On September 7, 2016, I had the incredible experience of meeting Jacqueline Hughes and Carly Anderson, who played Elphaba and Glinda respectively, as well as the company manager, Anthony Field, in the worldwide tour of “Wicked,” the musical based on the untold story of the witches in “The Wizard of Oz”.
As soon as I entered the room, I sensed an immediate buzz of excitement. Most of the students attending the event were HKIS Middle Schoolers, about ages 11-15, who were just beginning to get a hold on their own place in theater, and this was likely one of their first opportunities to meet professional actors.
One student asked, “When you perform, do you ever watch the audience? What’s that like?” Anthony replied, “When you watch the audience, it takes you on a journey. You look at them when they come in, to three hours later, and you see their reaction from the storytelling. It’s incredible.”
Even more incredible was that this observation was mirrored in this mini-conference — before the bombardment of questions had begun, Jacqueline and Carly had given us an amazing performance of “For Good,” one of the hit songs from the musical. I could clearly see the passion with which they sang it, and that helped set the tone for the rest of the day. Even more so, I saw how the audience reacted while the women sang. I can safely say, looking at people’s faces, that everyone was impressed. Of course, the singers were professionals, but no one was quite expecting them to sing with such power or confidence.
So what is it that makes “Wicked” such a popular show? “It resonates with people of all ages, it’s a wonderful story of friendship, and it has a real heart,” Jacqueline explained. The show touches on topics of bullying and acceptance, and is led by two female leads — all of which resonate with people of all ages, but especially children. With the rise of technology, there has been an increase in cases of cyberbullying, especially at the beginning of people’s teen years. While the story of “Wicked” exists in a world where technology is not present, it still conveys the ideas of not being judgmental and of taking time out of your day to make sure those around you are all right.
While Carly and Jacqueline were speaking about the story, and about how these themes of bullying and acceptance related to their characters, they certainly piqued the attention of several students in the room. I myself had experienced bullying, especially cyberbullying, as had most of my peers. It was something we could all relate to, even if we didn’t address it all the time. For many of us in the audience, there was almost a silent bonding moment as the topic was discussed.
Now, I absolutely love to act, but one aspect of it that terrifies me and many of my peers is pre-show nerves, and nerves while auditioning for parts. Luckily for us, Carly and Jacqueline were there to give us some reassurance. “I’ve struggled with anxiety before auditions and performing. I suppose experience helps. After a while you figure out a way to get over it,” said Carly, and Jacqueline commented, “Some days are okay. Some days are harder. I suppose that goes for everything though.”
Not only was it amazing to meet three incredibly talented and passionate people, but I was also lucky enough to get a brief glimpse into their lives. I am in my final year of high school, and was in a room dominated by children who hadn’t even reached high school yet, and who had just gotten a taste of theater. I was able to experience their awe — their journey, as Anthony had suggested — at the storytelling Carly and Jacqueline gave us.