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Mar 28, 2014

Challenge, yes, but also support

Forget TV dramatizations: Honors student Caitlin McAvoy ('15) reveals the atmosphere of JMU's musical theatre program

By Jan Gillis ('07)

Caitlin McAvoy in JMU production of All Shook UpCaitlin McAvoy (third from right) in JMU production of "All Shook Up."

How would you describe the world of musical theatre? If television shows influence your thinking, you probably conjure up images of fierce rivalries, cutthroat competition, and backstabbing machinations.

Enter mythbuster Caitlin McAvoy ('15).

The JMU junior took the plunge into a musical theatre major when she found it impossible to choose between acting, dancing, or vocal studies as her academic focus. "Musical theatre gives me the opportunity to integrate all three of the performance crafts that I am utterly passionate and excited about. It's my perfect fit."

Caitlin McAvoy with professor Kate ArecchiCaitlin McAvoy with professor Kate Arecchi and cast members of "All Shook Up."

McAvoy admits that coming into the program she anticipated a "very competitive atmosphere like what is often dramatized on TV; but JMU, though fiercely intensive, is a loving and supportive environment." As for her peers in the program, she says, "We're a great, big family! JMU has the outstanding reputation of being a place where everyone is inviting and genuinely friendly, and I feel that atmosphere is significantly heightened within theatre and dance."

Supportive, yes; but this is no arena for slackers.

'When you walk out of here, the skills gained in both performance studies and the technical realm make you an asset to any theatre company.'

A perfect integration

"I'm in the performance track, but regardless everyone does 35 hours working in each area—scenery, costumes, lighting, and management," she says. McAvoy, who hopes to perform professionally and one day open her own dance studio, relishes the complete spectrum of experience the program provides. "When you walk out of here, the skills gained in both performance studies and the technical realm make you an asset to any theatre company."

While she acknowledges that the program demands discipline, McAvoy enjoys its rewards. "I am amazed at the artistic and professional growth I've experienced in this program, and I'm constantly thankful for the high level of training and encouragement I receive from my professors and directors on a daily basis."

Working for JMU's Children's Playshop the summer after her freshman year, "had a huge impact on my career path because I discovered this newfound joy in performing for and working with children."

Caitlin McAvoy as Sugar Plum Fairy enjoys a hug from a fanCaitlin McAvoy says JMU's Children's Playshop helped her discover a newfound joy working with children.

She is going to combine her love for dancing and her affinity for working with young people in a unique study abroad experience. Thanks to a Hillcrest Scholarship, she will be traveling to Romania to work at Deborah House, which provides a haven for severely abused girls. McAvoy has developed a unique dance curriculum and plans to use creative movement and music as an avenue of therapeutic discovery and empowerment for the students she will work with.

Learn more about the Madison Experience.

Learn more about the Honors Program.

Learn more about the School of Theatre and Dance.