Cabaret highlights senior’s college journey

McCarthy (right) in "Twelfth Night." Photo by Kylene Hayslett.
McCarthy (right) in “Twelfth Night.” Photo by Kylene Hayslett.

Sweet Briar College senior Shannon McCarthy will present her final project, a musical theater cabaret titled “Yes, &?,” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, in the studio theater at Babcock Fine Arts Center. The performance is free and open to the public.

Sweet Briar College senior Shannon McCarthy. Photo by Kylene Hayslett.
Sweet Briar College senior Shannon McCarthy. Photo by Kylene Hayslett.

McCarthy says her show will feature songs from musicals that “follow the general arc of my collegiate journey to find my passion, come to terms with myself and, more practically, find the ‘right’ major.”

Musical theatre turned out to be it for the Carlisle, Pa., native, with minors in gender studies and art history. McCarthy began acting in middle school and participated in her high school’s show choir and musical all four years. Since auditioning for “The King and I” as a first-year, McCarthy has been cast in six Sweet Briar Theatre productions and has helped backstage with several more — with or without music.

“I truly adore theater that confronts the audience, be it via physical movement through the audience’s space or through emotionally difficult material,” she says. “While I love to watch comedies, it’s the nitty-gritty that’s the most fun and fulfilling to perform as an actor.”

McCarthy stays busy outside of Babcock as the president of Paint and Patches and GLOW, vice president of Alpha Psi Omega, and as a member of BAM and Taps ‘n’ Toes. In addition to earning a Leadership Certificate, she also supports the College’s recruitment efforts as an admissions ambassador — a natural job for the passionate Vixen.

“I originally chose Sweet Briar for the small class sizes, fantastic financial aid and the incredible community and traditions,” she says. “I chose to come back so that I could hang on to all of those things. I can’t imagine integrating as tightly into a college community anywhere but here.”

McCarthy knows it’s one thing to choose a college. Finding one’s niche, and feeling comfortable, is another. Sweet Briar’s theater department, she says, had a tremendous impact on making her want to stay.

“My first semester of college was rather rough emotionally, but the students in the theater are some of the most open and welcoming people on this campus,” she says. “They quite literally pulled me out of the shell that was my tiny dorm room in Reid and made me a part of their family.”

That family also includes the “fantastic” faculty whom she respects “as professionals, mentors and friends,” McCarthy says.

“These people hold a piece of my heart and always will. I just might be that alumna that tags along for trips to the theater conferences, just so I can catch up with my people!”

In the meantime, McCarthy plans to audition for programs that offer an M.F.A. in acting or — as a backup plan — intern in the Washington, D.C., area to gain experience in the regional theater scene.