Walnut Hill School for the Arts

Alumni Spotlight: Lindsay McAuliffe ’15

September 29, 2021

This month, we connected with Lindsay McAuliffe, a graduate of our Theater Department, to catch up on her life and career after her Walnut Hill graduation in 2015. We also heard about her recent work with the Psych Drama Company, where she recorded two audio dramas: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (as Mae) and Macbeth (as a Witch). Both shows are streaming now—tickets are available on the Psych website.

Catch us up on your life and career post-Walnut Hill. What was your next step after graduating in 2015, and how did that lead you to where you are now?

After graduating from Walnut Hill in 2015, I took a gap year before heading to Harvard. During my gap year, I focused deeply on music, Shakespeare, and musical theater performance. In the fall of 2015, I created and gave a 60-minute solo voice recital in Boswell Hall featuring classical and musical repertoire to 100+ family and friends. My voice teacher from Walnut Hill, Angela Gooch, accompanied me on the piano during the performance. I’d always wanted to give a voice recital, but my Theater major schedule kept me extremely busy! In the spring of 2016, I studied Classical Acting and Shakespeare at the London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art (LAMDA) for a semester. This program was special not only because I spent formative childhood years in London, but also because this semester solidified my love for working with classical text and performing Shakespeare! It would be a dream to perform a leading Shakespeare role on a major stage. To close my gap year, in the summer of 2016, I performed in the Vocal Company at College Light Opera Company (CLOC) in Falmouth, Massachusetts. CLOC is a summer stock theater company that mounts nine musicals in 11 weeks—rehearsing one show during the day, performing another one at night, and changing over every Tuesday. My summer at CLOC was one of the most transformative theatrical experiences of my life, and Walnut Hill certainly prepared me well for this intensive yet incredibly rewarding position.

At Harvard, I majored in Theater, Dance & Media (TDM), taking classes in such subjects as Shakespeare, Improvisation, Directing, Dramaturgy and Playwriting. Outside of my TDM classes, some of my favorite courses included Intro to African American Studies with Dr. Cornel West, The Science of Happiness, and the History of the Vietnam War. Throughout my time at Harvard, I participated in numerous plays, Shakespeare plays, and original musicals, and served as a member of Harvard’s Shakespeare troupe, the Hyperion Shakespeare Society. During my summers, I interned at two major nonprofit theater companies—Roundabout Theater Company as an education intern and the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) as an artistic intern—and I studied directing in the Lab Company program at the Hangar Theatre in Ithaca, New York. One of my favorite parts of Harvard was spending four years alongside my Walnut Hill classmate and dear friend Mara Milner ’15. Mara also took a gap year and started with me at Harvard in 2016.

After graduating from Harvard in 2020, I was fortunate enough to spend part of my summer at Walnut Hill working closely with Niki Conraths and Mike Bucco to facilitate and mount A Summer of Art: Six Feet Apart, which featured live musicians and dancers. It was an honor to help facilitate live art during such a tough time. I also co-taught an Acting for Dancers class to Summer Dance students with Niki on Zoom for five weeks. During the 20202021 year, I enrolled in Boston University’s one-year graduate certificate program in Arts Management, where I took such subjects as Financial Management and Grant Writing. This certificate program enabled me to deepen my knowledge of the nonprofit art world and develop necessary literacy in finance, business, and high-level nonprofit management. I pursued this program to diversify my artistic skillset and to further develop the necessary skills needed to one day become an artistic director of a theater company.

Tell us about the work you've been doing recently with the Psych Drama Company. How did you get involved, and what was your experience like working on Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Macbeth?

Working with the Psych Drama Company on Macbeth and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof has been one of the highlights of my 2021. It was such a joy to be making theater again! I discovered the company after coming across an audition listing on StageSource’s website. I auditioned for both shows over Zoom and soon thereafter was cast as a Witch in Macbeth and Mae in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Both shows started rehearsing in March 2021, and each rehearsed twice a week for three hours. As per tradition, we spent the first month and initial rehearsals doing table work, diving deep into character analysis and development, and discovering the world of the plays. We then transitioned to focusing our efforts on bringing the texts to life with the same energy, urgency, and magic as live theater. While most of our rehearsals were on Zoom, I constantly felt so grateful to be able to collaborate with other hungry artists and relish my first experience rehearsing for and performing an audio drama! I loved the challenge of working on these classic plays without the visual aspect traditionally associated with them.

Both Wendy Lippe and Larry Segal stressed the importance of clarifying the intentions, actions, and tactics of our characters during the early stages of the rehearsal process. To captivate the audience’s aural attention and achieve the same clarity, power, and gravitas as live theater, we had to make sure that textual and character choices we made were specific, clear, and matched the high-stakes nature of each piece. I often thought, how could I, and the cast, bring these monumental and widely known plays to life without relying on our most dominant sense: sight? It was a fun puzzle to wrestle with. Taking on these audio dramas was akin to Ginger Rogers dancing with Fred Astaire. If Fred was live theater and Ginger an audio drama, then our work creating these dramas was like doing everything Fred did but backwards and in heels.

Before recording both shows, each cast met for in-person rehearsals at Wendy’s Brookline apartment to polish and solidify the work we’d done on Zoom. Upon meeting one another, the joy in that rehearsal room was palpable; everyone was keen to be off Zoom. We recorded both shows in Psych Drama’s new performance space in Attleboro. It was such a blessing to work with talented performers and wonderful people, engage in a new theater-making process, and work on my first professional Boston show! I am excited for friends and family to listen to these audio dramas and experience classic shows in a completely new context!

Where do you see yourself going from here? Do you have any other projects coming up?

Great question! Currently, I am pursuing performance work as an actor and a director in theater, film, and TV in the Greater Boston area and around New England. I am also very interested in pursuing arts administrative opportunities at nonprofit theater companies and organizations and exploring teaching theater and theater education. Truthfully, I am trying to keep myself open to anything and stay curious regarding almost any artistic opportunity that would enable me to hone my craft, challenge my artistry, and meet like-minded, passionate artists. I am just thrilled to bits that the theater world and performing arts, in general, are safely opening back up again (fingers crossed). Just thinking about the incredible work that will emerge from this past year and a half fills me with immense joy, gratitude, and pride!

If you had to give a few words of advice to our current seniors or recent graduates who are just entering their post-Walnut Hill life, what would they be?

Take a deep breath. Whether you are a senior or recent graduate, know that you are well-prepared and more than ready for what lies ahead. Walnut Hill has set you up for academic and artistic success. Do not doubt this. You will leave Walnut Hill equipped with a strong work ethic, resilient spirit, unwavering focus, and grateful heart. Trust that you have everything you need to succeed inside of you. Stay curious and be open to anything and everything that pushes you to take your artistry to the next level. Lastly, hold your friends close. The friendships you made at Walnut Hill are some of the most special and profound relationships you will forge. No one will truly understand your time and journey at Walnut Hill quite like the people you met here. My friends from Walnut Hill are still some of my closest and dearest friends in the world. Lean on these people, stay in touch with them, and support their personal and artistic growth and journeys. And always remember Non nobis solum—Not for ourselves alone.


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