For this issue of Real Life we interviewed Mireya Boucher about her daughter Shaunae’s experience with the Musical Theatre University (MTU) program at Rancho Mirage High School.
“I was truly happy. But my state was not that of any ordinary satisfaction. It was a joy which stemmed directly from creative, artistic achievement.” – Konstantin Stanislavski
“MTU is the best thing that has happened to theatre kids in the desert or in California for that matter. At the time I found out about this program, I was desperately looking for something for Shaunae. She had reached a point, a real low point, her passion for theatre was not being fulfilled at the high school. But we feel as though this program exceeds anything we could have wished for and her passion for theatre is met full throttle almost daily throughout the school year.”
For Shaunae, her love of musical theatre started with her first exposure to The Sound of Music as a three year old. Mireya laughs as she remembers her daughter’s reaction to the film…“after watching that, she learned every song and sang them constantly…she couldn’t brush her teeth without singing them.” After that Mireya jumped at every chance to expose her daughter to musicals, “the first show I took her to was “Wicked” in the 3rd grade at the Pantages and then we frequented the McCallum Theatre.”
Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of opportunities for kids to be exposed to musical theatre in school. At the elementary and middle school levels, it simply wasn’t offered. Once in high school, Shaunae was bitterly disappointed by her freshman year theatre experience. “She felt as though 95% of kids in the class were looking for an easy elective. The school had one musical production at the end of the year. It seemed as though parts were awarded based on time in the program rather than who best fit the part. So, a freshman on a campus with 3000 students had very little chance at getting a part in the show. The younger students were basically told to wait their turn. The rehearsals lasted 3 ½ to 4 months for one production and created many conflicts with school work and state testing. By the end of that frustrating experience, Shaunae was disappointed and felt like she was out of options.”
And then by sheer chance, Mireya was discussing Shaunae’s love for theatre with a couple she met through some friends. They asked if Shaunae would be attending the MTU Program at the new performing arts high school in Rancho Mirage in the fall. “I hadn’t even heard of the program, so the next day I was online researching and watching news reports about the new school and the MTU program.”
MTU is an extension of the classroom where the students are mentored by theatre professionals. David Green, an alumni of a similar program in Orange County, is the executive director of the MTU program at Rancho Mirage High School. There are no additional fees to attend, however, students must have passion and commitment to the program. The MTU website describes the program as a comprehensive, professional-level training in music, dance, and theatre for young people with aspirations for careers on Broadway, film and television. The program is available to all students (regardless of school boundaries) who are selected based on an audition.
What impresses Mireya the most is the quantity and quality of the productions. “We’ve all been to high school musical productions, and they can be painful to watch. This is different, the emphasis here is putting on a professional caliber production. They rehearse a new production about every three weeks, so the kids have to focus, get it, and go!”
Not only has Shaunae learned valuable lessons from her mentors as it relates to her craft, but she’s developed her ability to manage and prioritize her time. “She is able to juggle a rigorous academic workload of AP classes and MTU program after school for two hours each day Monday through Thursday.”
Auditions are an integral part of the process. Shaunae has developed and matured in the way she looks at her contributions to the each show. She embraces the idea that one doesn’t always have to be the star of the show. “If she doesn’t see a role for herself, she’s just as happy to benefit the ensemble and contribute to the show in that way. In addition, this program requires a maturity and an outlook on the audition process that resembles what auditioning will be like in the real world.”
As a senior this year she’s eyeing universities for the fall, but her mom says “if the school doesn’t have a musical theater program it’s not even making her list.” Thanks to MTU, she has gained some solid skills that will serve her well to pursue her passion.
MTU the Training Ground for Broadway’s Next Generation!
If you have a child that is interested in pursuing their passion in theatre, you can find more information here.
The MTU program has a lineup of great shows this season.