Student Spotlight: Aileen Bergin (Laurey in Oklahoma!)

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Aileen Bergin as Laurie in

Aileen Bergin as Laurie in "Oklahoma!"

Tyler McKinnon

Tyler McKinnon

Aileen Bergin as Laurie in "Oklahoma!"

Maddie Carroll, Guest Writer

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Last weekend, the students of Madison High School  put on an amazing production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma![directed by Caryn Elefante]. The lead female role of Laurey Williams was performed by junior Aileen Bergin (AB) , and Madison Dodger Online sat down with her to discuss the musical along with her passion for the arts.

MDO: How long have you been involved in theatre, music, and dance? What type of involvement have you had with them?

AB: This is sort of a hard question to answer, because theatre, music, and dance have always played a role in my life, but it wasn’t until I was older that I started really getting involved and combining the three together. When I was little, just like most kids, I took ballet class and later tap class, and sang in chorus  around the house, and did theatre camp in the summer. In middle school though, I started to take more dance classes, I learned how to read music, play the flute, and eventually taking voice lessons. It was also then that I started doing full musicals, and I never stopped from there.

MDO: How much did you know about Oklahoma before the musical was announced last year? Had you ever seen a production of it before?

AB: I really love musicals, and I see a lot of shows and read scripts and listen to the songs of different shows, so that being said, it’s kind of hard to be a musical theatre lover and not know at least one song from Oklahoma!. Rodgers and Hammerstein, who wrote the music, are so famous- they have written so many truly outstanding pieces like The Sound of Music, Carousel, South Pacific, and The King and I. Oklahoma! was not only their first collaborative musical, but it is also credited with being the first modern musical, because it was the first time that music, story, and dance, were fully integrated to create a “musical” in the sense that we think of now. That being said, I think the show is still extremely relevant today, and it has been one of my favorite shows for a long time. When we were all waiting to find out what the show was for this year, I put money on Guys and Dolls or Oklahoma!, so I was pretty proud of myself for guessing, but also, I really love the musical, so I was so excited when I found out.

MDO: Have you since seen any productions of the musical, either in real life or on film?

AB: Definitely. I actually don’t remember ever seeing in person, but I have seen countless productions online. There was a movie made with Shirley Jones as Laurey and Gordon MacRae as Curly a long time ago, and it is very cute, but also different from the stage version. One of my favorites is the revival version on the West End that was filmed on DVD of Hugh Jackman as Curly, and we referred to that version a lot in rehearsal and such. I joke that, in my research, I watched every production of Oklahoma! on the internet, which I doubt is true, because it is probably one of the most performed shows of all time, but I have  definitely watched way, way too many productions of the show. I love it so much!

MDO: What was the process like for you to really figure out how you wanted to portray the character of Laurey? Did you have any influence from mentors or directors, research, or was it mostly your interpretation of her character from the script?

AB: Before I even knew that I would get to play Laurey, I always saw her as a really feisty girl. Although she is the ingenue, or the romantic lead, she is not ditzy or one-dimensional, like a lot of the princess-type love interests are, and that is really what attracted me to her as a character. She is such a modern female character, and she really does not let people boss her around, and I really could see myself in parts of her. I remember being so excited when Mrs. Elefante was explaining how she saw Laurey, and that she agreed with me. My favorite part of the process really is the characterization and finding out what you can bring to the character of your own personality, and the ways the character is different. While I did receive a lot of guidance from Mrs. Elefante and my voice teacher, once I put Laurey on her feet and started acting in rehearsals, it all was very clear to me what my Laurey was like, and throughout the process, I just continued to work with her.

MDO: What did you enjoy most about the whole experience?

AB: The musical is really my favorite part of MHS. Some of my best friends are involved, and I always make new friends. The cast is so close, and I would say my favorite part is not only the family that we have in the musical, but seeing my friends up on stage being amazing. Everyone is so talented, it continues to amaze me every time I see someone sing, act, or dance up there!

MDO: What was it like to be the lead? Did you feel more pressure or excitement than usual?

AB: Well, it was very different and very much the same. While I had to do a lot more independent work outside of rehearsal, not much changed in rehearsal. Even being in the ensemble takes an extraordinary amount of time and effort and energy. As for the pressure, I guess there are more eyes on you, but by the time opening night came around, it was just a matter of sharing what we had been rehearsing for months. But regardless, I was just as excited as I always am to share the musical with an audience and hear the reactions. While the final weeks or so can be stressful, it is always so rewarding and so much fun.

MDO: What was your favorite number in the musical?

Aileen: This is such a hard question! I love watching everyone up there. I think my favorite to perform was “Many a New Day” because I got to dance with so many really amazing girls and it was so fun. My favorite to watch in our version was probably “Kansas City” though, because everyone just kills that number and I am so proud of everyone up there.

MDO: What type of work, both in and out of rehearsal itself, went into putting the whole production together?

Aileen: So much! From the earliest stages of learning the music, you have to take every part of it so seriously. Then we blocked scenes and learned the dances and continued to practice that. As the time goes along, you start to put bigger and bigger chunks of scenes together until you are running acts and trying to memorize everything. Then we start to run the show and before long, tech and the pit are added, and then tech week and then the show! It’s crazy…  it takes so long but it is over so fast. We all hate that it takes months and months, but the actual shows only last for 3 days!

MDO: Are you planning on continuing theater or music in college or in a possible career?

Aileen: Yes. The audition and application process is very, very complicated, but I am doing a lot of research on what the whole thing will be like. It is very scary and intimidating, but at some point, I just realized that this is what I want to do. Music and theatre, regardless, will always play a huge role in my life.

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