A Bear goes to Broadway

Summer Reich ’23 is not the first performer to grow up dreaming of Broadway, but she is one of the few making that dream a reality. After she graduates with a double major in music and theatre in May, she will begin studying at Circle in the Square Theatre School – the only accredited professional conservatory affiliated with a Broadway theatre.

Summer Reich onstage as Ada Lovelace in Ada and the Engine

“It’s a little bit different from a graduate school, in that it’s more focused on acting practice and performance than on abstract study of things like history of theatre,” Reich explained.

The value of confidence

Since early childhood, Reich has been interested in performing – participating in dance, gymnastics, choral singing and cheerleading before she fell in love with acting her senior year of high school in a musical production of “Cinderella.”

“My friend said, ‘You should come audition. You’d be a really good Cinderella.’ I didn’t expect it, but I got cast as Cinderella,” said Reich. “I had to leave the cheerleading squad to make time for the play, but I knew right away I really love acting.”

Summer Reich ready perform with a green screen

At the time, Reich had already committed to attend Wingate University to major in education, but after a few weeks, it became apparent that neither was the right fit for her.

“I decided to transfer after the first semester. I’d looked at LR before and liked it, so I reached out to Dr. (Lindsey) Weitkamp in the theatre department and Dr. (Chris) Nigrelli in the music department and asked if I could come audition. They agreed, so I auditioned, met the faculty, and it just fit.”

A similar approach landed her a spot among the 15 students accepted at Circle in the Square this year. After auditioning with a number of graduate programs and conservatories, Reich had secured a spot with another prestigious New York program, The Neighborhood Playhouse School, but she decided to reach out one more time to Circle in the Square.

“I emailed and introduced myself, saying ‘I didn’t get a callback from my audition, but I’m really interested in your program and wondered if I could set up a time to talk about possible future opportunities,” she said.

The faculty at Circle in the Square invited her to audition and interview over Zoom during winter break. “I instantly clicked with everyone on the Zoom, and we workshopped some material. It felt like the right fit, and I guess they felt the same way,” she shared.

The value of experience

In her first semester at LR, Reich immersed herself in campus life, establishing a lasting friendship with her first roommate — coincidentally a high school classmate of hers — socializing with international students and landing the role of Cecily in Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.”

Summer Reich as Cecily in The Importance of Being Earnest

“I started drawing people into the theatre program, saying ‘Hey, come audition for this thing!’” she shared. “When I started here the department was smaller, so they say I’m the recruitment person — and we have the best friendships.”

Reich has also grown and developed as an actor and a singer, completing a challenging double major in music and theatre. “I’m the only one who has done the double major in years because they both demand so much time. I’ve been fortunate that my professors have been flexible and willing to work with me to schedule all the required performances.”

Those performances included a role as Natalie Goodman in Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey’s musical “Next to Normal” in fall 2021 and mathematics pioneer Ada Lovelace in Lauren Gunderson’s “Ada and the Engine” in fall 2022.

Summer Reich performs in Next to Normal

“‘Next to Normal’ was really personal and powerful for me,” Reich shared. “But I learned so much from playing Ada because it was such a big role. I was onstage the whole two hours.”

For the spring 2023 children’s theatre production of Naomi Shihab Nye’s “The Turtle of Michigan,” Reich stepped behind the scenes as stage manager, so she could balance her schedule with rehearsals for Hickory Community Theatre’s production of Harvey Fierstein and Cyndi Lauper’s “Kinky Boots.”

Summer Reich performs as Ada Lovelace

“I learned a lot as a stage manager, but I really prefer performing. That relationship between performer and audience is what motivates me,” said Reich.

However, she knows the range of experiences she has had at LR will serve her well in the future, on and off stage. “I feel fully prepared to step into a theatre and whatever they need — stage manager, props lead, costuming — I can do it. I can figure it out because I’ve gotten a little bit of everything. That’s what you learn here.”

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