I can’t believe it’s already that time again – National High School Musical Theatre Awards! I got the chance to sit down with Dakota Ratliff (2013 DSM HSMTA Best Actress) and Cameron Wenrich (2013 DSM HSMTA Best Actor) yesterday (Tuesday) to get their thoughts before they left for NYC! (Which is technically right this very moment – they’re on the plane on their way!)I just have to say that these 2 are so humble and down to earth – they are so easy to talk to, and they are so excited (and nervous) about the week ahead of them. Check out my interview with them below!
Amanda: So how does it feel to be only the 2nd DSM HSMTA Best Actor and Actress?
Dakota: This has all been so overwhelming, but exciting and fantastic at the same time!
Cameron: Ditto. This is such a huge honor! I didn’t realize it before, but this really is a big deal.
A: What did you like about competing in DSM’s High School Musical Theatre Awards?
D: Meeting all of the other best actor/actress nominees.
C: Yeah, ditto! Everyone just seemed to click immediately. We all got along so well!
A: When did you find out you were nominated for Best Actor/Actress?
D: I woke up at 5am and sat on the couch with my sister. We watched the news and got so excited when they finally announced the nominees. I was so surprised and excited to hear I got nominated!
C: I just want to say that I am not a morning person, so I didn’t get up to hear the nominations. Last year when I got nominated, I woke up to a bunch of text messages from a lot of people congratulating me. This year was the same. It felt so great! I taped it, so I watched it when I got home from school.
A: And what was it like to win?
D: So surprised! [Laughs and has a huge smile.] When I was walking to the podium, all I could think about was how I didn’t prepare a speech. Once I got off stage, it hit me. I cried. A LOT. But I felt incredible.
C: I wasn’t shocked by Dakota, but I was more surprised about me! I was expecting the “big parts” to get it, ya know like a Phantom or a Baker. I didn’t expect that I would win. It’s such an awesome feeling!
A: This award qualified you to compete on a national level at the Jimmy™ Awards in New York City! Are you excited to meet and work with students from all across the country?
D: I’m really excited but nervous at the same time.
C: Oh my gosh, the same. I hope it’ll be like how it was with the nominees for the [DSM] Awards, where it’s just really easy to connect with everyone.
A: Are you looking forward to performing on Broadway, for the first time, at the Minskoff Theatre?
D: I don’t think it’ll hit me until I’m on stage, but it doesn’t get any better than that – it’s a BROADWAY stage!
C: Like I said a minute ago, this is all a very big deal. I’ve only stood on a Broadway stage one other time, but I can’t believe I get to perform on one this time!
A: What do you hope you’ll learn from your National HSMTA experience?
D: I’m hoping this will be like a snapshot of what it’s really like to be in the business. What it’s like working with professionals, getting the highest education you can get with the best people in the business. I’m just so excited!
C: [In an exaggerated hick accent] “I hope to learn how to sing better.” [Laughs] But seriously, I’m really looking forward to getting a feel for what it’s like for professional actors.
A: Any college plans?
D: I’m going to Wichita State to major in theatre.
C: Ithaca College for musical theatre.
A: If acting wasn’t an option, what would you do instead?
[Both cringe almost simultaneously.]
D: I honestly don’t really know. I can’t even think about it – it’s so hard to imagine.
C: PR I guess. Really just something working with people. But not acting is hard to think about.
A: Any special hobbies or personal favorites we should know about?
D: I love to read, a lot, in my spare time. I really enjoy it.
C: Video games, like any teenage guy. I tried almost every sport, but it was just not for me. I do like snowboarding though.
A: What’s your dream role?
D: Wendla in Spring Awakening.
C: Max Bialystock from The Producers.
[Both mention that Spring Awakening and The Producers are at the top of both of their favorites lists!]
A: If you could work with any actor or actress, who would it be and why?
D: Robin Williams (if we’re just meeting them), but to work with, I’d have to say Ellen Greene.
C: Tom Hanks, hands down. Or Ewan McGregor.
A: Now that you’ve made it through high school and you’re pursuing your dreams, what advice would you give someone looking to follow in your footsteps?
D: Learn as much as you can: read anything you can get your hands on (scripts, plays, anything), see everything you can, listen to as much music as possible. Constantly be learning to make you a better actor.
C: Don’t give up, obviously! There are times that it’s stressful and really hard. It’s full of rejection. I used to have an agent and did commercials when I was in middle school. There is a lot of rejection there. It will make you stronger. Ultimately, I just want to make a living and provide for my future family by doing what I like to do.
After talking about logistics about their trip (things to pack, what to expect, etc.), I wished them the best of luck and safe travels. I’m over the moon excited for them – what an incredible opportunity! I was very fortunate to be able to sit down with them before they go to have one final vocal lesson before their trip. A very special thank you to Dakota and Cameron! I know I speak for us all when I say that we can’t wait to hear all about your experiences.
If you want to follow their journey, make sure you subscribe to/follow our blog to get updates as we post them! Just enter your email address to the right & don’t forget to confirm it via an email we’ll send to you. Dakota and Cameron will be sending in daily updates about their journey in New York City at the National High School Musical Theatre Awards. Check out the category “All in a Day’s Work” for all of their posts, which will be featured daily Today – July 1st, and any previous posts.
See you all tomorrow for our first update about their first day!