BSSC Year 12 student, Morgan McDermott, has known she wanted to be an actor since she was in Grade One. She began attending Helen O’Grady’s Drama Academy that year and is now very focused on a pathway that she hopes will lead her to the stages of Broadway or London’s West End.
By Grade Three, Morgan’s big decision was whether to audition for the school choir, as music and especially singing were becoming more important to her. The audition went well and she absolutely loved being in the choir. The next step was beginning private singing lessons.
“When I was 11, I did my first solo gig at the Boardwalk,” Morgan says. “I sang Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’ and did a really bad job of it,” she laughs. “I was off key but I had so much fun and I thought I was so good… just proves it’s all about the confidence.”
Music and acting then began to come together for Morgan when she secured a part in her school production. As the wicked witch she also discovered that evil parts are more fun.
Moving to BSE Secondary College, Morgan decided that a change of direction could be a good idea so she selected drums as her instrument.
Perhaps it was just lucky that the percussion group was full and she was given her second preference, singing. As part of a Year 7 vocal group formed that year for the Bendigo Competitions, Morgan won her section.
During the next couple of years, singing helped develop both her confidence and her skills. She continued her private weekly singing lessons and studied theory. She also became involved with Bendigo Theatre Company.
Morgan also revelled in the strong bond she shared with other music students.
“They’re the best,” she insists.
By Year 9 it was a done deal. Morgan knew she wanted a pathway that would incorporate acting and singing and knowing she could study drama and theatre at BSSC was an exciting prospect.
Moving to BSSC was nerve-wracking (new, big and lots of different people) but it was also very exciting.
“I knew this was the next step and that I would be studying drama and theatre more seriously and with students who were as committed as I was. It took me only about one week before I felt at home—and I’ve loved it ever since.
“Being at BSSC has also developed my character. I now feel I know how to focus on what is actually important. I used to worry about little things, but I have learnt to accept some things I might not like, and then move on. Life is so much easier when you do that.”
Theatre Studies teacher, Kirsten Thomas, has had a “phenomenal” influence on Morgan, teaching much more than just the course content.
“Kirsten gave me the best advice,” she says. “‘Don’t expect to do nothing and get what you want’. It was actually just what I needed to hear at the time and I now understand how important continual effort is.”
Yet, everyone needs some down time. When asked what she does to relax, Morgan laughs.
“Would you believe I play my guitar and sing?”
Looking at the world more widely Morgan sees so many problems that are not being taken seriously enough by our politicians.
“I voted for the first time in the recent federal election and it made me realise how disillusioned I am,” she says. “Poverty and climate change are just two massive issues that need attention.
“Perhaps that’s where music and theatre really make some difference. Going to a show takes people away from the everyday world and the harder parts of their lives—a special and particularly wonderful treat.
“And from the actor’s point of view, it’s also a kind of alternative world. Yes, you bring your individual interpretation to a role,” Morgan says, “but you have to step out of your comfort zone—and sometimes you are put on the spot and have to think creatively right in the moment.”
Morgan greatly admires American actor Ryan McCarten, who she saw performing in ‘Wicked’ on Broadway. Her dream is to be treading the same boards in the future.
She plans to take a gap year to save some money—from her part-time job at Toolleen Hotel. This will help with her move to Melbourne where she hopes to study at the Victorian College of the Arts. To get into VCA Morgan will also be preparing for an audition in September 2020.
So, what would Morgan have to say to her 12 year-old self if she could go back and offer some advice based on all that she has learnt these last six years?
“I sometimes feel that we too quickly assume we are depressed or suffering from serious anxiety when in fact we are having a bad day. My advice to my 12-year-old self would be to keep trying, keep going, keep believing in yourself even when you have that horrible self-doubt—and remember: Don’t expect to do nothing and get what you want.”
Very best of luck Morgan!