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Artist Q&A with Paige and Travis

ArtistQ&A
Paige Neumeyer and Travis Vandenberg represented the Center Stage High School Musical Theater Awards program this June at The Jimmys/National High School Musical Theater Awards. These two high school students made their debuts on a Broadway stage on the Minskoff stage in New York City and met students from across the country who shared their love of theater and passion for the arts.
We asked them to recap their experience in this Artist Q&A!

1. What did you enjoy most about participating in the Center Stage Awards at the Fox Cities P.A.C.?
Travis: I think the thing I enjoyed the most about the Center Stage High School Musical Theatre Awards was getting to celebrate high school theatre with so many other passionate performers. I also really enjoyed performing on the Fox Cities P.A.C. stage!
Paige: What I most enjoyed about participating in the Center Stage Awards was working with people I had never even met before who are incredibly talented and hardworking. There is such a variety of talent in the area that I am really glad is being appreciated and displayed on such a large scale. I also was so grateful to perform in an audition setting (for the judges of the competition) and then onstage at the performing arts center. For students like myself, stepping on that stage where so many successful people have performed, whether on national tours or solo concerts, it made my dream of being  successful seem more attainable that it ever had before. I know that my peers feel that way and I hope that others who get the opportunity to perform there feel that same encouragement.

2. What was your experience like getting ready for The Jimmys?
Travis: I prepared for the Jimmys by watching videos of past Jimmy Awards on YouTube, and I was lucky enough to train with Steve and Corrie Kovacs, who helped me prepare as well!
Paige: I had known about the Jimmys for a long time. Growing up, I was fascinated with the videos that were posted on their Youtube channel. That being said most of my “research” about the program had already been covered. I looked more into the difference between the medley and production groups we would be separated into, as well as who the directors of the program were. Although, I think it is safe to say that no matter how much you research the program, there is no comparison to how your own unique experience plays out. I’d say for anyone preparing for the Jimmys, make sure you know material confidently before you arrive, and then just go with the flow and be as open and accepting to any information thrown your way.

3. Tell us about New York City:

How was staying in the dorms at Tisch? Did it get you excited to go to college?
Travis: I loved staying in the dorms! They were very nice and comfortable. Being able to stay in the dorms definitely got me excited to go to college in the fall.
Paige: The dorms at Tisch were fabulous. They were more spacious than I expected and there was a great deal of storage space too! I know my roommates felt the same way and we always got a good night’s sleep in our beds! It made me excited for college. Living in close quarters with the other nominees was great because we were able to create a bond with each other!

What did you do while you were there?
Travis: We had so many great opportunities at the Jimmy Awards! We got to meet so many brilliant Broadway professionals, including Tony-nominated actress Jenn Colella and the writers of Dear Evan Hansen, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul! Additionally, we got to see Dear Evan Hansen and eat dinner at Sardi’s!
How was it to meet and interact with students who loved theater from across the country?
Paige: Meeting other theatre students from across the country was so special. I have friends right at home who love theatre as much as I do, and now I also have friends from California to New York who do too! That’s such a cool thought to me! The 80 of us were drawn and connected to theatre and eventually brought to a Broadway stage to do what we love. All of the students I met were so kind, too! Since we all knew what it was like to be in theatre, to experience the highs and lows of it all, it was easy to empathize with each other in whatever issues we faced or successes we experienced.

4. One of the coolest parts about the Jimmys is meeting with professional artists and hearing their
advice about the industry. What was the best piece of advice you received?

Travis: The best piece of advice I received is to be myself! I learned the key to success is to be myself in my work, craft, auditions, and interviews. They taught us to always be who you are because that’s enough.
Paige: I received so much great advice! I don’t even know if I could pick one thing. I think they really emphasized that this business is all about learning and being open to trying new things in an effort to make your performances come from a genuine place. That is what theatre is all about essentially: being able to tell a story as honestly as you can. There is no final destination. There is no perfect actor. No one is “better”, they are just different. That also ties into the theme of comparison. That week, they made sure that we knew we were all “winners”, and that we can’t compare ourselves to each other because we all bring something special to the table that we can’t risk to change. I’ve always found myself struggling with the “grass is greener on the other side” concept, and to some extent, all of us do! It’s human nature. Lisa Brescia, one of the coaches for the week compared performing careers to swimming. She said that like swimming, we need to move along our path; we can look to the sides to see what the other swimmers are up to and their technique and skills, but ultimately we need to focus on doing our best to keep progressing.

5. The other cool part, of course, is performing on a Broadway stage! Tell us how that made you feel. Were you nervous? Excited? Was it different than you thought?
Travis: I wasn’t as nervous as I thought because I was so excited! It was surreal and better than I could have ever imagined. I felt like I was on top of the world.
Paige: Performing on a Broadway stage was simply a dream come true. If I’m being honest, I don’t think I’ve really processed it, even now!

6. Has this changed the way you feel about theater?
Travis: This experience solidified my love and passion for theatre, and taught me that anything is possible when you put your mind to it!
Paige: This experience has changed the way I feel about theatre. It made me really appreciate all of the hard work that Broadway professionals put into their shows. I think we worked in an environment similar to what actual Broadway rehearsals would be like. It was exhausting in the best way and I hope to be able to one day be in an actual Broadway show, rehearsing the way we did that week.

7. Has this experience changed anything about the way you feel about yourself?
Travis: This experience didn’t only teach me things about theatre, but helped me grow as a person. I have so much more confidence in myself and am much more comfortable with who I am.
Paige: This experience definitely changed the way I feel about myself. A saying that the directors made sure we understood was “you are enough”. I am not the most outgoing, most confident person in the room. I had always thought that it was something that might hold me back in a career full of people who love the spotlight, like I would be hidden. But hearing those words made me realize that I don’t have to be what I think a “theatre person” should be. I am enough. I am enough as a performer. I am enough as a team worker. I am enough as a person. And just like anyone else I will continue to learn and grow and continue to be enough.

8. Next season the Center will host the Center Stage Awards program again. What is your advice for those students?
Travis: My advice for future Center Stage winners is to take care of themselves! The Jimmys are a once in a lifetime opportunity, and no one wants to spend it being sick! I would also advise them to try to avoid comparing themselves to others. Everyone at the Jimmys wants the nominees to be the best they can be, and everyone should focus on that rather than what other nominees are doing! Lastly, I would tell them to make so many friends! It’s great getting to know so many people like you!
Paige: My advice to those participating in the Center Stage Awards next year is to always be kind and supportive to the other people you are sharing the stage with. You are all working so hard and really pouring your souls into your work, so let each other know that you appreciate their work. We could all use a friendly face and support, so be that encouragement to someone else who you’re working with. Also, just soak it all in and have fun! Theatre is crazy and we never know when such special opportunities like these will arise again, so you just have to be grateful for the moment and enjoy the wonderful people alongside you!
 
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