Overcoming self-doubt and fears, Northwestern student prepares for leap to New York

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Overcoming self-doubt and fears, Northwestern student prepares for leap to New York

March 7, 2012

Dana Miller
After graduating from Northwestern Oklahoma State University in December 2012, Alva native Dana Miller has aspirations to move to New York City and pursue her career in musical theatre. But first she must complete her junior recital taking place Sunday, March 11, at the First Presbyterian Church in Alva.  Her performance begins at 2 p.m., with a reception following in the fellowship hall. 

Many graduates from Northwestern Oklahoma State University intend to enter the working world using their degree. For Dana Miller, Alva senior, her plans after graduation are to use her degree on a life changing path to New York to pursue a career in musical theatre.

Miller recently performed in the Musical Theatre Initiative (MTI) during the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) Region VI in Norman. The MTI was a first for KCACTF this year, and was open to any musical theatre student nominated by faculty. Kimberly Weast, MFA, associate professor of theatre, nominated Miller.

Since this was a first-time experience for Miller, she went into this situation knowing nothing about it. Only knowing that a couple of Broadway actresses were in the hall – Kaitlin Hopkins and Lauren Lane – as well as New York casting director Dave Clemmons, Miller sang “Ladies Who Lunch” from “Company.” Of the 37 competitors, 14 made it to finals; Miller did not.

“It hit me hard,” Miller said. “Everybody was so complimentary.”

After the MTI auditions and overcoming the disappointment of not making finals, Miller knew she had to let it go and started focusing on the Professional Auditions and Interviews (PAI). During the PAI, she had 90 seconds to perform a monologue and song. She made her time with “Back on Base” from “Closer than Ever.”

A total of 178 students auditioned between Friday and Saturday. Miller received two call backs, one from the Canterbury Summer Theatre (near Chicago) and one from Clemmons.

While she was extremely grateful for the Canterbury interview, she found a true connection with Clemmons and had a 30 minute conversation with him about her future goals.

“The room was intense,” Miller said. “In a room about the size of the Northwestern choir room, we were basically knee to knee.”

“I stayed calm and was actually surprised at how calm I was.”

To showcase her lyrical abilities, she sang “I Am Changing” from “Dreamgirls.”

During this interview, she had the opportunity to ask a lot of questions and discuss her fears. This conversation brought her to the realization that musical theatre was the dream she was meant to chase.

Miller has had a long-standing issue with her weight and age. Being a 32-year-old actress, looking for a “big mama” role wasn’t something she felt confident about. However, after meeting with Clemmons, he assured to not worry about these issues because the average Broadway star is 30-35 years old, and they are always looking for “big mama” actresses – a look that fit Miller.

After her conversation with Clemmons, Miller came to the conclusion that it is ok to be a big girl and pursue musical theatre.

“I’ve had my share of self-doubt, fears and often battle being an older student wondering if I came along too late,” Miller said. “With the help of all the positive and supportive people in my life telling me ‘I can do this,’ it brings me to a sentimental place.”

With a quivering voice and the thought of her family and friends, this sends Miller to expand on how much the support means to her.

“The faculty in Fine Arts are a second family to me and bring me up,” Miller said. “My family is behind me 100 percent, and that is priceless.”

She notes this experience as intimidating and exciting at the same time. She often has to pinch herself and remember that it’s all real.

A big believer in the saying “everything happens for a reason,” Miller had once lived and worked away from home, but kept returning to Alva and Northwestern. When she finally decided to finish her degree, she followed a love of hers and began studying music. Because of this, she’ll travel to New York upon her graduation in December. However, her work at Northwestern is not done yet.

On Sunday, she’ll perform her junior recital at the First Presbyterian Church, located at 628 Church St., in Alva. Performance begins at 2 p.m. with a reception immediately following in the Fellowship Hall of the church.

As she prepares for the future, finishing all classes by December and a crash course in musical theatre, she knows this move is something that she’s always wanted to do.

“I’m a little terrified of living in New York City,” Miller said. “I’ve never lived in a metro area before with such an intense amount of people.

“Knowing I have a great support system of Northwestern alumni already in New York, including some Alva folks, I’ll be prepared for anything.”