Ithaca College Will Make You Ready
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Big decisions often have unexpected benefits. When Johanna Pan left her native Singapore to attend Ithaca College for theatrical production arts, a key factor in her decision to come to IC was the financial aid she was able to secure. Once here, she discovered she was enrolled in one of the most respected programs in the country.
“I like to call Ithaca a lucky accident because I didn’t realize how good the program was before I got here. And for that I’m very grateful,” she says.
In the theatrical design concentration, Johanna applied classroom lessons in costume and scenic design to Ithaca College Theatre’s yearly productions. As a senior, she was the costume designer for two period pieces: Translations, set in 1830s Ireland, and An Enemy of the People, in 1880s Norway.
Johanna researched the kinds of fabrics that were made at the time, how clothing was layered, and even the way seasons and climate in those locations dictated wardrobe choices. By understanding these factors, she and the production staff could apply them to their portrayals on the modern stage.
"What a lot of people don't realize about theatre design is that there are certain rules we create as a team. What does a short skirt mean as opposed to a long skirt? What are the colors of the world? What does this color mean to everyone across the board, and how are we going to use that to portray something? The audience may not notice them consciously, but the picture as a whole and what it presents is noticeable.”
Johanna spent a semester at the Ithaca College London Center, where she attended over 50 performances—from the West End to small pubs—for class and her own enjoyment.
“Seeing so much theatre in a country that loves theatre so much helps you understand why we do what we do. You are reminded of the magic when you’re not working on a show because you’re not involved and can just appreciate someone else's work.”
Johanna took on several internships and jobs after graduation, including one with Beautiful: The Carole King Musical that had her traversing New York City’s clothing and fabric stores. The show is scheduled to open on Broadway in December 2013. She also plans to return to Singapore to fulfill a commitment she made to the Singaporean theatre industry when she received a scholarship from the Singapore National Arts Council. She then plans to head back to New York City to pursue a master’s degree in fine arts and rejoin the theatre scene.
“I want to live in New York City. I love the sheer amount of musicals that happen there and the sheer amount of theatre.”
As Queen of the Night in the Ithaca College Theatre production of Mozart's The Magic Flute, Mengchun Yang delivered one of the world's most well-known arias to a packed audience. She stunned the crowd with her pitch-perfect performance, bringing the vengeful queen to life with her commanding stage presence.
For Mengchun, the journey to the IC stage was a long one—halfway around the world—but she knew that a graduate degree in performance at Ithaca College would be well worth the trip. She auditioned in her home country of China and wowed visiting faculty with her powerful soprano. Late that summer, Mengchun packed her bags and was on her way to Ithaca.
In IC's welcoming community, Mengchun quickly found a second family—music professors invited her over for home-cooked meals, music school peers helped her overcome the language barrier, and the women's chorus and choir provided a place for her to sing with new friends. She soon learned of an opportunity to broaden her range: "During my first semester, they had auditions for The Magic Flute. I just went to try. I never thought I would get a role or be a part of the opera, but I got it," Mengchun says.
She was cast as Queen of the Night, which has one of the most vocally demanding arias in opera. In nightly rehearsals with a supportive cast and crew, she developed her passion for opera. "I learned many things. I know how to prepare a whole opera: to learn the music and then read the dialogue and then the acting—and mix it together with the orchestra."
When opening night arrived, her music school family helped calm her nerves. "I was very excited and a little bit nervous. My friends and my teachers were all sitting in the audience to see me. That made me feel like family. I felt like, 'Okay. I can sing to my family.'"
Mengchun hopes to go on to sing opera professionally in China, where it’s becoming increasingly popular. With one outstanding performance already under her belt, she has a promising future as one of China's next stars.
"Being on stage, you are not yourself. You are that person. You have another personality. You need to build a person and have yourself and mix them together. I feel like I can see my value being on stage."
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