The Atlanta Lyric Theatre Studio in the Square hosted their newest installment of the cabaret series “Bright Nights” on Saturday, Sept. 11.
At the cabaret, Kennesaw State Theatre and Performance Studies students and professors were able to join regional professionals for a night of show tunes and performance. Each performer sang one or two songs each, and all joined at the end of the first act to perform a 9/11 remembrance medley.
The KSU students featured were Ra’Mya Aikens, Shane Byous, Ashlin Williams and Erin North. The students had the new experience of sharing the stage with Department of Theatre and Performance Studies faculty members Timothy Ellis and Amanda Morgan. Ellis performed two classic songs and Morgan accompanied all performances on the piano. This opportunity allowed all performers to see each other in a new light.
“I try to bring students into professional gigs every year,” Morgan said. “I try to bring them along in different capacities as well as I see fit for their area of expertise.”
These professional opportunities opened many doors for the student performers and also allowed them to further their relationships with the professors who have guided them into the professional world of theater.
“It’s so much more than just a professor-student relationship,” Aikens said. “It’s much more like a mentor relationship, and that’s so reassuring to have and inspiring to have those role models who have been in the industry.”
Morgan noted that students who are selected for professional opportunities are students who she knows can handle the pressure of being in public settings.
“I will say, as a teacher it does feel like pushing birds out of a nest,” Morgan said. “I have confidence in the students I put forward for professional opportunities and I always joke around and say, ‘Please do as well as I know you can.'”
For many students performing, the cabaret was their first show back in front of a live audience since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The pandemic canceled shows at all levels of theater, and the industry is still recovering from major losses, with some shows returning to Broadway.
“It’s such a different feeling performing in front of a live audience versus even being streamed,” Aikens said. “Performing in front of audiences is our happy place. This feels like home”.
Many students felt as if this was their first step in the final phases before they graduate and go on to work full-time as theater professionals. North, a senior, described the experience putting students on a path to success. She also described that it was very shocking because she did not think she was ready to branch out into a professional environment, but through the performance at The Lyric she knew that she was ready for the next steps.
“I’m getting to know myself more as an artist,” North said. “Especially since I’m graduating soon so it is like another chapter of our identity opening up.”