photo by Annakate Dilks
Sophomore Estelle Gordon felt small in the massive theater covered in mirrors and red curtains. She was standing in Ripley Grier Studios —the largest rehearsal facility in the world—about to start the week-long Broadway Artists Alliance summer camp. It was such a big place in such a big city. It would be a drastic change from Stageright back in Kansas City.
Before going to BAA, Gordon had started her acting career at 12 in The Little Mermaid, as Ariel at Stageright. It was here that Gordon first experienced what it was like being in a musical. Estelle loved being the lead, she loved the costumes, the makeup, and the feeling on stage. So, she kept auditioning.
Estelle did a few more plays with Stageright, her school, and KCRep—but now she was going to New York.
After hearing about BAA from senior Aggie Williams, Gordon sent in a one-minute audition tape of her singing “This Is All Very New to Me” and “What I Did for Love”. Gordon was accepted into session four, the hardest out of the four-session levels, for BAA in New York that August. The session would be featuring TONY award-winning special guests and teachers for young musical theater performers.
“Estelle is a very talented young woman who has so much potential for a career in theatre or just performing around Kansas,” Williams said. “She has a heart that is so full and I wanted to give her a place to find people that also have amazing souls and amazing talent.”
Back in the theater, Gordon glanced around her. She was watching a group of Broadway dancers stretch. She could tell they were Broadway dancers based on their stance alone. She was intimidated knowing her level of dancing couldn’t hold up to theirs.
As she continued to look around, Gordon spotted a girl in the crowd. She never learned her name, but she would recognize her later by her red hair. She was a dancer, only a dancer, or at least that was what Gordon thought. She watched the girl walk over to the singing group. She was both a dancer and a singer—double the talent. Is everyone like this?
Next, Gordon went to dancing placements. Go, learn the dance, repeat, perform. They had ten minutes as opposed to the weeks Gordon usually had to learn dances. Halfway through the dance Gordon was smiling, but not because she was happy. She had forgotten the rest of the dance.
The classes were difficult and Gordon struggled throughout the week, but it was Celeste Simone’s class that broke through the barrier. Many of Simone’s students ended up on Broadway, needless to say, her classes were hard. Today was song interpretation. The students had to use real emotion in their songs. Do you have friends, are you popular in school, are you happy? Gordon was shocked by the stories her classmates shared. People talked about their sexuality, suicide—it inspired Gordon to share about her insecurities. Do you compare yourself to other people? This was the breaking point for Gordon. She started to cry as she replied yes. Gordon had never been pushed like this emotionally back in Kansas City.
Gordon left that day emotionally drained. This was a completely new experience for her, yet she liked it. It made the song she sang so much better.
Gordon left for home after the last day with a bittersweet feeling. She was ready to go home, but she would never forget her experiences. Gordon was taking a lot of things home with her: her lessons, her friendships, and her confidence. She had made it through the week. Gordon lined up more auditions for her school and other summer camps, and she knew that if she kept working at it she could make it to Broadway.