Veronica Bedrio and Jack O’Connell will both graduate from The Academy’s Musical Theatre Department in a few weeks! Academy Marketing Director Tim Butler discussed with them their time at The Academy, most influential teachers, and favorite performances.
Tim: Do you know where you guys are going next year?
Jack: I’ll be attending Oklahoma City University in the fall, which is a great Musical Theatre Program.
Veronica: I’m excited to be going to Alabama!
Tim: Awesome, congratulations. Are you sad to be leaving? What are you going to miss about The Academy?
Jack: When I think about my time at The Academy, I like to go back to my first day of freshman year. Just seeing all of these people for the first time. It was this community that meshed so well together — that was so welcoming right away. Going into that day, I remember being really nervous, but when I got here, I realized there wasn’t a reason to be.
Veronica: Yeah, I agree. Everyone is family, especially in your department. I like to think of Musical Theatre as my “home squad”, and then the people outside my department are like the cousins I see all the time. Everyone is super helpful and inclusive.
Jack: And these teachers. Wow, these teachers. Here’s the thing, obviously we have great arts teachers and arts training. It’s amazing. In that regard, it doesn’t really get any better than this on a high school level. But we also have our academic teachers, who are able to put their own little spin on the arts high school. They always give you the attention you need, and they are always willing to work with you.
Tim: Are there any teachers in particular that you will never forget and will keep in touch with?
Jack: There are two that I’d like to acknowledge. Tim Tynan and Anthony Pinto. Mr. Pinto is just such a good teacher and good person. He came in last year and immediately assessed the environment and developed relationships with all of us. Even though he teaches math, he allows us to get our ideas flowing. And Mr. Tynan — c’mon, he’s classic.
Veronica: I agree about Mr. Pinto. But my all-time favorite teacher is Andy Robinson.
Jack: Oh, I thought we were just talking about our favorite academic teachers! Then I have to choose Andy Robinson as well.
Veronica: He is the most knowledgeable man I have ever met. I think he has taught me everything I know.
Jack: It seems like literally every time he’s on a break, he’s in New York meeting up with an alum, like nothing has changed.
Veronica: I think that says something about his character, too — that he wants to keep in touch with everyone. He’s just such a good man. There aren’t enough words.
Tim: I’m sure they’ll all love to hear that. Is there anything you wish your peers at other schools knew about where you go to high school? Or something you think they get wrong about The Academy?
Veronica: I think they think it’s not a lot of work, because it’s art school. When I talk to some of my friends at other schools, I realize that we’re not only learning the same things, but to me, it feels like we have a higher understanding of them. I feel like we do double the work. People might say that because we’re into the arts that we’re not academic kids. But no, this is a college preparatory high school as well.
Jack: I’d agree with her on that. We’re staying here until 6 p.m. most days. That’s three hours longer than most schools. And our academic program is really rigorous. Sometimes I think about the other high school that I would have gone to. They say they are “the college preparatory high school”. That is their main goal. But when I looked at one of the high school rankings, The Academy was something like 15 spots above them in that respect. Our main goal is to foster artists, but were also very good at college prep.
I would also want other people to understand that if you are looking for a career in the arts, the training that you get here is really second to none. And it really prepares you for getting into college and then the future career you may have. I feel like because I came here, my chances of getting into Oklahoma City, and the other places I auditioned and was accepted, were so much better. I can’t even imagine what it would be like if I was just in a regular high school theatre program. I mean, we do 2-3 challenging musical productions a year, in addition to a Shakespeare festival. You get so much exposure to these different things that by the time you are going to college, you just have the confidence to audition and succeed.
Tim: That’s great to hear. Do you have favorite productions or characters that you have played?
Veronica: My favorite show that I was part of was Ragtime during my freshman year, and my favorite role was “Mary” in Merrily We Roll Along. I just learned so much in that role. Since the musical goes backwards in time, and the age of every character changes, it really taught me a lot about acting. Specifically, how to portray the same person at different times — when they grown and changed. There isn’t a lot of time offstage to really prepare yourself for that, so you just have to be ready to go in 30 to 60 seconds.
Jack: Two stand out in my mind. The first being A Little Night Music from last year. Other than it being one of my favorite shows (even before I performed in it), it is just not a show you get to do at most high schools. The music is just so difficult, so technically challenging. It’s very classical music. So having an experience like that was really challenging and ambitious. And we were able to actually do it! When Andy said it was going to be our fall show, I was really excited, but I was also thinking “how is this going to turn out?” But we pulled it off.
The other that comes to mind is All Shook Up. It’s a little bit of an opposite experience to A Little Night Music, because it’s a show that high schools do pretty frequently. But it’s actually really tough to do correctly. So for us, it was about being able to take that show to a different level. It’s also just pure fun. We’re belting our faces off the whole time.
Tim: Now that you guys are graduating, do you have any advice for the incoming freshman class?
Veronica: I wish as a freshman I wasn’t so insecure. I was a scared freshman. But this is a safe place to fail, and the more you throw yourself into it, the more you’ll get out of it. Anyways, you shouldn’t be scared or insecure, because you got into this school! And you were made to come here. Enjoy it. It goes by really fast. That’s so cliche, but it’s so true.
Jack: I remember my first day.
Veronica: Me too. I remember what I wore.
Jack: I remember what I wore, too. It was terrible!
Veronica: I remember what you wore, too!
Jack: I suppose my advice would be, if you’re coming here to pursue what you love, just understand that progress is a long, slow process. During my freshman year, I remember being kind of discouraged because I was surrounded by so many talented people and thinking “when do I get there?”.
Tim: I sometimes think about that when I see you all perform — how intimidating it could be for a freshman to see the same thing. I hope they know the reason they are here is to eventually get to that point.
Jack: Exactly. I was talking to a freshman in Musical Theatre the other day that was a little bit discouraged. I just reminded him that he was already a better singer than I was at that time. You just have to know that as you mature, things will really start to come together. And all of your teachers are really good. They know how to bring it all together for you. It’s a long road full of a lot of hard work, but you’ll get there. And have fun. It’s good here.
Photos by Thomas Mohr Photography