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Carmen Hargis-Villanueva ’11, who graduated from Lawrenceville last spring, was the star of last year’s fall musical Hello Dolly. She led the cast as Dolly Gallagher Levi in a terrific and unforgettable production, and was an ardent member of the School’s theater and arts programs. As the annual Alumni Weekend rolls around, she reflects back on her experiences at Lawrenceville and on her future aspirations at NYU, where she is currently studying as an undergraduate.
What extracurricular activities, pertaining to the arts, are you involved in at NYU?
Well, New York City is such an incredible place to do the arts because it’s easy to pursue whatever you want to do. Be it theater or singing or dancing or acting, if you’ve thought about it, it exists in New York. So I’ve been trying to get involved by just exploring my options. At NYU, I have an awesome time with friends in the practice rooms because everyone is involved, whether they play the guitar, the piano, or sing. Also, the fact that a bunch of us are singers is always fun, especially making music. We’ve also performed a couple times at poetry clubs or beatnik cafes. I have also starred in a couple of student films because every student studying a filmmaking major ends up needing to make around three videos a term.
How did Lawrenceville’s theater program help with the transition and how well were you prepared?
The real world is a lot harsher with rejection and critique than Lawrenceville ever was just because of the sheer number of people who audition for things. But Lawrenceville was great at installing a good work ethic and helping me realize how much work and passion have to go into something. It also taught me that I have to make sure every aspect, singing, acting, and dancing, is fleshed out.
I’ve gained experience in how to work professionally and efficiently with others. But I’ve also learned to always make sure you love what you’re doing and to ensure that shines through when performing.
What do you like about the theater program at Lawrenceville and why?
My favorite part of the theater program was the people. The atmosphere between actors in a show is amazing. Like the whole cast in Hello Dolly; everyone from the lighting crew to costumes to the cast, got very close after working together. Especially after going crazy with each other as the musical performance dates became closer. Also, the teachers, Dr. Smith, Mr. Cull, and Mr. Wilder were a combination of encouragement and critique. It was amazing to see how passionate each teacher was about making the perfect production.
What are you aspirations in theater for the future?
I don’t have any big aspirations right now apart from continuing to do what I’m doing. I’m still exploring my options.
What’s your fondest memory from the Lawrenceville arts/theater program?
My fondest memories were the last few moments before a performance when the whole cast did a couple of secret rituals, which sounds kooky, but is really fun. It was always a great experience.
Any advice for aspiring actors, singers, and artists?
Always keep working towards discovering things about your abilities by trying out certain things that maybe you’ve dismissed before or never really thought of doing. It will expand your repertoire which can only be a good thing.
- Carla Tuan ’14