June 24, 2024

Character and Community

A Play in Three Acts


Jackie Filicko: senior; psychology/theatre major; brainiac from Midlothian

Gwen Levey: junior; theatre major, musical theatre/arts administration minor; dreamer from Annandale

Catherine O’Meara: junior; psychology/theatre major; tomboy from Warrenton

Theatre girls


Three over-achieving theatre majors talk “UMW.”

Act One: U-M-What?

Jackie: We were driving on 95, and I saw the exit for the University of Mary Washington. I literally looked it up from the backseat. Small classes were important to me. In high school, I developed a bond with so many of my teachers. I really wanted to carry that over into college. That’s how I learn best.

Gwen: [clasps hands] I was originally supposed to go to school at Fordham University at Lincoln Center, take classes at Julliard, but it was incredibly expensive. My grandma had lived in Fredericksburg, and I knew about Mary Washington. I got a performing arts scholarship from my high school to come to UMW, but my first tour, to be honest, I didn’t like it. The second time, I toured with (Department of Theatre and Dance Chair) Gregg Stull and that completely changed my point of view.

Catherine: I got invited to UMW to audition for governor’s school for theatre but it got cut short so I only saw the back of duPont. I finally went to a Discovery Day and completely fell in love with it, like crazy about it. I loved how it looks, the size, the whole classroom experience they talked about. I was one of those kids who didn’t apply anywhere else.

Act Two: Theatre 101

Jackie: [tucks hair behind ear] I’ve always loved theatre but in high school, I had extreme stage fright. I didn’t get into actual theatre until I came here. Sophomore year I did a practicum and was second assistant stage manager for Lysistrata, my first foray into the theatre department and seeing how a production works. Last fall I was cast in Sunday in the Park With George. It was my first acting experience ever. I loved it.

Gwen: We had a landing over my living room, and I’d put on performances and make my parents watch. I loved Christmas because we’d put on shows, Mary Poppins or The Sound of Music. I was 6 when I was first onstage in community theatre. I did Spring Awakening my first semester at UMW. I always knew I wanted to major in theatre, but what’s amazing is (Assistant Professor of Music) Mark Snyder’s composition class; I’m getting to write two to three songs a week.

Catherine: I did my first show in kindergarten, first lead in a musical when I was 12 – 45 Minutes From Broadway; I was Mary. I was an athlete, so for a long time I wasn’t focused on theatre at all. When I was diagnosed with severe asthma, they said I could never play again. That was the turning point; that summer I got into the New York Film Academy, an awesome, amazing experience. At UMW, I auditioned for Miss Firecracker and got a call back. Then I met Gwen in acting class.

Gwen:[hugs Catherine] Yay!

Catherine: We both did a summer internship on Always … Patsy Cline, and I really started getting involved. When I got a lead role in Doubt, I declared a theatre major.

Act Three: Setting the Stage

Jackie: Psychology helps you understand people. I use a personality type indicator on my characters to understand how they’d act in different situations. This summer I volunteered at Camp Bruce McCoy for survivors of traumatic brain injury. It was a paradigm shift. I’d love to act, but I really want to go to grad school and pursue occupational therapy.

Gwen: I definitely want to keep acting, but I know I’m going to do singing and songwriting. When I was 12, I went to New York to do my first demo, then ended up working with a label in Nashville and getting a development deal writing for artists. When you’re so young, you get taken advantage of. Now I’m getting paid to write for an artist based in Japan, so I’m kind of trying to keep the ball rolling.

Catherine: [glances knowingly at Jackie] Psychology helps with every aspect of life, especially theatre, especially when you’re playing those really gritty roles. In a scene in class from Angels in America, I played an agoraphobic addicted to valium. Having that psychology experience gives you a step up. I want to go into film. Film’s really my passion.

The End

Just the Beginning