Starring on Broadway
The Yellow Brick Road now winds its way through Pace University. That explains why you will find Dorothy (minus her ruby slippers and her little dog Toto) studying as a fulltime student in Dyson’s musical theater department.
In real life, Dorothy is 20-year-old Kate Bristol ’12, who landed the lead role in the national tour of the production based on the 1939 classic film, The Wizard of Oz. Bristol is winning the hearts of theater-goers young and old across America—between Pace classes. How does it feel to land this iconic part? “I’m incredibly excited to be playing this,” says Bristol. “I assumed I would be a struggling actor forever. It makes me feel very proud and accomplished and happy, but I won’t let it go to my head.”
As Bristol has discovered, theater life can be grueling. Before opening night, rehearsals lasted up to 10 hours. Then things really got busy. Bristol stars in eight to nine shows a week and will perform in 109 cities during the five month run. “I’m on stage for the entire show,” she says. “I never have time to relax and let my nerves settle. So it’s like being on edge for two and a half hours. It’s exhausting and yet stimulating.”
When she’s not “off to see the Wizard,” Bristol is engrossed in her studies as a full-time student—finishing the year via correspondence and online courses. She credits Pace with preparing her for the rigors of theater life and values the camaraderie of fellow Pace students. “It’s a very professional environment, and we’re all very supportive of one another,” she says. “When one of us finds success, we know that it’s not defeat for the rest of us, because all of the situations are so different.”
Indeed, Bristol is not alone in her success as a star prior to earning her BFA. Other Pace students are landing big roles: Cailan Rose ’12 is performing in Hair on Broadway; Brandon Contreras ’12 is in the national tour of In the Heights; Rahul Rai ’14 is the lead actor in the indie film When Harry Tries to Marry; Cooper Rivers ’14 appears in Generation Um… starring Keanu Reeves; Christopher Bert ’12 acted in The Green starring Julia Ormond and Illeanna Douglas; and Donnel James Forman ’10 was in the national tour of Hairspray and Mamma Mia! before returning to Pace to complete his studies.
At any given time, as many as 15 performing arts students at Pace are professionally engaged. What’s at the root of this success? “We believe your professional career starts the day you come to Pace, not the day you graduate,” says Performing Arts Assistant Professor Grant Kretchik.
Musical Theater Director Amy Rogers adds: “Our philosophy is that we build process and product at the same time, and we’re training students while giving them the opportunity to actually be professionals.”
Bristol is living that philosophy: taking advantage of the opportunity to build her confidence—and professional chops—while maintaining her academic focus as she pursues Pace’s strategic goal of becoming a “thinking professional.”