KATY (Covering Katy News)—For graduating Cinco Ranch High School student Alyssa Watkins, getting into college in Oklahoma required a successful audition in California.
Watkins is studying to become an actress and perform on Broadway. Like other college-bound high school seniors, she had her list of favorite schools. In her case, it turned out to be the University of Oklahoma, Farleigh Dickinson University, and New York University.
Getting into any of these programs were going to be tough. For the Weitzenhoffer School of Musical Theatre at Oklahoma, over 1,300 prospective students applied for a spot in a class of 15. Watkins’s mother, Beverly Allen, said the program held three unified audition events, one each in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. Students would travel to one of these three cities to compete for a spot.
Watkins and her mother, a fund development manager at Christ Clinic in Katy, decided to travel to Los Angeles. A family friend who lived in the area opened up her home, making the trip less expensive.
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From Wisconsin to Texas
Watkins and her family moved in 2014 to Katy from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her interest in plays and musicals runs in the family. When they lived in Milwaukee, Allen would take her five daughters—Watkins is the third child—to see shows at the First Stage Children’s Theatre. Allen would also take them to see shows in the Chicago area, approximately 100 miles south of Milwaukee.
When they settled in Katy, Watkins enrolled at Cinco Ranch Junior High School and immediately got active in the school theatre. In her first role there, she played the mayor’s wife in the play “Twisted Tales of Terror.”
While at the high school, Watkins said that her being the only minority in any musical or play inspired her to work harder. She said she wanted to show others, particularly other minority students, that they could be successful.
“I wanted to show them that this is possible, that you can do this,” Watkins said.
Amazing Musicals and Actresses
Watkins said her favorite musicals are Hamilton, Dream Girls, and Rent. She said Hamilton is reflective of America today.
“I just loved the diversity of it,” she said. “The music was amazing.”
Watkins said that Dream Girls was something she could relate to in that she had to work for what success and happiness would come her way. Watkins said that Rent has eclectic characters and said its music was also amazing.
Watkins described herself as “more of a musical kind of girl,” but said that Fences, by August Wilson, is her favorite play.
“I like the dialogue, how the dramatization is built from scene to scene,” Watkins said, adding that she could relate to the story coming from an African-American family.
Fences was made into a movie in 2016. Watkins said that the actress Viola Davis, who played Rose in both the play and film, was among her favorites.
“I like how her acting is just raw and so real and every performance she’s giving her all,” Watkins said. “She’s not only playing the character but she’s living through the character.”
Other actresses Watkins admires are Cynthia Erivo and Heather Headley, who also perform on Broadway.
“Cynthia has a big voice in such a little body,” Watkins said. “She just has a powerhouse of a voice, just amazing. I like people who can bring a lot of vocals to song. She did an amazing job in The Color Purple. I just loved her vocals.”
Watkins said Headley is an amazing actress.
Reaching for the Stars with Feet on the Ground
One might say that Davis, Ervio, and Headley have provided Watkins with inspiration, while Allen has provided some grounding.
Watkins will need both as she tackles her next challenge at Oklahoma, which she said was her first choice of schools.
“I really got to know everybody there,” Watkins said. “I got to meet the director. I got to visit with students there and ask them about how life is there. I didn’t have as many connections with other schools.”