Smithsburg junior hopes to take stage at new arts school

November 11, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

Editor's note: This is the first in an occasional series that will follow Smithsburg High School student Clare McMahon through the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts application process. Clare was selected by The Herald-Mail staff and has not been given any assurances that she will be selected for admittance to the school. Clare's application is due Dec. 15.

HAGERSTOWN -- Not many moments in life are that clear.

Part of the way through a Smithsburg High School performance of "Oklahoma," Clare McMahon realized, "Oh my God. That's what I want to do," she said.

McMahon was only in middle school at the time, watching her older brother on stage. Now that she is a junior at Smithsburg, the 16-year-old has performed in at least seven plays.

But she's hoping for the chance to take her hobby more seriously as a student at the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts. The performing arts high school is scheduled to open next year in downtown Hagerstown, and the application process is under way.


On Monday, Clare was one of about 50 students interested in pursuing theater at the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts who attended a workshop at South Hagerstown High School. Students received helpful tips about their applications and expectations for their auditions, which will be held in February.

Similar workshops will take place throughout November in the other disciplines to be studied at the school, including dance, visual arts and music.

Barbara Ingram School for the Arts Principal Michael T. Thorsen said he is unsure how many students will apply to the new school, but said he hopes to enroll 200 students in its first year.

"I don't know how many will apply, but I know the interest is building," he said. "There's really no way to know."

At Monday's workshop, hopeful students listened to a presentation, then participated in dramatic lessons. An instructor guided them through a dance and performance warm-up, which was followed by some improvisation exercises.

Each audition will have a "live component," Thorsen said. For example, applicants interested in theater will be required to participate in a "group movement exercise" and also a monologue. Those interested in musical theater will sing.

Thorsen said the process and expectations for each discipline would be covered during application workshops.

"I'm interested to see how the audition will be laid out ... the process," Clare said. "I've been to auditions, but never learned exactly how to audition. I'm just hoping that they'll give a really good idea what you have to do and what exactly they want characteristic-wise for the school."

Clare is interested in concentrating on musical theater at the new school, and perhaps even beyond high school.

"From that first rehearsal on, I was like, 'Oh my God, I love this,'" she said.

She said she is hoping she will be able to pursue a career in musical theater, but said she knows there is "such a small chance."

Part of the fun is taking on different personalities in her performances.

"Whenever you're just tired of everything going on with yourself, you can go and become someone else," Clare said.

Her most recent role was Mrs. Wenstrom in Smithsburg High School's performance of "Dracula."

Clare said she finished filling out her application Saturday and said she hopes she gets in.

"I'm really hoping ... obviously, we have a good drama, theater department in our home schools, but hopefully we take it a step more seriously (at the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts," she said.

For more information

Additional information about the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts is available at


The following are upcoming dates of workshops to provide assistance with the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts application process. All workshops will be at South Hagerstown High School.

o Dance -- Monday, Nov. 17, 7 p.m.

o Visual arts -- Tuesday, Nov. 18, 7 p.m.

o Music -- Monday, Nov. 24, 7 p.m.

Important dates

o Dec. 15 -- Barbara Ingram School for the Arts applications due

o Feb. 7 -- Auditions take place at South Hagerstown High School

o March -- Enrollment announcements will be made

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