Our Students-Our Stories

Meet Jadon
Jadon Rhyne graduated from Lincolnton High School in Lincolnton, North Carolina, with the dream of pursuing a BFA in musical theatre, but with acceptance to only one program and without resources to assist him with auditions, his options were limited.

Enter the Theatre Gap Initiative. Through his own hard work and the support of TGI staff, Jadon catapulted from one offer to 32 – totaling nearly $2.5 million in scholarship money. Learn a little more about how Jadon’s life and dreams were changed by TGI.

How has your participation in Theatre Gap Initiative changed you as a person and an artist?
TGI is a program of self discovery where you are trained not just to be a performer, but an actor of truth. Where you learn to “just be” on stage, communicating your passions, struggles, and hope to your audience. I did not know how to do this until the instructors of TGI taught me, and I thank them for that.

What was auditioning like before you found TGI?
Senior year of high school, I remember I only was able to complete one audition fully the entire school year, a school in South Carolina. I did not have the access to submit more audition videos, also known as pre-screens, due to the astronomical costs. Submitting pre-screens for 10 colleges could easily add up to 500 dollars, maybe even more. I just didn't have the money to afford that. In addition to preparing me for auditions, TGI knocked that stress off of me. Being a non-profit, they receive waivers for these prescreens, allowing me to be able to audition for as many as I could.

How did it feel when the acceptances – and the scholarships – started flooding your inbox?
It felt unreal. I was only accepted into one program my senior year, and to have the gift of being able to choose from many is one I am entirely grateful for.

How did you begin to sort through the many, many offers you received?
It definitely was not an easy decision. I had 32 offers, but I was able to cut them down and decide where I would best fit with these factors: dance, cost, location, and vibe of the school. My final selections were Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, Point Park Conservatory of Performing Arts, the Hartt School of Music at Hartford University, Wright State University, and Florida State University.

So…where did you decide to attend in fall 2023?! I will be attending Florida State University! Go 'Noles! I wanted to dance every day and have access to nice facilities. In the end, Florida State could provide the most opportunities in a BFA program. And I have never felt more love coming from a program, and I cannot wait to go there!

Ten years from now, what’s your dream role, and what does your bio in the playbill say?

My dream role would have to be playing Jerry/Daphne in “Some Like It Hot,” as it is a role of transformation and discovery through journey. My bio would thank those who helped pave the way for me, the staff of TGI, my high school drama and choir director, Mr. Stephens, and of course, my family.  

More stories from our students

A gift to Theatre Gap Initiative is an investment – in the future of young actors and the future of theatre. Thank you for making this experience possible for our talented students. Here are a few more stories about our incredible artists.

Emilee Johnson

Confrere '23

Hometown: Charlotte, NC

“I think as a society we push kids to go straight into college after high school, but the truth of the matter is that not everyone is ready right away.”

Trace your love for musical theatre. How did it start?
Ever since I was a child, I’ve had a huge interest and love for musical theatre and the arts. I think my earliest memory is of me being no older than five jumping off my grandma's couch attempting (HEAVY on attempting) to dance along to the 1998 VCR recording she had of “Cats.” Along with “Cats,” “Phantom of the Opera” is what really caused me to fall in love with theatre. Phantom has and will always be my favorite musical because it holds so many sentimental memories for my family and I. Any and every road trip we went on we would play either the movie soundtrack in the car or the original cast recording. My sister and I used to have mini concerts in our room, where she would double as Erik (the Phantom) and Raoul, and I would be Christine. We killed it every time. Well, as much as I could as a seven-year-old alto. I used to dream about being Christine, and I even dressed up as her for character day when I was in elementary school. My adoration and hopes of one day being able to become her on stage definitely lead to my interest in theatre and performing.

What’s your dream role?
I have a couple dream roles! Naturally, my number one would be Christine Daae from Phantom of the Opera.” My other more realistic roles. due to my vocal type, would be Mama Morton (“Chicago”), Mrs. Lovett (“Sweeney Todd”), Mrs. Potts (“Beauty and the Beast”) and just a role in a touring production in general.

Why did you choose to participate in TGI?
I think as a society we push kids to go straight into college after high school but the truth of the matter is that not everyone is ready right away. I know for me I didn’t have enough knowledge on the different universities or their programs and I was scared of making a rash decision and picking a school that really wasn’t fit for me. Which is why TGI is perfect as it puts you in contact with universities while also giving you the opportunity to meet the facility (through zooms and in person during the trips to CAP and Unifieds) and audition in front of them. It also gives you a space to test out different materials such as monologues or song selections before performing them in front of the schools. In short, I decided to take part in TGI so I wouldn’t have to go through the college audition process alone. I had people there to help and support me in a judgment-free zone. How has TGI changed your life or aspirations?
I would say that the teachers and other TGI students have changed my life forever. Going into the program I had planned on just doing the acting track due to the lack of confidence I had in my vocal and dance abilities. However, through the support of my peers and my teachers Lindsey Schroeder (vocal), Emily Hunter, and Stacy Zander (dance), I realized that my love for my craft outweighs any fear and thoughts that I have of not being enough, which pointedly, those things only reside in my head. They aren’t the truth. They aren’t written in stone and they only hold as much power as I give them. While I have so much room for improvement in all areas, I still deserve to be in any space that I wish to be in. Just because someone has had a little more training or excels in an area where I might struggle, that doesn’t diminish my talent and what I have to offer. That has been a hard thing that I’ve had to learn, but being in TGI and having the support that I did has made that lesson an easier one to install in my head.

What are your post-TGI plans?
I will be attending Montclair State University in Montclair, New Jersey!

Tommie Wofford

Confrere '23

Hometown: Lake Wales, Florida

“TGI changed my life by helping me achieve my goal of getting into University of the Arts, and surrounding me with a community of peers to navigate the journey alongside of. “

How did you become interested in theatre?
I became interested in theatre after doing a teen production at my local community theatre in 2019.

What is the first production you ever saw? How old were you?
My first production I ever saw was “Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at six years old. The cast album remains one of my favorites and Andrew Lloyd Webber is one of my inspirations thanks to that night.

What’s your dream role and why?
Jonathan Larson in “Tick Tick Boom” is my current dream role. I love the autobiographical feel of Tick Tick Boom and I think playing an ungrounded musical theatre writer would come easy to me.

How did you discover TGI?
My mom found TGI and thought it would be a good fit for me. I decided to participate because I knew I could benefit from the training and mentorship of all the instructors.

What are your plans post-TGI?
I am attending University of the Arts in Philadelphia for a BFA in directing, playwriting, and production. UArts was my dream school from early in the process, I am very excited to be attending there!

What would you say to donors who have supported TGI?
I would say thank you to all the donors, and ask them to continue to support TGI for years to come. TGI changed my life by helping me achieve my goal of getting into University of the Arts, and surrounding me with a community of peers to navigate the journey alongside of. Theatre Gap Initiative continues to be a source of support and opportunity. I am thrilled to see the program help other students succeed.

J. Preston Stovall

Confrere '23

Hometown: Charlotte, NC

“Thank you for believing in Corey’s vision and allowing it to come true.”

How did you discover your love for musical theatre?
Performing was also something that interested me. Whether it be making people laugh, telling stories, or putting on an act; I’ve loved performing since I was young. It was in 5th grade when I really pinpointed what I liked doing. That was the time I discovered musical theatre. I was cast in my first production, Aristocats Jr. I don’t remember too much about the rehearsal process, but I do remember the first time I went on the stage in front of a crowd. It was electric. The thrill of the lights, energy of the audience, and the glint of the camera. All of it came together to inspire my passion, and that’s an experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

How did you find your way to TGI?
I had heard about the “infamous” Tony-Award-winning Corey Mitchell for most of my high school years since he was the theatre teacher at a rival high school. However, it wasn’t until the summer of my junior year that we officially met face to face. We met at an arts summer camp that I was interning at where he gave a friend of mine and I a rundown of the whole program. At the time, my interest was piqued but not enough to stray from the path I had set for myself. However, with Covid and other extenuating circumstances, I was finding myself leaning more and more towards a gap year. My mother encouraged me to reach out and sign up for the program, and I did. That was one of the best decisions I’ve made to date.

What are your plans post-TGI?
Thanks to TGI, I will be attending my dream school, Manhattan School of Music, in the fall.

What is your message to TGI donors?
Thank you for believing in Corey’s vision and allowing it to come true. Because of your generous contributions, Corey Mitchell’s tenacity, and the staff at TGI, I was afforded so many opportunities that would not have happened otherwise. This includes being cast as Elijah Muhammad in “Malcom X the Musical,” having my NYC debut at 54 Below in June, and being able to attend my dream school in the fall. TGI has changed my life for the better and I am genuinely glad to say that I got to be part of it.  

Indya Tanner

Confrere '23

Hometown: Biloxi, Mississippi

“I had only seen shows with white lead characters and just assumed that I couldn’t play a big role – until that day!”

How did you become interested in musical theatre?
I became interested in musical theatre after I saw a production of “Once on This Island” in middle school. Before that, I had only seen shows with white lead characters and just assumed that I couldn’t play a big role- until that day!

What’s your favorite or most memorable experience with TGI?
My most memorable experience from TGI was during rehearsals for the showcase. We were all stressed out and struggling to listen to each other while singing our finale number. Out of nowhere Mrs. Charlene stops us and starts plucking out the beginning of “I Will Survive” on the piano. It instantly turned into a giant karaoke party and we were all dancing around singing to each other. It was a moment of REAL happiness between all of us that I still think about whenever I remember TGI. The next time we sang the finale song…it was perfect.

How did TGI change your life or aspirations?
TGI gave me the confidence I needed to not only audition but SUCCEED in a BFA program. I was always intimidated by the amount of people my age who already had training in voice and dance and could afford to attend workshops and college prep camps. I was never able to get that level of training, so I often relied on experience from community theatre. After attending TGI, I not only received formal dance and voice training, but I also was able to better my mental health and mindset through weekly therapy and got professional experience through local theatres. It was an experience that made me a better performer, student, and human.