Her time at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, she said, has equipped her with the tools to excel as she embarks on her professional career.
“This program helped me gain a perspective on what type of artist I want to be and need to be, besides just being on a stage or aiming for Broadway or the West End,” she said. “I see myself as well rounded, and [my artistry] is something I’m trying to improve constantly.”
Her Masters of Arts in Musical Theatre program focused on skill-building and how she could apply her talents in acting, singing and dancing to a concert, a cabaret, or a musical. She was also exposed to a new way of performing, where expression on stage was more organic, she said.
Her favorite production so far, “Into the Woods,” exemplified this. “The entire stage is your playground,” she said.
“I’ve gotten to be more artistic than I’ve ever been in a production. I played around the set, jumping up and down and going underneath the stage. It helped me become a much better actress, and understand how to just live in that moment on stage.”
Her first experiences on stage at St. Andrew’s, she said, prepared her for the leap across the pond.
“Being on stage in a full-scale production is something that is really good to get as early as possible,” Stephenson said. “Performing in seventh and eighth grade helped me understand how to do it in the future as well.”
Stephenson started piano lessons at three years old and performed in elementary school shows, but she said she got her big break on the MacDonald Hall stage when she was cast as the lead in the Middle School musical, “Once On This Island.”
“The feeling that I had being on stage is immeasurable. It really made me feel alive,” she said. “I found the stage to be a place where I could really express myself.”
She would go on to play Edith in “Pirates of Penzance,” Mimi in “Guys and Dolls,” and Anita in “West Side Story.” She credits St. Andrew’s theater teachers Roy Barber and Ritchie Porter with helping her realize her potential.
“The teachers who believed in me... have allowed me to see I can be more than just what I’m doing,” she said.
At Bryn Mawr College she spent time away from the stage, studying classical voice and chemistry. But when she was asked to choreograph a student production of “Little Shop of Horrors,” she found herself wondering, ‘How did I not audition?’
“I had a gut feeling — I needed a musical theater coach,” she said. And, thanks to timing and talent, she booked private lessons with Tony Award nominee Forrest McClendon.
In just six weeks, McClendon elevated her confidence, taking her from “an amateur musical theater prospect to someone who can go to a professional audition with a book, ready to tackle the industry.”
Stephenson decided to hone her skills by pursuing graduate studies; McClendon suggested she consider the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.
Now a graduate of the Conservatoire, Stephenson said she’s open to any opportunity that comes her way, whether it’s abroad or back in the states. She is inspired by the patience, encouragement and generosity of her mentors.
“If you want to go into a field, you need a teacher who believes in you more than yourself,” Stephenson said. “The moment I had a mentor, my life turned from (musical theater) being something I wanted to do on the side to something I can do professionally.”