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17 February 2016

Hello Friends! I'm sorry to take so long to write again, but this semester has taken off full speed ahead. I'm really enjoying my classes this semester! While I have 8 am classes everyday, which is as horrible as it sounds, I love all of my teachers and I'm getting to take jazz so I really feel like I'm dancing again.

I wanted to focus this post on a really cool opportunity I had at the beginning of this semester. In December, I was cast in Rider's New Play Festival. The play festival is an opportunity for professional playwrights to come in and use student actors in a staged reading of their new works. I was cast as Carrie Buck in Michele Aldin Kushner's Unfit. The play is a historical piece based on the court case Buck v. Bell, 1927. (WARNING: This case was and still is extremely controversial, so I will not share many details, but be careful when letting the young ones google search.) This piece was very moving and just beautiful. My character had some really difficult circumstances to overcome and it was a joy to make her come to life. It was incredible being able to work alongside a playwright as well. When I was unsure of a character's motive I could simply ask. Sometimes Michele did not have a clear answer and wanted the actor to make a choice. Being able to see the creative side of theatre from a new perspective was really interesting and I'm so thankful for the opportunity. It is crazy how quickly we have jumped in to this semester. I think I speak for all the freshman when I say this semester is already a lot more challenging, but I feel like we are all making huge strides in our goals in becoming professional performers. As always, I miss you like crazy.

Tu Me Manques,

McKenna

 

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November 30th, 2015

Hello from the other side of a long hiatus!! I'm sorry for such a long time off, but school has really picked up and I needed to spend my break enjoying my time with my family. I could tell you about everything I've done lately, but that is just not what I feel I need to say right now. I'm gonna be honest, I've lost a little bit of the bounce in my step lately. I'm not going to bore you with exclamations of "why me?!" because I'm fully aware of the amazing opportunities in my hands right now. However, I am going to talk about the things that I'm struggling with currently in hopes of letting them go and moving forward.

The transition into college is hard. You leave behind everyone you have history with and are forced into an entirely new environment. I love Rider; trust me, I am in the right place, but I get lonely sometimes. As much as I love my new friends, I can't tell you how often I wish I could just throw look at Camille that she would understand because she really knows me or hug my mom and dad and they would understand because they get it. The hardest part about being here for me is not having a person who just knows me.

All of that being said, I chose to come here to escape some things. A large part of my identity was stolen in Texas, and I felt the best way for me to regain my sense of self was to leave. As much as I knew that, I didn't realize how badly I needed it until now. I'm terrified of leaving behind the people I grew up with, but to a certain extent it's a part of life. Now don't hear this as me saying goodbye to everyone, that is not the case. However, I do want to thank you for all the memories and the incredible amount of love you've shown me. I didn't know a person could feel so loved until you proved it. I want to thank those who I have loved deeply, but wasn't able to hold on to along the way. And I wanna say it's okay. It's okay that I'm not as prominent a part of your life anymore. I have to let go of some things in order to grow in my present circumstance. I'm not gonna be the same girl I was a year ago anymore. I'm gonna stop holding myself back because of the things that I wish I could have again.

And it is time for me to say goodbye to a year long struggle. Goodbye to the thing I thought I would die without. Goodbye to the hope that I would ever get it back. Goodbye to everything but a smile at an occasional memory and a genuine hope for your happiness. Goodbye to the person I used to be and hello to the newer version I've become. I will never stop feeling like I have more to say, but it has all been said before and I need to be done.

Its going to be a tough few weeks for me, but I plan to have them with grace and a fearless attitude. Thank you for loving me. I know I thank you all the time, but I will never be able to thank you enough for getting me through so many hard times and loving me through every moment. I love you to the moon and down again and around the stars and back again.

Tu Me Manques, McKenna 2.0

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November 9, 2015

They should rename the Fall 2015 semester here at Rider the semester of Hamilton in honor of all the phenomenal guest stars we have been able to host. Recently, ANDY BLANKENBUEHLER came to talk to all of the musical theatre majors. I have attached a picture of him along with my professors Robin Lewis and Carol Bentley; who both danced with him earlier in their careers. Andy is known for choreographing "In the Heights" and "Hamilton," along with both directing and choreographing "Bring It On." He is also an incredible dancer and is known for his roles in "Fosse", "Saturday Night Fever", "Man of La Mancha", and more. I'm officially running out of words for how incredible everything has been, and Andy was no exception. His brilliance left every student in the room awestruck the entire time he was speaking. His theories on the development of choreographing were insanely inspiring and filled me with so much passion to create my own work. He is one of the many artists who sees the importance of what we do. He told a story about his time in "Fosse," and quoted the amazing Ann Reinking with this "When Bob Fosse loved, it was scary." That one sentence rocked my world. Because being an artist sucks. Having to always be searching for a new job sucks. Having to meet all the right people and hope you get lucky sucks. But it's not a choice. It's a fire within your soul that eats you alive if it's not being fueled. But the moments where you make a difference are beyond any other secular experience. When an artist has something to express, it overpowers them and they have to share it. Andy is obviously so inspired by everything he does, and being there while he shared gave me a whole new perspective on my purpose. As much as I loved meeting Andy, he wasn't the most important visitor I received recently. My parents came to New Jersey!!! This past weekend was the official parents weekend here at Rider. I was so happy to share my new life with my favorite people on the planet. (If it isn't clear for any reason, my parents are and always will be the most important thing in my life. I don't have words for how much I love them, and how grateful I am. They are the rock that keeps me grounded when I feel out of control.) They were able to see me perform with all of the other freshman MT majors along with some upperclassmen. We did a few pieces from our musical theatre practicum course (think choir, but only Broadway tunes!) i attached a video of our show. We spent a evening in Philly were we went to tea time, one of our favorite things to do, and shopped until we dropped (or at least until we ran out of money!) They also explored Princeton with me, a must-see if you are ever up here. The Princeton campus is absolutely stunning. And they accompanied me to not one but TWO Broadway shows. We saw "Finding Neverland" and "An American in Paris." I adored both productions. Neverland was beautifully done. Mia Michael's choreography was so inventive and intriguing. The costume design just enhanced the artistry of Michael's movement to perfection. The music is so sweet and really has the childlike feel of wonderment. The cast was stellar and the show kept all three of us on the edge of our seats for its entirety. Just beautiful! An American in Paris was very different and just as beautiful in its own right. The dancing, my gosh, the dancing!!! Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope blew my mind. They had the best chemistry between dance partners I have seen since Fred and Ginger. Momma and I were breathless from how gorgeous the movement was. Not to mention the way the dancers moved the sets and the fluidity of the transitions between scenes. The show did not have one dull moment. It was absolutely some of the best dancing to ever grace the Broadway stage. I'm so glad my parents got to come share the experience with me. It was so exciting for them to meet my friends and some of my professors. I just so proud to be a Bronc.

Tu Me Manques, McKenna

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October 28, 2015

So.....the most spectacular thing happened. CHRISTOPHER JACKSON CAME TO RIDER. Now I know, some of you are thinking who is Christopher Jackson? And first of all, shame on you! Secondly, he is currently starring as George Washington in "Hamilton" the Musical, and is also known for originating the role of Benny in "In the Heights", and understudying Simba in "Lion King" and later taking over the roll. Obviously the man has been a part of three ground breaking shows!! Not only did he encourage us, he even sang for us. We got a private Christopher Jackson concert. He brought the assistant musical director from "Hamilton" to be his accompanist (like...WHAT?!). And he brought his gorgeous wife, Veronica to sing with him. And he brought his Freestyle Love Supreme band mate Chris "Shockwave" Sullivan. The man has people. Everywhere. It was just such an awesome experience. He is extremely process based as an actor which was really inspiring for us artists. I think it's so important to be a part of the creative process as a person and not just show up for rehearsal do what your told and go home. For me, that's not the fun part. The fun part is digging into a character and finding the humanity of it. He had really similar views on artistry to my own, and it was really encouraging to feel like I'm on the right track. I attached my snapchat story of his performance, so you can share a little bit of my experience. Bravi, Mr. Jackson! I got a very different, and surprisingly cool, opportunity recently. I was able to tech the fall cabaret here at Rider called "Flower Power." Most of you know that you very rarely find me in all black at a show. I'm normally the one in a princess tiara or something outrageous. But this week I shed my typical stage makeup and big hair for all black. I ran props and mikes, assisted quick changes, and even moved set pieces. (David Johns, I finally moved a set!!! I can actually do it!! I found my spike and everything!!) Frankly, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I would love to tech professional shows. Can you imagine being a dresser for Kelli O'Hara in King and I?? That would be so cool. Also, it was eye opening for how nice you should be to your technicians. They really do work just as hard as the performers, and normally stay way later than the performers to clean up after them. Being a technician is extremely stressful. You want to get everything right so the performers can focus on themselves and their craft. (I love you David Johns and Lyndsey Anthony! Y'all will always be my favorite SM and ASM team!!) So kids, be extremely kind to your technicians. After all, they've got the power! Get it? This coming weekend I have my first required audition at Rider for "A Little Night Music." I'm not necessarily aiming to get cast; it is not common to be in a main stage production as a freshman. However, I am expecting to kill my audition and be the best me I can be on that day. Say a little prayer for me to not let nerves get the best of me. I'm really looking forward to seeing how the Rider audition process works. Thank you for your support of my dreams. I don't think I will ever not feel awestruck by the opportunity God has blessed me with or the encouraging people He has placed in my life.

Tu Me Manques, McKenna

Video starts 20 seconds in!

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October 23, 2015

I'm sure most of you know, but for any of you that have been fasting social media I GOT TO GO HOME. I practically counted the hours until I could see my family. I know I kept it on the down low, but I wanted to surprise Camille at her opening night of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ( go see it at FMT; it is a HILARIOUS show).

Okay. Any of you that saw my pictures know that I had a blast at home. I spent a day in bishop arts with my parents, spent time at my home away from home (Cedar Valley), and even reunited with many high school friends at Whataburger. But, right now I need to tell you the ugly side of going home. You spend your entire senior year preparing to be shipped away from everything you have ever known. You are bombarded with tips on staying healthy in dorms, and everything you need to bring and don't need to bring. However, no one tells you how to go home. I wish the moment after I landed in Dallas had been the perfect joyous moment I dreamed of, but that would be a lie. In the 30 minutes it took my airplane to reach the gate from the runway I had a lot of time to think. Senior year was hard for me, with the intensive stress of college auditions that I wouldn't wish on my biggest enemy, a break up that I truly thought would kill me at times, and the constant reminder that I was leaving my family and best friends behind. I got off that airplane and felt all of that come back. As much as it breaks my heart, I had to leave part of my identity in Texas. The part of my identity that was wrapped up in negativity, yes, but still a portion of myself that I was attached to. Coming home was like realizing that the broken parts of me I left behind were still there. In realizing that, I also realized who I've become. I'm stronger than I used to be, but more important to me I believe I'm more loving. A year of rejection forced me to see how badly this world is lacking in love. And as I have strived to become more loving, I have become more aware of those in my life that do love me unconditionally. Those people are really my home. As much as I miss sweet tea and the Texas sky, Texas isn't really home. The people who love me are home. Going home and being with loved ones reminded me that my support system is constant and so special. I remember as a little girl, there was a teenager named Kathryn who changed my life. She doesn't know that she did, but all I ever wanted was to be like her. I wanted to be kind, smart, and passionate. Now I see it in the eyes of little girls when they look at me. I can see their little minds and beautiful hearts think I wanna grow up and be like her. Of course I want to protect them from many challenges I've endured, but to know that they see me that way, how could I let them down? Going home was hard, but it just fed a fire within me that was growing tired and overwhelmed from so many new beginnings. Thank you for making me strong and literally holding me in your arms when I cried out and thought I couldn't be mended. Thank you for believing in me and for letting me touch the souls of your little ones. Thank you for being there when I forget why I'm doing this. And thank you to those that, whether it was on purpose or not, tried to break me, I'm doing all of this for you. So that maybe I can make this world a little bit better. Maybe, no matter how insignificant, I can make a difference. And I can't tell you how deeply I love you for giving me that power and that opportunity. I won't quit as long as you are there. My end goal may change, but never my spirit.

Tu Me Manques,

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October 15, 2015

I think this is the closest to "normal" I have felt this entire experience. While i'm still experiencing incredible opportunities practically everyday, I'm really feeling close to my MT class and we are finally getting the opportunity to bond over normal experiences, like dinners out and watching movies, rather than dance class and stressful situations.

I was able to see my first Rider production this week. The theatre program put on an incredible production of The Penelopiad. I cannot even tell you how amazing this show was. I have never been more proud to be in this program. The show is a retelling of the Odyssey from Penelope's point of view. While there were extremely dark moments, considering the adult subject matter, their was not one soul in the audience left untouched by the production. With an all girl cast, including actresses in men character roles, I have never seen such strength from an ensemble of young women. Every girl up there gave an astonishingly truthful performance regardless of the character's age, sex, or personality. Everything about the production was beautiful, especially the set and tableaux choices. Kudos to the director, Trent! My acting professor, Meade, was the movement coach for the production. I cannot even tell you what an amazing job she did getting college girls to move like burly grown men. Brava, to the cast and crew!!

On Saturday many of the MT's attended a movie themed get together. I dressed up as Kim Possible and it was pretty fantastic. I love just being able to hang with everyone and get to know the upper classmen on weekends when we have free time. The sense of community here is just so cool. I attached pictures so you can see my costume, and see most of the freshman MT girls.

Last weekend I got to spend a day with Natalie Waits. For those of you that don't know Natalie danced with me since we were teeny tiny girls at mom's studio. We've been through a ton of stuff together! She is a sophomore at Pace University majoring in commercial dance. We met in the city and got Shake Shack. The first Shake Shack I have ever had, and it just tasted even better because of how crappy college food is. I now understand the hype! We had a sweet little adventure in Chelsea's market, if you are in the city GO it's one of my favorite places now. We also walked the entire high line, a pretty park path of repurposed railroads connecting buildings going two miles through the city. I love finding cool nature spots in the midst of urban areas! I also took Natalie to Schmackery's, the best cookies in the world (except for Stacia's cookies). She really liked them! It was just awesome to spend the day with someone from home. It made me miss y'all even more. Reconnecting with Natalie has been one of the best opportunities of living up here. She's always going to be like a sister to me.

The first cabaret of the year was this week at Rider. In support of the fight against Breast Cancer, Rider students sponsored a Ca"BRA"et. The unique thing about this event was that while a few students performed, the main cast members performing were faculty members. It was incredible seeing my teachers work. They are all so unique and so talented. Meade closed the show and I'm telling you everyone in the room cried from the love she brought to her performance. She's really having an impact on me. I'm so proud of my program, for giving back and using artistry in support of societal issues.

I think the big thing for this week was just feeling normal. I've told you how much I love my program, and that certainly hasn't changed. However, for the first time I feel like I'm living more than a dream come true, I'm just living my life. A life full of love and art and inspiration, but still just my life. I'm so thankful to those who helped me get here, those lighting a fire within me now, and for you guys, my constant support system. Thank you for the consistent outpouring of love and support. The daily messages I get from people at home making sure I'm okay are so comforting. I love my school, but I will never stop missing all of you like crazy. So I'd like to share one more thing. Many of you have asked me what my signature "Tu Me Manques" means. This little phrase is French for I miss you. However, the literal translation is you are missing from me. As I am making room for new friends and a new theatre family in my heart, the space that all of you occupy is still yearning for your presence. And so...

Tu Me Manques,

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October 8, 2015

I feel like it has been years since i shared anything with you. A week at Rider easily feels like a month on its own.

Week four and five at Rider has certainly reached the extravagance of the earlier weeks. I wonder if there will ever be a time I have nothing to tell you!

At the beginning of week four I attended "Rhythmic Connections." This was a program entirely put together by Rider students, with a senior, David at the helm. The theme was focused on tap and some contemporary dance with older music about love. Now obviously this could have been pretty predictable, but many of the numbers put a modern feel to music we already love. It was really inspiring to see students doing all the work for once. The entire band was made up of students and the finale song, the only modern song in the show, was written by a senior, Colby, who also play guitar for the show. Not to mention David's intense choreography. His solo number was incredible; I have never seen ankles as lose as his. It's rare to see a tapper capable of making THAT many sounds. After the performance, Briana, a freshman friend, and I were definitely starting to plan our choreography showcase for the future!

I had a pretty typical week last week in terms of academics. My music theory teacher said last Monday that we, the freshman MTs, were starting to seem settled, and I definitely believe that's true. Everyone is really beginning to feel comfortable. It's cool to really feel like this is the right place for me with all the right people. Not to mention I got a 100 on my first college exam!!!

After our first exam all of us needed some relaxing fun over the weekend. Many of my friends and I want to the mall this weekend. It was a pretty good mall, but nothing beats Northpark! After a little shopping, no damage done I swear, we all had a really nice dinner at the Cheesecake factory. I really love when we get to share a meal together. Something about it just makes you closer to people from learning their food allergies to hearing how they are feeling. Also, nothing helps me rejuvenate like chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake!

This Monday the feelings of comfortability were just intensified by Mariann Cook and Robin Lewis. They each met with the freshmen class separately. Marian talked to us about auditioning and provided information on summer stock, slang for a theatre that uses one company to do a season of shows over the summer. She was extremely comforting to all of us with encouraging words and reminders that we don't have to do everything the upperclassmen do. I am planning on doing summer stock auditions; however, many of them are for practice purposes; I'd much rather get a job closer to home. No worries! Robin gave the freshman a dance class that resembles the jazz class we will take next semester. I'm telling you my abs are still sore from his intense warm-up. We did a combo to The Boy from Oz and it was just incredibly enjoyable. The freshmen girls were working their booties off. Robin even made all of us take our hair down so we could work our hairography! There is a video on Facebook if anyone is curious.

Today I got the truly incredible opportunity, along with five other students, to sing for Preston Boyd. You may know him from Broadway's Big Fish, Bullets over Broadway, On the 20th Century, and upcoming She Loves Me. He was super chill and made everyone really safe. We talked a lot about how to use your life to connect to a character and how you have to find unique ways to consider material. Don't take a piece of music and sing it the way you've heard it sung. Find something in a piece to make you stand out, whether it is a vulnerable moments in an unexpected place, or a build up of emotion where many just flatline one emotion.To all of you students I cannot express the importance of connection. There is no better tool in your tool belt. You can't belt an A5 while doing a pirouette and it won't matter if you aren't connected. Being connected is how actors are able to touch the audience. The audience won't be sad if you are playing the "why me?' victim, be a person who believes they can't get what the want and show the audience how you're gonna get. I posted a video of my cut I sang for Preston. It's pretty incredible to be seen by somebody who gets it and has found success in the arts.

I'm learning so much here at Rider. I wish I could take all of my kiddos and teach them what I am learning. Its really wonderful to see different perspectives, as their is no "right" way to perform in the arts. Remember artistry is all about being true to yourself. How will you understand a character and who they are if you don't know who you are? Be brave, be bold, and breathe, my loves.

Tu Me Manques, McKenna

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Share Your Soul

A love like a sailor's to a siren, Or a passion like the pope's for all men, The simple separation between love and addiction, Decides whether one suffers hope or affliction.

What makes the elderly question? What makes the grown man quake? The unbearable regrets humanity has For the mistakes themselves have made.

But when the lost soul finds a temporary home, And the broken heart finds a touch that might mend, All of the sinners in this aching world Gladly fall for love's addiction again.

the human connection

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September 29th 2015

Frankly, I'm astonished at how much I have to share with you all. It seems I could write a full length blog every day I am here due to the insane amount of opportunities I have had.

The most stand-out of these opportunities for me are the weekly master classes Rider provides for the musical theatre majors. The first one this past week was a lecture and Q&A with Casey Nicholaw, Now for those of you who don't know who that is he is a director and choreographer known for Something Rotten, Book of Mormon, and many more including the upcoming Tuck Everlasting the Musical. It was really inspiring to hear the story of his journey from performer to choreographer, and eventually director. His advice was filled with encouraging reminders that the only way to be successful in this business is to be true to who you are. As a casting director he says, "I want to see who you are. Don't beat yourself up about an audition, it's wasted energy. When you walk in we think right for the part or not and then we listen." Unfortunately, so much of the performing world revolves around how you look, but presenting a good and truthful audition will result in jobs, even if you aren't right for the role or show you are currently auditioning for. It is deprecating to be told you are not right for something, but in the end art comes from a deeper place than what we look like. For me in particular, it was amazing to listen to Casey talk about choreography. He breathes an idea the way I do. I have had concepts for this year's recital swirling in my brain since before the last one. It gives me hope that my passion, which seems so similar to his, is enough to get me where I want to be when it is partnered with hard work and patience.

The second guest artist we had this week was Thayne Jasperson. He is currently a part of the Hamilton cast, but is a Newsies veteran, a dancer in High School musical, and a participant on So You Think You Can Dance. He taught a master class with Hamilton choreography along with his own original choreography. Now I'm gonna be honest hip hop is not my forte, but it was really fantastic to work some new material and just be a part of such an energetic class. We all had so much fun with the quirky mash up between urban and revolutionary styles in dance. He was a blast as a teacher, and really complimentary of the Rider students.

This week the American Reperatory Ballet, based in New Jersey, came to Rider and performed. One of the pieces was even choreographed by my teacher Mary Barton, and another by her husband, Douglas Martin. Miss Mary's piece was absolutely jubilant. Under the name, "Straight Up with a Twist," Mary chose Indian inspired music that gave a Bollywood feel to her movement. With times of promiscuity and curiosity, as well as joyful exuberance the piece perfectly matched Mary's passionate and fiery soul. My favorite piece of the night would have to be Douglas's piece. Under the name "Ephemeral Possessions" with an underscore of Samuel Barber's Adagio for strings, the piece certainly pulled at the audience's heart strings. The contemporary movement influenced by clocks and pendulums emphasized the limited amount of time one has with their lover. The intensity of the piece was bewitching and inspired me to choreograph immediately. Although I grew up to mostly ballet, tap, and jazz, the power of both modern and contemporary dance has become quite apparent to me in the past few years. With these newer styles, dancers are becoming story tellers much like actors. The influence a dancer can have over one's soul is just as significant as an actor's skill. I challenge all of my dancer's to be better story tellers in their artistry and to see what sort of impact you can have on an audience member.

This Sunday was certainly one of the best days I have spent at Rider. For starters, I volunteered at The Broadway Flea Market and ran errands for those in charge. I was able to do this through the fraternity I joined: Alpha Psi Omega.The fraternity is co-ed-hence the label fraternity- and is an outlet for Fine and Performing Arts majors to conduct community service. Thus far it has mostly been mixers and meetings, but it is an awesome opportunity to get to know the upper classmen better and has absolutely made me feel more a part of the community here. The opportunity to work at a Broadway run event was spectacular. I met Beth Malone, Tony-nominated actress for Fun Home, and snapped a picture with her and some friends. Along with interacting with many working professionals and chatting about the business. Not to mention the incredible shopping! An original Broadway Ariel tale was on sale for $700!! Don't worry I didn't buy it, but geeze I was tempted. Personally, I settled for a vintage sweatshirt from the original 42nd Street production, because who doesn't love vintage? After such a fun-filled morning, a few of my friends and I attended the matinees of Spring Awakening. For those of you who don't know, Spring Awakening has been reimagined to include actors who are deaf; as well as the first disabled actor, restricted to a wheel chair, to perform on Broadway. The cast is full of familiar faces including Marlee Matlin (ABC Family's Switch at Birth), Andy Mientus (Smash), Krysta Rodriguez (Smash, The Addams Family Musical), and many others! With such an all-star cast and a fascinating take on a classic musical the show was destined to be good. However, the beauty that took place on that stage is indescribable. Two of the main three characters are deaf in this production. With musicians who sing and speak for the deaf characters when necessary the show combines both the spoken English language with American Sign Language. The silence of these character's is chilling. At one moment a fight took place between parent and child using only ASL until the parent screamed in frustration, an intensely intimate moment to share with the audience. The flow of the show along with incredible tableaux provided a beauty unlike any production I have seen before. The technology aspect of the performance took everything to an entirely new level. I won't ruin important plot developments for you, but I have never been so moved by a single light change. The performance of the actor's who are deaf was inspiring. Providing an entire story with no vocalized words seems excessively demanding to me, and yet each actor did so flawlessly. The true lead of the show, Melchior played by Austin P. Mackenzie, was the true break out artist for me. While we has able to sing and speak his own lines, his communication with the deaf characters was impossibly effortless. He broke my heart over and over again with his modernized thinking, for the time period of the show, and ability to accurately humanize each character. He was truly exquisite in his performance. The show brilliantly got each audience member to consider the importance of being truthful with children. To forcefully shelter a child often results in naivety that increases the difficulty of transitioning into the adult world. The thematic components of the show really touched me as I am transitioning from child to adulthood. I think above all it is important to be honest that our world is not all rainbows. There are so many hardships people are enduring right this second and we cannot turn a blind eye to them. I hope that in my future and even my present I am able to ease the pain of those hardships with art. I think one of the few untouchable parts of our society lies within the theatre. While theatre often exposes real world issues, it always brings optimism to make changes.

My evening wound down with a trip to one of the best restaurants in New York, 5 Napkin Burger, as well as Schmackery's cookies! With so many friends along for the ride I'm really beginning to feel settled here. I can't tell you how many times I wonder "How did this become my life? Why was I blessed with all of these glorious opportunities?" I'm not sure what made me so lucky, but I know that I will spend each day here giving my all to earn what I have already received. I have never worked so hard in my life, and yet I have never been so overjoyed by my craft. As always, I am missing you like crazy.

Tu Me Manques, McKenna

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A Penny For Your Thoughts

I've always had trouble being vulnerable to people, but as I've started college and started-dare I say it!-blogging I have come to realize the importance of sharing little pieces of yourself with others. The human connection is a thing that should be celebrated through artistry not hidden due to a lack of self-confidence. So in hopes of inspiring you to share a little piece of yourself with someone new, here's something that was weighing on my heart earlier after sharing with a new friend.

As fires rise I sit and wait, As thunders roar I sigh, Still and quiet I accept my fate, While horrors pass me by. But then you come before me, And con me to believe, That if I leave my loyal post, New adventures I'll receive. But wonders turn to wrestling, Our love begins to quake, And you become the grandest of my self-destructive mistakes.

Tu Me Manques, McKenna

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September 20, 2015

For a long time I have believed the key to being a truthful actor is being comfortable with uncomfortableness. I didn't understand the importance of that statement until I started college. This week has been incredible with impossible highs and gut-wrenching lows.

I started this week with an unbelievable opportunity, I was able to attend Alex Sharp's final performance of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time." Now for those of you that are not Broadway Buffs, Alex Sharp won his first Tony Award this year, at the age of 26 I might add, for best actor in a play. Now obviously this award caused my friends and I to expect a phenomenal performance, but there are no words to describe the emotional roller coaster that was that show. One moment I would sob and seconds later jubilant laughter would pour out of me. The actors in that show breathe as one unit, and provide a machine-like beauty to the overall aesthetic of the show. With astonishing technical components, the stage literally disappears at times, a lighting design that fits the overstimulating theme of the show perfectly, and sound work and music that matches every moment in the piece with an insanely realistic feel, it is absolutely the most polished production I have ever experienced. However, the true refinement of the piece can easily be found within each actor on the stage. With hearts beating together they conquered the impossible task of allowing the audience to go inside the head of a child with symptoms of autism and Asperger syndrome. Alex Sharp perfected a new ideology for playing characters with disabilities. Suffice it to say, I highly recommend this production if you are ever in New York.

After seeing such an inspiring show I began this week with a full heart and a new hunger for hardmwork. This fire inside was only intensified by my spectacular and gorgeous ballet teacher, Ms. Mary Barton. With ease she out dances the rest of the girls. She pirouettes with breathtaking grace and her extensions casually reach above her head, despite her protestations of "not being the dancer she used to be." She is a firecracker of a woman with the kindest touch. She is consistently encouraging in every critique she offers. I am already learning so much from her about the abilities of my body. I cannot wait to come home and share new tips with my girls. The teacher who truly bewilders me is my acting teacher, Meade. The woman literally has magic in her fingertips. A light touch from her will release all the tensions in your body. Learning from her is like breathing in positive air and exhaling all the negativity. Somehow I still find myself overwhelmed with the idea of acting. I have constant anxiety over performing in her class. I visibly shake every time she calls names for who will perform. i'm absolutely petrified, but something inside tells me that I'm going to succeed with her. I'm certainly not the most accomplished student, but I'm sure that the progress I will make this semester will surprise everyone, especially me. She sees truth as an art form the way I do. Playing a character truthfully can only be done by releasing one's true self and allowing someone else's story to be told. Her class is a kind of terror that transforms into exquisite fascination.

I was fortunate to meet my new voice teacher this week, Mrs. Lauren Atley-Janka. Her internal resemblance to my high school theatre teacher, Angee Hallmark, is baffling. She has already given me thirteen songs she wants to sing!! Frankly, I loved her immediately, she talked about Mac make-up with me for goodness sakes! She is the perfect mixture between sweet and firm. I know I will do well under her direction! I'm pumped for our lessons to truly begin so that I can make new discoveries in my voice.

At the end of a full week, I had my first audition at Rider. I auditioned for the staged reading of "The Last Days of Pompeii" a new musical. My auditions went well; I was even asked to sight read for the lead role! It was a relatively low stress audition, but I'm so thankful to be done with my first audition here. It seems no matter how hard we all try, our mindsets are still encompassed in the misery of college auditions. Everyone is afraid to let their guard down in order to accept we really did get in to an amazing program. I hope that as time passes we won't be such an anxious bunch anymore.

I finished the official week with a lovely Saturday off. I did laundry-nothing shrunk or changed colors!- and had a lovely afternoon to myself. That evening I had dinner, and ICE CREAM, in Princeton with seven other MT freshman girls. We were really lucky to have time to do some girl bonding and get to know everyone a little better. Our adventure in Princeton was a much needed escape from being confined to campus; not to mention the luxury of having real food, we ate at an authentic asian restaurant, after eating at Daly's (the cafeteria) for weeks. I'm really thankful for the beautiful souls inside each one of these girls. I know I have people to turn to when college gets a little to hard.

I cannot really explain the sensation of missing home terribly, while feeling like I'm where I belong. Everyday it feels a little bit harder to be away from mom and dad, and the Camille-size hole in my life just seems to get bigger and bigger, but I also feel the growth of friendships all around me. These people are life-changing for me, my heart could explode with an anxious excitement for everything that is coming.

Tu Me Manques, McKenna

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SEPTEMBER 9TH, 2015

"I'm a lot like a paramedic, a firefighter, a rescue worker. You're here to become a sort of therapist for the human soul, a spiritual version of a chiropractor, physical therapist, someone who works with our insides to see if they get things to line up, to see if we can come into harmony with ourselves and be healthy and happy and well." These words, spoken by Dean Fuller, were the first ones to reach the freshman in the musical theatre program. The entire room was still, while our hearts and souls bonded together in a way only artists understand. From that moment, regardless of my fear and stress and aching with homesickness, I knew I was in the right place. A place where I can touch the hearts and lives of so many people. However, a lot of things had to happen to get me to that place. Due to the incredible support of my grand parents, I was able to reach Jersey in two days with all of the millions of things I wanted in my dorm room. We moved me in on Sunday and surprisingly, considering the prison cell quality of the room, everything fit! In the end, the dorm is not so bad besides the lack of air conditioning, the little space and need for constant organization, and the communal showers. I have NEVER experienced anything like a communal shower. Let's be honest, you have no idea who or what has occurred in those showers. Luckily for me, my dorm used to be a frat house. That just goes to show how this place is seriously haunted with bad, and probably disgusting, decisions. Speaking of haunted, supposedly my dorm is haunted. A college kid, who passed in 2007, supposedly haunts our building in the afterlife. That being said some crazy things have happened in our dorm!!! Random chills of air in our, repeat, non-air conditioned dorm, knocks on the doors with no visible people near, blood-curdling screams, and tons of other events. Basically anything that happens in Lake House can surely be blamed on Gary the ghost. Surprisingly, getting used to the quirks of a dorm isn't so hard. Saying goodbye however, that hurt so impossibly bad I would have melted into the floor in order to escape the moment. I've known move-in day was coming for as long as I can remember. In America today many kids expect to go to college while they're in elementary school! But nothing can prepare you for saying goodbye to your family. It's an indescribable feeling you can only understand if you've been through it. As happy as I am here, I don't go a second without missing my parents miserably. If you know me at all, you know that my two favorite people in the world are my mom and my dad. I miss mom's dance classes and cooking, working out with dad and letting him drive me everywhere. They will always be my parents and I will always be their child, but living 1400 miles from the people who raised you and always love you unconditionally is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. My first couple of days at Rider were filled with freshman activities and meeting dozens of new people. I was nervous to the point of constantly shaking by the unfamiliarity of everyone's faces. However, in just a few days I know I have made friends that will last a lifetime. There's a reason people say college is where you make your closest friends. I'm thrilled by the 2019 Musical Theatre Family. Everyone is so unique and special with one come denominator, an intense and magical love for this art form. I can really feel the beauty of what we, as a team, will bring to the theatre. That being said, this is a pretty crazy bunch. We constantly, and I mean all day everyday, walk in groups of four to twenty. No one will be left behind in this bunch. Tonight alone, nearly a dozen of us went to the gym together before a "master class" taught by our peers on the painful parts of rolling out, and the beauty of Beyonce's dance moves. Overall, this group is incredibly dedicated, with anal retentive tendencies, and beautiful souls. I couldn't be prouder to work along side them. We had our first official day of classes today. I started my morning with music theory, taught be a hilarious and quirky woman (Think Ms. Darbus from High School Musical). I'm really looking forward to her class. Followed by a history class with your stereotypical ancient white male history professor. He was about as easy to understand as a walrus. That being said, his theory on the importance of understanding and making judgement on history is quite powerful and I'm sure his class will really benefit me as a human being. With a wonderful break in between, have mentioned how fantastic college schedules are?, I took musical theatre practicum with the entire freshman MT class. It was essentially choir with a focus on musical theatre material. My classes were finished off by finite math with the most adorable old man I've ever seen. He absolutely walked in to class with Crocs AND a bucket hat. I'm hopeful his teaching style will work with my brain and I will be successful in his class. Overall, my classes seem really great thus far. I have ballet tomorrow, as well as acting focused on the Alexander technique. I think I'm really going to enjoy the semester. I'm hoping I will be able to join the theatre fraternity, as well as tech shows and gain more audition experience. As terrifying as this entire experience has been, I truly feel I'm in the right place for me right now and look forward to the growth I know I will make as an actress and person. I miss you all with every piece of my heart.

Tu Me Manques, McKenna

 

Bottom Picture: First Day of School!

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September 3rd, 2015

Hello Friends!

After talking to a few peers I've decided to take part in the blogging world in order to allow those of you who want to keep up with my college experience to do so! As many of you already know I leave for New Jersey Friday morning. I'm truly excited and cannot wait to see what this magnificent programs holds for me. However, considering I haven't started college yet, I don't have much to say about my experience! I decided I would dedicate this post to relaying the adventures of my summer.

I began my summer with GRADUATION and a fabulous senior voice recital with my 7 year voice teacher Sam Germany. My voice recital will always be one of my favorite memories. Between getting to jam with the guys and finally having the opportunity to sing anything I wanted, I feel my voice recital truly represented me as an artist. I'm extremely thankful for all of you who came out to support me! If you missed it I'm planning to put the performance on youtube if you would like to check it out! 

Following all of the spectacular senior activities. The dance company was able to perform at Walt Disney World!!! It was an absolute blast. My best friend, Camille, and I did a lot of princess searching throughout our trip. Along with riding awesome rides with Katy and lots of other Disney inspired adventures. I would have to say my favorite part of Disney World is the Ariel ride in Magic Kingdom. Honestly, I'm a sucker for anything Ariel!! Ha! The most exciting things about the trip were all the wonderful experiences our dancers were able to have. We were able to take a dance class with a Disney dancer! Not only did she provide help with picking up choreography and techniques, but she also provided those of us who want to dance professionally with details on the audition process and the Disney college program! Something I will absolutely look into. For real, what girl DOESN'T want to be a Disney princess??! We performed our company routine at Downtown Disney, as well as taking classes. Regardless of the EXTREME heat, all of our dancers were absolutely fabulous and I couldn't be more proud. Especially the little ones who cared their bags the long trip to the stage all by themselves (I carried four for them!!). I'm so excited for what this year holds for the company girls, and don't worry I will still be involved regardless of my location.

In July I was able to perform in Garland Summer Musicals Crazy for You. It was also the first time I was paid for performing. Woohoo! I was a part of the show girl ensemble. I'm telling you, this choreography was incredible. From the frilly pinkest bubble gum tutu costume you've ever seen, to high kicking pans over our heads, to wearing gigantic feathered headpieces the show girls rocked the stage! I'm absolutely thrilled I was able to work with professionals such as: Patty Granville, Buff Shurr, Larry Miler, Joseph Jones, and Julie Russell Stanley in order to make this show happen. There were a lot of talented people in the room, folks! It was an absolute blast all the way through as a performer and person. Along the way, I was able to make many new friends who I plan to keep in touch with over the years. It was one of my favorite casts I have ever worked with! Not to mentioned how hard every worked to master the "crazy" tap dancing. Get it? In case you have trouble finding me in my crazy costumes and wig. In the first picture, I am second from the left. The second, second from the left. The third, far right.

When Crazy for You closed, I ended my summer by packing up and going to Philadelphia! I attended the Broadway Dreams Foundation intensive. I cannot even begin tell you how inspirational this experience was. Working with amazing artists such as Tituss Burgess, Quentin Earl Darrington, Alex Newell, and many more! The intensive had daily classes along with rehearsals for the final showcase! I was featured in the Saturday Night Fever performance. "It was so bad, its good," according to my incredible director Kyme. Just imagine rolling all of the status quo parts of the 70s in one and putting it on stage!! More importantly I was able to take classes the pushed me as actress not only in my skills set, but also in my mindset. The "Dreamer's Care" Class taught by Quentin was especially eye opening by reminding us all why we do what we do. It's not about money or status or anything but using the gift we have been given and sharing it in order to bring joy in heartache, light in darkness, and so many other precious things. I think the world would be a different place without artists with dreams. While our role in society may not seem as obvious, I believe we are put in this world to provide the happiness every one is seeking. Whether it be in a blowout theatrical experience, or in a quiet song next to a hospital bed, we are the people who allow you to let go of your momentary struggles and feel hope. I know that's why I do what I do. I want to see the smile on a little girl's face when I say, "Hi, I'm Princess Ariel," and the tears in an elderly man's eyes when I sing his favorite song to him. I feel so blessed to have been given such a gift and I hope to share it with people everyday for the rest of my life. Thank you so much for reading. I can't wait to tell you about my college life.

Tu Me Manques, McKenna

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