’m booked at summer stock. And THEN we’ll go to New York! OH, and we’re celebrating our 1 year wedding anniversary May 22nd!
Clara: I’m planning on moving to Kentucky with one of my best friends to pursue sewing somewhere that’s not as hot as Georgia and has more consistent weather.
Joshua: I relax with work that I like, because I’m a psychopath. You know, I have a couple of really great, fresh paperback spines that I am ready to break open, right? Eager to keep learning. This summer for me is not going to be a break from what I’ve been doing. It’s going to be a deeper dive into what I’m trying to get at from what I’ve been doing. So you know, I’ve been working for a couple tech internships and been hunting for jobs around the area and just continuing the hunger for producing more art. I think that one thing we’ve all learned after the pandemic is if we didn’t have art through the worst times in our life, it would just be a wild tangled ferment of darkness and sorrow waiting in the absence of life. To combat that I’m on a constant mission of feeding my soul, heart and mind.
Any last words you want to leave for us?
Maleah: Don’t be shocked when your playbill mentions me!
Clara: Thank you all so much for your support this year! I have so loved my time at GTA.
Joshua: For one thing, check out Heathen Valley, coming up on April 29th. That’s going to be a lot of fun. But I’d also say to never be shy about asking someone to let you into their life. And when somebody does let you into their life, I think you should let them know that that’s important to you. I like to live my life openly and for all, from any background, and it’s done wonders for me.
Be sure to check out Joshua Daughtry’s senior capstone, Heathen Valley by Romulus Linney, playing in UNG-Gainesville’s Ed Cabell Theatre April 29 at 7:30pm. Tickets on sale now!