LoveND: Falling For Performing Arts

Author: Lisa von Werder

Lisa Performing Arts

Dear Notre Dame,

Thanks to you, I have seen Kristin Chenoweth, Renee Elise Goldsbury, and Leslie Odom, Jr. perform live on the same stage that I perform on three times a year. (I've even had friends perform alongside Kristin Chenoweth! Absolutely insane.)

In the past four years I’ve attended as many plays, musicals, and concerts as I could. DPAC became another home, and a great source of high-quality entertainment, often for less than $5. I was constantly watching shows—if I wasn’t performing, that is.

During my first weekend ever at ND, I auditioned for the Notre Dame Chorale, with a prepared audition piece and an air apparently so professional that the director informed me of the school’s opera program. A few days after that, I went to Art Attack at DPAC, and signed up to audition for the student-written and -directed one-act plays, presented by FTT’s ND Theatre Now!. Riding on the high of receiving accolades for my devotion to show choir, theatre, and band at my small-town high school, I threw myself into these activities with ambition.

Hey, it paid off. 

I was accepted into the Chorale and got a part in The Pink Pope, a comical play challenging the traditional male roles in the Church. It was a spectacular show, and I made a couple of really good friends. But when the show was over and I was finally given the chance to attend some Chorale events outside of rehearsal, I fell in love with the strong sense of community there, and that was enough for me for the rest of the year.

Chorale meets twice a week and a majority of the group heads to South Dining Hall after rehearsal for dinner, and that’s where a lot of bonding happens. As I grew to know my fellow Choralians, I found myself enjoying the unfamiliar territory of our baroque and renaissance-era music more and more, and I looked forward to the lunch crews and study groups that soon formed. I melded into a strong friend group, and music stayed a major part of my life. If not for Chorale, I may have lost that entirely.

My sophomore year, I was involved with Japan Club, and I gladly took the opportunity to participate in Asian Allure (the annual all-Asian student club show) through both the traditional and pop Japanese dances. It felt good to dance, and just as good to receive my friends’ compliments as they expressed their surprise at my dexterity. If there’s one thing I would go back and change, I would join a dance club.

Then over the course of junior year, a semester after FTT’s breathtaking production of Spring Awakening, I fell back in love with theatre. I decided to enroll in an acting class as an elective senior year and auditioned for practically everything. I got some callbacks, but no final roles.

Just when I was sure I’d never be able to do another theatre production again, I got news that I made it into the ensemble of The Wild Party, presented by the Pasquerilla East Musical Company (PEMCo for short). It made my senior year better than I could have dreamed. I was able to sing, dance, and act on a big stage with a big set again, with a large group of people just as passionate and way more talented than I was. I became fast friends with the people of PEMCo, who were all lovable, admirable dorks that helped bring joy to my life when I really needed it.

There’s something magical about people from different backgrounds uniting over a shared passion to create a single, unified product. And when that product is an act of creation, a work of art, with life breathed into it from every possible angle—well, it leaves me speechless. I’m glad to have had the chance to experience that over and over at Notre Dame.

I wasn’t planning to do any PEMCo shows past The Wild Party, but it turns out their annual Revue is still happening on a virtual platform… so you know where to find me when April 18th rolls around. It’s too good to pass up.


Love Thee,