[OUTSIDE THE BOX] Ep. 2: Theatre touring with Soren Miller and Valerie Wick

Music Credit:

Adding The Sun by Kevin MacLeod

Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/5708-adding-the-sun

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Mimi Huelster: The smell of the greasepaint, the roar of the crowd, and singing and dancing your heart out to hundreds of people all watching you doesn’t sound incredibly appealing to plenty of people. But to some, the thrill of performing is just too good of an offer to refuse.

Soren Miller: It was a giant opportunity and I couldn’t pass it up, you know.

MH: That’s Soren Miller, a 9th-grader here at SPA, on his experience touring for Matilda the Musical for six months in 6th grade. He’s not the only one who’s toured around, however.

Valerie Wick: I loved it, dude. You got to basically hang out with your good friends in a tour bus, drive places for 12 hours, then sit for a week and do shows, and it was so much fun.

MH: That’s Valerie Wick, also a 9th-grader here at SPA, talking about her tour for a production of The Sound of Music around North America in 7th grade for four months. 

Hi, I’m Mimi Huelster, and this is Outside the Box. Today on what SPA students do outside of school, we’ll be talking about students’ experiences going on tour with musicals, and what that meant for them academically and socially.

Soren first started doing theatre when he was seven, after a friend of his convinced him to do a show at their church together, and his theatrical career stemmed quickly from there. In 6th grade, while in New York City, Soren decided to go in for some auditions.

SM: I had auditioned for Matilda in the past, so I was like, okay, every time I usually go there I was like, okay, I might as well audition just for fun; let’s see how far I get. And that time, I had decided to take a class on the audition to better prepare for the choreography part of it. And so I did that, I went in for the audition. And I felt like I had really done a good job of that and I got a callback for that and then, yeah, from there, I got in.

MH: For Valerie’s audition, it was a different story.

VW: So there’s like this website, called “Actors Access,” and you go on there, you make a profile, you put your headshot in, and you put, like, what you can play, and like, your voice type and all that, and it was really by chance ‘cause usually we don’t hear too much about it but it like popped up. And we were like, yeah, sure, I mean, I was like — we were legitimately like, she’s not gonna get in, like, I’m not, I’m not gonna get in, it’s this big thing, most of the kids are coming from New York. So, we filmed an audition at my voice teacher’s house, and her dog kept barking, and it was a really long day — it was like three hours. But then we sent it in and it was just there.

MH: Soon, the rehearsal process began.

VW: I forget where we started. But it was really awkward, and we got two weeks to learn it, to do that and tech, so we had two weeks to do the full show. I didn’t have any of my lines memorized, because I didn’t have a script, and they were like, “Oh, you never received that?” And we were like, “Yeah, yeah, we didn’t.” So, I had to, like, learn all of that, and then we had three days of tech, and then we were on. So, it was really fast. 

MH: For Soren, who had already had experience working in some Broadway shows, the rehearsals for a touring production were unlike anything he had done so far.

SM: Going into the tour, I kind of, I didn’t expect it to be as much work as it actually was. So I went in thinking, “Oh, yeah, it’s gonna be pretty predictable, you know, it’s a Broadway show and it’s gonna be difficult,” but I was like, “Okay I guess it won’t be too bad.” But I don’t think I was fully ready for the amount of work I had to put in, because, I mean it’s, it was you go 100% every single day. And we had this choreographer, and she was crazy. Like, I wanted to put that into nicer terms, but she was crazy. Like, she would say, you are all doing ten out of ten and I need eleven out of ten. And so we had to be better than perfect. There was a couple times where some fellow actors were sent home in tears. A lot of crying, a lot of Epsom salt baths, because I was very sore.

MH: And not only did Valerie and Soren have to deal with stressful and taxing rehearsals, but school, as well.

VW: Here’s the thing, I don’t remember anything from seventh grade. I remember nothing. I remember math, and I remember literature, and I remember doing French on Duolingo and thinking I was just the coolest, you know. It was really tough, because we didn’t have a set curriculum. So we were, like, learning things throughout the year and then we had to take, like, a standardized test on, like, some paper, at the end, like near the end of the tour. We would do school on the bus, I would get carsick, and then I’d have to sit out from it, and then cram all my stuff, like the day before when we were sitting. It was really, I use stressful so much, but it was really, like, a tough, tough transition.

MH: Instead of having a tutor on the road helping everyone in the cast like with The Sound of Music, the cast of Matilda had to find their own ways to keep up with their education. Soren opted for online school.

SM: It was weird, because it wasn’t Minnesota online school because when I was touring around they said I wasn’t a resident of Minnesota, which I thought was kind of weird. So, I had to do, like, an international version, and, so, it had different curriculum and that messed me up a little bit, but overall it wasn’t too bad. I think it was, like, I think it was Iceland? It was, like, in Icelandic. It was in English, but it was like Icelandic curriculum or something like that.

MH: And while Valerie and Soren did miss their friends, lives, and even schools back home, they’ll both admit that their experiences of being somewhat on their own, albeit with a legal guardian from time to time, have helped them for the better.

VW: It’s definitely, it was something, I guess, that helped me mature, I would — I’m still pretty immature, like, if you talk to me, I’m like, “Haha, fart.” But, yeah, I definitely feel more secure, like, just walking around by myself for, like, buying my own food, and, like, doing all that, which seems like really simple stuff, but my mom is really overprotective, and my dad is semi-overprotective, so it’s, like, definitely helped me mature. I feel like I can stay a lot more emotionally “even” through stressful things, because it’s like nothing is as bad as trying to balance those two things and trying to, like, figure it out, and not have, like, emotional support a lot from, like, your parents or people you trust.

SM: So, I’ve started to like, well, before, I kind of doubted in my dancing abilities for, like, acting and stuff. And after this, it was kind of just like this idea of, okay, I can push myself, I can keep going. And also, like, you know, you have to be independent in New York. You know, you learn more social skills, you learn how to, like, you know, deal — not deal with people, but, you know, interact with people.

MH: So, with all that in mind, would Valerie and Soren do it again?

SM: I don’t know. The thing is with touring, it’s kind of, like, a bittersweet experience because, you know, you get to have all the fun going and touring, meeting all these new people, seeing all these new places, but then I would say, like, the hardest part was not seeing my friends for, like, six months, and not seeing all my family, just missing, like, my house, you know. So, there’s always that stuff, and like I said earlier with school, too. And I think probably now — I mean, I would probably still say yes to it, but there would be more of a conversation now.

VW: Maybe next year, but junior year, I would die. I would actually become such a tight little ball of stress and freaking out and late papers and all that — I’d be done. But, like, if, if, if — this is like a big if — if something got offered to me and it was like a twelve month run, I’d be paid fully, all my stuff would be paid for, then maybe I’d do it, just because it’s such a big thing to be on a tour for that long. So, yeah, I would not unless it was like, very specific circumstances.

MH: In other words, a resounding “maybe.” Despite her uncertainty of whether she’d go on tour again, Valerie had one final lesson to share about the experience.

VW: Something that I learned just going into it like, going and auditioning is, like, just do it, like if you have a chance to do it you should definitely go for it.

MH: Thank you so much to Soren Miller and Valerie Wick for agreeing to be interviewed, and to Maddy Fisher and Evie Sampsell-Jones for helping to conceptualize and edit this episode. Once again, I’m Mimi Huelster, and this has been Outside the Box.