Calee Gardner, a senior in the MDT program, shares how the performing arts have connected her to others and to herself
Each year, graduating seniors in both the music dance theatre (MDT) and the BFA acting program audition for the BFA Senior Showcase. Those who are selected then have the opportunity to travel to New York City and audition for industry professionals, providing an invaluable link between the academic and professional world.
MDT major Calee Gardner was one of 16 seniors selected to perform in this year’s showcase. For Gardner, being a performer is an integral part of her identity.
“I was given the nickname Miss ‘My Life is a Musical’ by my friend years ago,” says Gardner. “I know that performing has helped me build my confidence and tune in with my vulnerability. It has helped me develop charity and empathy.”
Performance has not only helped Gardner connect to herself, but it has also been an outlet that has brought her closer to others.
“When you get to know a character, you understand a little more about humanity,” she said. “When you put a lot of passionate performers together, you have a recipe for a lot of life experience.”
These elements of connection are what led Gardner to choose her pieces for the Senior Showcase — including “Secret Love” from the 1953 movie musical “Calamity Jane.” Throughout the Western romance, Jane maintains a tough cowgirl exterior and hides her feelings from others, but the end of the film finds her admitting the love that she feels for another character.
“When she finally admits to herself the love she feels, she lets it all loose,” said Gardner. “She gets so much power and joy from that realization, and I got to act out all the vulnerability of someone realizing they are in love. I suppose that’s why I pick any song — I feel a connection to the emotional journey of the character.”
Connection has also been a large part of Gardner’s experience in the MDT program. From the support of her professors to laughing, sweating and crying with her classmates, Gardner has built relationships and made connections throughout her collegiate career. Gardner believes that these kinds of peer and mentor interactions have helped her to identify her own priorities and become an advocate for the arts.
“Each person contributes to the outcome of the show, and it’s beautiful to see how shows and storytelling bring people together,” she said. “I want to be part of a group that aims to bring joy to others or help them learn something about identity.”
With the cancellations of performances and travel risks related to COVID-19, the 2020 New York Showcase will be moved to an online format. To learn more about the showcase and its performers visit the BYU New York Showcase website.