Texas State’s theater program completely re-adjusted Ashlyn Fitch’s perspective


Junior Ashlyn Fitch is used to the hustle and bustle that comes with performing. However, after being exposed to a collegiate-level musical theatre program, her perspective has been completely re-adjusted.

“It was some of the most intense training I’ve ever had,” Ashlyn said. “It showed me lots of my strengths, as well as showed me things I need to work on, which was really cool.”

Ashlyn uncovered her passion for theatre at a young age after watching a variety of performances in New York.

“My uncle does [theater] professionally on Broadway, so I’ve grown up going to New York and watching his shows,” Ashlyn said. “I’ve always loved it [and] been obsessed with it.”

After the introduction to the theater world, Ashlyn would participate in a few shows here and there. It wasn’t until she was given a role in the Grand Rapids Civic Theater’s production of The Hundred Dresses that she began to look at theatre as a possible profession.

“In eighth grade, I got into my first big show at Civic,” Ashlyn said. “When I did The Hundred Dresses, that’s when I first knew, “Yes, this is what I want to do.a�� [That show] was their “traveling troupe,a�� which is where [the cast] travels to different elementary schools around Grand Rapids and perform the show for kids who have never seen theater before or may never get to see it. That was a really cool experience, and I was like, “Yes this is what I’m doing.a��”

After discovering that theater was something that she wanted to pursue professionally, Ashlyn began to take training much more seriously. One way to do so is through summer programs, similar to how one would partake in summer training camps for athletics.

Ashlyn had been exposed to the University of Michigan’s program through some older friends, and as she researched that program, she seemed to stumble upon more and more. After auditioning and getting accepted into Texas State’s program, she decided to attend.

A typical day at the camp begins at 7 a.m. After eating breakfast at 8 a.m., the hike to the theater buildings begins. Before classes, there would be a group warm-up in order to warm voices and bodies up before a rigorous day of training. The large group of about 60 was then divided into four groups of about fifteen. Each group would go to a class and eventually rotate through the four classes provided each day. At night, activities ranged from master classes to scavenger hunts, always keeping campers on their toes for what may come next.

By participating in all these classes, Ashlyn saw improvement over the course of just two weeks.

“We spent a lot of time on acting while we’re singing,” Ashlyn said. “We worked on audition songs for when we may audition for college programs, or how to work with songs if you’re auditioning for a show. It helped me find new ways to act out all my songs that I never thought of before.”

Technical improvements weren’t the only positive aspect of the Texas State program. With so many highschoolers in a concentrated area all pursuing the same passion, bonds were destined to form. For example, Ashlyn and her roommate, Sophie Davidson, are still in contact today.

“I got to see Ashlyn and talk to her briefly online before we met,” Sophie said. “When I got to the dorms and saw her, we immediately recognized each other and hugged. From then on, we basically became best friends. We were lucky enough to be in a lot of the same classes together, so we spent a lot of time together and got to learn a lot about each other’s lives back home.”

The bond that Ashlyn and Sophie share is unique, but there was an abundance of new friendships formed with a variety of people over the course of the two-week program.

“It’s crazy to think about,” Ashlyn said. “I had never been to Texas before; I went in there knowing no one thousands of miles from home. You’re putting yourself out there in front of all these people, and you’re with them all the time– it was like a second family.”

You’re putting yourself out there in front of all these people, and you’re with them all the time– it was like a second family.

— Ashlyn Fitch

Not only did Ashlyn bond with her fellow campers, but she learned from them as well.

“Everyone was so talented,” Ashlyn said. “To be able to watch them do their dances or sing their songs, and pick up on things that they would do and I could use, was incredible. I feel like I was constantly learning something, even when I wasn’t performing.”

Ashlyn is truly grateful to have had the opportunity to participate and learn at a program like Texas State’s, and she could not have come as far as she has without the support of her family.

“I call my mom my “momager,a��” Ashlyn said. “She helps with everything– it doesn’t seem like there would be a lot to do, but there’s a lot, and my family is always supportive.”

Ashlyn’s mom, Renee Fitch, has always been supportive of Ashlyn pursuing theater. Fitch keeps track of Ashlyn’s lessons, workshops, and her audition schedule. Not to mention, Fitch can (and will) be completely honest when she believes something Ashlyn is working on needs some work.

The program at Texas State just solidified how Ashlyn’s passion can turn into a profession, and with a supportive family behind her, there’s no telling how high Ashlyn will reach.

“I feel like she came home with a greater confidence in herself,” Fitch said. “Texas State did a nice job of praising each students’ strengths, and each student can now tell where their weak points are. Ashlyn came home with a focus on what she wants to improve on this year.”