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Tony Award winner Sutton Foster visits Saint Mary’s College

| Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Saint Mary’s College community members, from professors to therapy dogs, filled O’Laughlin Auditorium Monday evening to see two-time Tony Award winning actress, singer and dancer Sutton Foster speak.

Foster’s visit is the latest in a series of guest artists visits made possible by the Margaret Hill Endowment.

Photo Courtesy of Hannah Toepp

Renowned performer Sutton Foster answers questions Monday evening during an appearance at Saint Mary’s College.

“We want to bring in well known Broadway powerhouses in order to motivate and inspire students in our musical theater minor” Mark Albin, the administrative assistant for communications, dance and theater department, said.

Some of the other visitors have been women like Glenn Close, Audra McDonald and Sigourney Weaver, senior theater major Stephanie Johnson explained.

Along with her question-and-answer session, Foster hosted a masterclass for students in which she discussed musical theater and helped students workshop their pieces.

Albin explained that there were about 40 students — from Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame and local high schools — present in the masterclass.

Johnson, who attended the masterclass and was able to sing for Foster, talked about the impact Foster’s visit had on her.

“Theater has always been a part of my life,” Johnson said. “I think it’s valuable as a young artist to learn about the personal struggle of other artists. And it’s very inspiring to see someone who works against the stereotypes for female roles and allows women to be quirky or even gross without it being seen as a fault.”

Foster’s presentation was an entertaining interview style. Foster said her own inspiration came from comic powerhouses like Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett.

“In so many musicals, women are the victims. Their songs emphasize the sort of woe is me, I have nothing attitude. I just find that boring,” Foster said. “I want to see strength and action in female characters. I want characters who are ready to take their heartbreak and actively fight against it.”

Foster also discussed the impact an actor can have on a role, and how a role can change the actor or actress.

“There are a lot of cases where I end up changing the key a song is sung in. Or they end up changing a word because I can sing something else better,” she said. “I think a lot of people are afraid they won’t live up to someone else who played the role, but everyone brings something new to a role, and we’re just constantly working and figuring things out.”

Foster ended the night with some advice for students who are about to graduate and move into the real world.

“Be gentle and patient with yourselves. Your 20s are a decade of firsts, first house, first full time job, first love, first plant,” she said.

She also had some advice on jobs and trying new things.

“Don’t let rejection defeat you — let it fuel you,” Foster said. “Don’t think too much about what you’re going to do, just leap into your life. And then figure out.

“ … Say yes to every opportunity that comes your way, except for porn.”

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