Jamie Lynn White (C11) has always been a theater lover, but she prefers to play a role behind the scenes. As assistant director of the AMTP show Girls vs. Boys during her sophomore year, she acted as a liaison between the creative team and Northwestern staff. “I really wanted to be involved in developing a new musical, and I fell in love with the process,” she says. But it was AMTP’s theater marketing class that proved to be transformative. “I found out there was so much more to producing a successful show, and I realized that this could be a career.” The contacts she made while publicizing two AMTP productions, along with the practical skills she learned, led to a job offer right after graduation with Broadway in Chicago, the city’s leading presenter of large-scale musicals. As an integrated marketing manager, White is responsible for creating a comprehensive marketing plan for 10 to 12 productions each year. “I realized that AMTP was such a unique program, and it was so important not to take that opportunity for granted,” she says. “I’m doing exactly what I learned at Northwestern, and my job is a direct result of that experience.”
As a theater major at Northwestern Nate Trinrud (C11) was involved in four different AMTP productions and workshops, and he credits that experience with helping him succeed as a working actor after graduation. “Being involved with AMTP challenged me as a student, actor and theater artist,” he says. “There are some things you cannot teach an actor in a classroom setting — things like how to workshop and stage new works, how to interact with other professionals, or how to adapt and adjust to changing material and music. These skills are best learned by doing, and AMTP is the vehicle for that doing.” Since graduating Trinrud has performed at the California Shakespeare Festival and in a traveling production of Tom Sawyer that played at theaters in Louisville, St. Louis and Kansas City and at the New Victory Theatre in New York. Trinrud says that the well-known directors and music directors he worked with through AMTP have helped him stand out. “Those connections are what provided me with employment right out of school,” he says. “Without the skills and connections I made through AMTP workshops, readings and performances, I would never have been prepared for the world of professional theater.”
Michael Mahler (C04) was already a working composer and lyricist while at Northwestern, contributing songs to the Waa-Mu Show all four years that he was a student. He has continued to pursue that passion after graduation, and years later, his work in progress, Hero, a collaboration with book writer Aaron Thielen, was chosen for an AMTP workshop. “We had done several table readings and a staged reading of the show,” Mahler remembers. “We came in expecting to maybe make a few small cosmetic adjustments but mostly just to get a chance to hear the show out loud again. What ended up happening far exceeded our expectations. The director, Jess McCloud, the student cast, Dominic Missimi and Heather Schmucker were so brilliant and fabulous — they helped us see our way to some very significant changes and rewrites, including restructuring the ending, tossing out several songs and writing better ones to replace them.” The first professional production of Hero, directed by Northwestern theater professor David Bell, won the Joseph Jefferson Award (Chicago’s equivalent to the Tony Awards) for best new musical in 2012. “It was a real thrill,” says Mahler. “But I think it’s a testament to the enormous amount of good work we were able to do at AMTP. The piece would never have had the kind of success it has had without that workshop.” Hero has since been optioned for a New York production, and Mahler, who works as an independent composer, lyricist and theater actor, is currently helping develop an original musical series for ABC and Sony Pictures/Television. (See "Mahler's First," spring 2003, and Updates, fall 2012.)
Tell us what you think. E-mail comments or questions to the editors at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ever wonder about those strange designations we use throughout Northwestern to identify alumni of the various schools of the University? See the complete list.