Student Spotlight: Rachael Wisely

Hailing from Phoenixville, PA, senior Humanities major Rachael Wisely is to star in Shakespeare in Performance's Taming of the Shrew as the infamous Katharine. As a four year member of the Shakespeare troupe, Rachael has pursued her dreams of becoming a professional actress under the expert guidance of Dr. Curtright. She is the fifth child of ten, a Shakespearean costume designer, and a dynamic creator in various forms of the arts. In light of all she is, Rachael hopes that she can inspire others to live more optimistically and joyfully. We had the opportunity to delve into the performance arts through the perspective of one of SiP's very own and discover the exciting world that awaits Rachael as she continues to study the craft.

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Hey, Rachael! Let's start out with something fun - what did you do last summer? 

Last summer I had the amazing opportunity and privilege to attend one of the acting programs at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting in NY, revered and renown for its excellence in training and success.

I spent a month living in NY, receiving training from working professionals. This was the highlight of my summer, as it greatly impacted my life as an actor and a person.

How did our experience at the Stella Alder Studio of Acting help you decide what you wanted to do post-graduation, or in further academic studies?

The experience really prepared me for the application process of graduate school, especially in the performance arts! I have always wanted to become a professional actress and have always loved Shakespeare, so participating in the program like that made me even more resolute in my path.

I decided to apply to Mary Baldwin University (which has a specific Shakespeare in Performance program and a bunch of AMU alumni!), Yale University's School of Drama, DePaul University, University of San Diego, and Florida State University.

Tell us about the application process of the graduate schools you're applying to. How long do they take, and what do they entail?

Since I'm applying for graduate MFA [Masters in Fine Arts] programs, the application process takes a whole year - with auditions in either January or February. I began in the fall, and started my search for graduate programs that were the right fit for me. Most programs have an application you have to fill out, along with a personal statement and a resume, like many other graduate schools. 

What differentiates the MFA process from other graduate school applications is that the resume must also include your acting, or performance, resume. In addition to that, I provided headshots and scheduled an audition with the school at one of their locations. Recently, I had to fly out to an audition site that one of my prospective graduate programs was hosting, and they then have the chance to invite you for an interview or visit to their campus. Finally, around March or April, applicants begin to hear back from their respective programs!

What inspired you to pursue acting?

My desire to perform started from a very young age. My siblings often participated in plays and musicals, so I was exposed to the arts early in that regard. I've always loved music, films, and literature - especially Shakespeare - and thought it was incredible that acting plays a role in all of them. When I entered into middle school, I began to act in plays and sing in musicals myself, and that's all she wrote!

I remember the exact moment I decided I wanted to be an actress: I was around 10 or 11 years old, and my mom was costuming the play at my sister's high school. I would tag along with her to sit and watch the rehearsals. I remember these three guys on stage, and they had to turn on a lighter in their performance. However, the flame wouldn't ignite like it was supposed to - and, instead of panicking or breaking the scene, the actors just went with it. Like, total improv until the lighter worked. The actors were so in the moment and committed to playing the scene, and it was incredibly inspiring. The scene was funny, memorable, and fit seamlessly into the play. From then on, I just knew I wanted to what they did that day.

You're playing the lead role of Katherine in Shakespeare in Performance's Taming of the Shrew. Tell us about your role, and what you are looking forward to the most in this year's performance.

Katherine is fiery, passionate, and aggressive - but incredibly misunderstood. Her character development throughout the play is incredible, and she only realizes a moment of self-acknowledgement in her relationship with Petruchio. The two of them are able to come to an understanding of one another, but Katherine is the most impacted by it due to her realizing how she treats others. She's a complex and multifaceted character, for sure!

I cannot wait to perform in the new theatre! It's a thrust stage, so we'll be giving the AMU community a real Shakespearean experience in our performance. The whole troupe was fortunate enough to get a tour of what will be our stage during the construction process, and the whole thing made it so real to us that we will be participating in AMU history. 

Any favorite memories from being a part of the Shakespeare in Performance troupe?

There are too many favorite memories from Shakespeare to count! The best are the moments of comradery between the cast members and Dr. Curtright, our director, especially when Dr. C helps a particular member shine by bringing out the best in him/her. It's hard to explain, but all of the sudden you see that actor at one of their best moments, and it's electric to witness.

What is your typical day like now, as both a student and an actress?

I don't think I really have a typical day. Each one is different and shaped by what God throws at me, although structure is still there.

I go to work, class, Mass, prayer (as best I can), try to get all my homework done, give some time to my friends (if I can), work on memorizing and perfecting monologues and lines, read, eat I suppose, write emails, and have rehearsal.

In the impossible nooks and crannies of time I find free I have started to pick up writing, mostly poems and dialogue. In every day though there are always moments of praise and thanksgiving for the life I can't believe I have been able to live here in Ave.

What advice have you received that has had an impact on your life?

A recent piece of advice I have received is that "routine is the death of love," meaning, when we get into a routine (be it in acting, prayer life, or relationships) the spontaneity is lost and the task bears no fruit in our hearts.

The encouragement is to ever approach those precious parts of our life with fresh eyes, intentionality, and humble receptivity to the Spirit.

One of the traps I fall into as an actor is routine, and I see how it can be a trap for me in other areas of my life. This little phrase has inspired me to head 'once more unto the breach' with new spirit and and joy!