Monday, July 20, 2015

Spotlight: 'You will never know what you can achieve if you don’t try'

2015 finalist Drayton Maclean Mayers
2015 #JimmyAwards finalist Drayton Maclean Mayers from the The Orpheum Theatre-Memphis High School Musical Theatre Awards in Memphis, TN performs "Beautiful City" from "Godspell"
Posted by National High School Musical Theatre Awards on Saturday, July 18, 2015

Maclean Mayers recently returned home from the National High School Musical Theatre Awards in New York City, where he was named a finalist in the lead actor's category -- one of the top three in a pool of 26 male performers. Maclean wrote about his experience for us in this guest entry for Main and Beale.

First and foremost I want to say that I am still completely humbled by this entire experience. To be honest the last two years of my life have been a complete whirlwind for me, and I never would’ve dreamt any of the things I’ve been able to take part in. To be able to call myself a “two-time” winner at the Orpheum’s High School Musical Theatre Awards almost seems selfish to think.

I say that because I firmly believe that any of the gentlemen nominated this year and also the year before could’ve won. It’s amazing to see the talent grow each year on both the Memphis level and also on the national stage as well. While I did love my experience at last year’s National High School Musical Theatre Awards, I must admit that it was a bit difficult for me. I was a “Big Fish” in an even bigger pond, excuse the musical theatre pun. The talent on the national level amazed me. It got to a point that for a while I didn’t believe that I belonged there. However, the amazing people I met while I was in New York convinced me that maybe I could make a career out of performing on stage. With the chance to go back this year I returned confident in who I was as a performer and also as a person. Nothing though prepared me for what lay ahead.

I think my success this year is credited to the fact that this was my “second” time at the NHSMTAs. I understood what our directors and what our coaches expected out of us all. I knew that I needed to preserve my voice throughout the week to make sure that I was fully prepared for the judges the Sunday before the show. It was all these little things that really benefited me in the long run.

When Erica Peninger and myself, along with the amazing Lindsay Krosnes, our chaperone, arrived in New York, I was already eager to get to rehearsal. I wanted to see all the kids that I would be spending the week with. Were they as good as last year’s group? Who were the standouts of the group? A million questions rushed through my brain as we pulled up to New York University’s Founders Hall, our home for the week.

The thing I was sure of though was that I wanted to finally meet the two other Edward Blooms, the character I was also nominated for. I wanted to pick their brains on what they thought of the character and the show Big Fish itself. My wish was granted right as soon as I opened the door to my dorm for the week. My roommate was in fact one of the other Edward Blooms, how lucky am I! Ben, my roommate, turned out to be an amazing guy and it was really a lot of fun to talk about Big Fish to someone that really knew the show. I eventually did meet the third Edward Bloom who was just as amazing and nice as Ben was. After meeting all the other nominees we all began our walk to NYU’s Tisch School to begin our first rehearsal!

After a quick pizza dinner all the nominees filed into the theatre for introductions. It was exciting to see all the other nominees and who they played. Along with the three Bloom boys there was also a handful of Mary Poppins, an eccentric Gomez, a whole array of Sutton Foster characters and many more.  Once everyone was finished we began our first vocal rehearsal! The opening number is always a fun song because our music director literally writes in every current Broadway show and then some! After a busy day I fell asleep eager for what the rest of the week laid ahead.

I won’t go over each day specifically, but they all started with our personal yogi for the week, Ross Rayburn. Once we had all found our inner Zen, the days were filled with medley rehearsals and coaching time with current and past Broadway performers. Of course, the three Bloom boys were put into the same medley -- I mean why not? The other guys in my medley were also extremely nice. There was a Jean Valjean, a J. Pierpont Finch and also Flick from the musical Violet. After a few rehearsals together we all became brothers in music. We practiced together, ate together, and hung out with each other. 

When I wasn’t in medley rehearsal I was preparing my solo for the judges with my coach, current Broadway actor Telly Leung. What was funny about the ordeal was that my solo was “Beautiful City” from Godspell. Telly was a part of the cast for the revival of Godspell! At first I was a little nervous -- to be singing a song that he was so familiar with, it was a little intimidating  -- but after his guidance and help I felt prepared for the judges that Sunday.

After performing for the judges I felt confident that I had done my best. By that point in the week it did not matter to me if I was chosen as a finalist our not.  I was already so proud at everything that all the nominees were able to produce this week. Keisha and Van Kaplan, the NHSMTA director, were both shocked that we had accomplished so much in such a short amount of time. We were the first group ever in the history of the awards to fully finish with rehearsals early. The opening number was finished and polished, along with the closing number. The medleys were the best that they’d ever seen. It’s safe to say that all 52 nominees were amped for the ceremony at the Minskoff Theatre.

Fast-forward to the second act of the show. After what was an amazing first act of the show everyone was back in their dressy blacks, ready for the announcement of who was to become the three finalists. As the names began to be called I was shocked to hear Michael Cerveris call MY NAME! I had been picked to be a finalist at the National High School Musical Theatre Awards! After the applause finally died down all the finalist were directed backstage to prepare for our solos. One by one we all went, everything singing their souls out. I am so glad that I wasn’t a judge this year because it seems as though it would’ve been impossible.

While I didn’t win that night I took so much out of the experience. I met 51 amazingly talented people who all had a heart of gold. Without my friends I would not have had such an amazing experience. I also learned that I can accomplish anything that I put my heart into. I think that is something that everyone can apply to in his or her own life. Don’t do something because you are scared to do it, because you will never know what you can achieve if you don’t try.

Maclean Mayers is a 2015 graduate of Germantown High School and will be attending Emerson College in Boston, majoring in journalism and theatre this fall. Click here to see more videos from the NHSMTA.

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