By Phoebe Doscher, Staff Writer
“Breathe,” I remind myself quietly and quickly before making my first entrance on the vast Majestic Theater stage.
One deep breath, and I hop onstage– shocked to be met with hundreds of unfamiliar faces– but nevertheless ecstatic to tell the story I had been immersed in for months. These unfamiliar faces, however, are warm and welcoming and fill me with hope for the next four years of opportunities and experiences at Gettysburg College.
I entered my first year at Gettysburg much like entering the stage: very apprehensive and unaware of what to expect.
I doubted my ability to get involved in groups and clubs, like the school musical, without prior experience at the school. My fears, however, quickly disappeared when I finally immersed myself on campus and was given incredible, transformative opportunities.
I had first heard about the fall MainStage musical, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee the summer before I arrived on campus this year. I immediately began preparing for my audition, eager to be a part of the theatre department in any capacity, although performing onstage has always been my niche.
I faced my fears of not being cast in a small production head-on and auditioned immediately when I got to campus. Luckily, I was one of the nine people cast, and as a first year, whose odds I had assumed were lower, I was quite surprised. I quickly got to know my new castmates, director, and production team and made close friends and connections within the first few weeks of school.
Personally, the Spelling Bee process was transformative. Students, staff, and outside spectators only saw the finished product– a result of two months of almost daily rehearsals and rigorous exercises to prepare our characters, voices, and movements for the stage. I taught myself to embody a ten-year-old child and tapped into everyday feelings of stress to inform this extremely pressured character.
As a result of my rigorous training, I found myself learning new techniques and improving every day under the direction of Chris Kauffman and musical direction of Susan Hochmiller. These two mentors are extremely valuable resources to my Gettysburg experience: I will continue to study under Professor Kauffman, the chair of the Theatre Arts Department, my intended major, and study applied-voice with Dr. Hochmiller at the Sunderman Conservatory of Music.
Now that the show has closed, I often hear fellow students and staff on campus comment on Spelling Bee– many have even approached me directly to express their congratulations on the successful show. I am extremely humbled to receive this kind of recognition, especially as a first year on campus. At the same time, I feel unofficially inducted as an active member of the Gettysburg College community.
For the time being, I will continue to experience “post-show depression:” mild grief while letting go of my character and the exceptionally fun experience of pretending to be in a spelling bee. But at the same time, I feel euphoria envisioning the endless possibilities, theatre-related or otherwise, during my next four years on campus. This is only the beginning, and for that I am eternally grateful.
Editor’s Note: This article is part of the 2018 edition of our series “Dodging the Bullet: The First Year Journal,” in which The Gettysburgian‘s staff members from the Class of 2022 share stories, reflections, and perspective on their first year experience. (-M. Neiman)