Rheanna Atendido is a Musical Theater major who will be graduating from the University of Washington at the end of the spring. Rheanna is not only strongly involved in the MT community here, but has also taken it up herself to develop her own musical, Breakup Bench. We then of course eagerly asked her to share a little about her musical writing process in addition to her life as a Musical Theater student in a short interview.
Tell me a little about yourself, where did you grow up and what inspired your interest in musical theater?
I’ve lived in Lynnwood practically my whole life, but I went to school in Shoreline. I’ve always gravitated towards music as my way to express and escape and communicate with the world, so going into musical theater was almost inevitable.
What was your musical theater experience prior to coming to UW?
Next to nothing! I had done two shows my entire life and had no formal training in theater, so jumping into the program was absolutely one of the biggest and scariest plunges of my life.
What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned as a Musical Theater student?
The value of community. It’s at the core of everything in art and in life. Going through this program, being surrounded by incredibly passionate peers and educators, learning from one another, and building this beautiful family of support has superseded the understanding for me that, no matter what we do in life, what’s most important is that we have each other.
What was your most memorable experience with the Musical Theater Program?
I’m going to cheat and say being in the shows, because that encompasses a ton and I can gush about how much I grew with each productions’ challenges. Camrynne scaring Sierra and I every night during Sweet Charity, playing three-way slide during Spelling Bee with Mikko and Patrick just before it was time to scare Alex (there’s a lot of scaring amongst this cohort), miraculously making it through the entire run of Pippin with one functional ear – it’s all a string of memories that I wouldn’t trade for the world. This entire journey with the program has been a memorable experience in and of itself.
What has been your greatest challenge during your time as a MT student?
Other than writing a musical, probably Steven’s Dance Captain/Swing class. I didn’t start dancing really till the tail-end of my freshman year, so jumping into that class where we not only learned Broadway choreography, but had to take on the roles of dance captain and swing, I was pushed way beyond my limits at the time. And it was incredible. That was definitely one of the best, if not the best, class I had taken in my time here. There never was a more rewarding final showing.
I understand you’ve been writing your own musical, that’s so exciting! Can you tell me a little bit about it and the process you’ve been taking to write it?
Oh goodness, where do I begin! Well, about ten months ago I had a quirky idea for a show and challenged myself to write a ten-minute musical. A few days and three songs later, I was well beyond ten-minutes and my musical Breakup Bench had started to evolve into something way grander than I had initially envisioned. I continued writing the show throughout the summer, and somehow it caught word so at that point I figured “well, enough people know about it now, I might as well finish it.” Applying for the Mary Gates Leadership Scholarship with my project definitely boosted my need to push myself and finish the show. We are now actually in the process of rehearsals for a weekend of public readings coming up on May 27-28 in Meany 267 at 2pm. It’s been an interesting process, and certainly not one I’ve ever experienced. As rehearsals are happening, I’m still writing and rewriting. The entire process has been a whirlwind of fear, excitement, stress, and one-hundred percent humbling gratitude to those who continue to willingly lend me their time, talent, and mind. I’m thrilled to be able to share it with everyone, and I’m interested myself to see where this show goes.
Do you have any plans after you graduate?
I’ll be in Seattle for a little, but I do intend on moving out to New York and traveling the world. There’s so much to do and I want to do it all!
What impact do you hope to make in the Musical Theater world?
In everything I do, I strive to connect others. Whether it’s written in a show I create or expressed through a character I bring to life, I hope to connect people to others and parts of themselves they maybe didn’t know they could relate to.
What message do you have for future musical theater performers?
Your dream matters. Your story matters. You matter. It’s a tough industry and it’s easy to get caught up in the fears and the doubts and the silly idea that you need to reach some semblance of perfection in order to be seen. But why be perfect when you can be you? Why imitate when you can create? There is so much – literally so much – you have to offer that no one else in the world can. Own it and go with it. Get the training, build the foundation, and never stop learning. Along the way you’ll create “you”, and there’s nothing more beautiful.
For more information about Breakup Bench’s staged readings coming up at the end of the month, check out the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/events/1494055720628908/