When humans work together they can create art that doesn't just change the perspective of the people's lives who
are watching the
show, but also the ones that work hard to bring the story to life.
So writes thirteen-year-old Sophia Scott about her love of theatre and performing in a recent essay which
one the New England Region Scholastic Gold Key. Scott's eloquent paean describes the emotions of her final performance as a Munchkin in Maine State Music Theatre's 2019 blockbuster
production of The Wizard of Oz, and she meditates on why she intends to pursue a life in the arts.
A resident of Boothbay, Maine, Sophia Scott has been singing, dancing, acting, and writing since the age of three, and she already has under
her belt two professional stage experiences at MSMT. According to Artistic Director Curt Dale Clark, Sophia's talent was evident from the day he laid eyes on her in auditions
for Beauty and the Beast, which like The Wizard of Oz, he co-directed with Marc Robin. "From the minute she walked in, I saw she was polished, prepared, that
she cared and had the talent to back up that passion. She made what she performed look easy, but I could see she had put in a ton of preparation. She is one of the
hardest working kids I know."
Her mother, Cherie Scott, who is a culinary expert with her own gourmet line , From Mumbai to Maine, says her daughter is "the product of two
parents who have devoted their lives to theatre, music, and performance. Before she was born, it was in her DNA," Cherie says, referencing her own early career as a performer
and her husband Guy Scott's work as a musician and musical arranger in New York City.
Sophia Scott recalls always singing and dancing "around my bedroom since
the age of three. Then one day I sat down with my Dad at the piano, and we sang a duet. After that I started performing at the Boothbay Playhouse
[a local community theatre] where I played a puppet in Pinocchio at age four." Scott currently attends a small private school in nearby Edgecomb,
Maine, and she also studies voice privately with Beth Preston, takes numerous ballet, jazz, and tap classes at Dance Mania in Waldoboro, and
has studied guitar for many years with Nathan Kolosko. "I am pretty fluent on the guitar, and I like writing songs and singing them whenever" – a
pastime that has helped fuel her creative streak during the pandemic.
But it has been her two professional theatre experiences at MSMT that
have galvanized her desire to make the performing arts her life. "I did Beauty and the Beast in 2018 and Wizard of Oz in 2019. I learned so much
about being part of a strong community, especially by working with the adults. I learned how working hard can take you places and what it's like to
work professionally. [MSMT] is a very loving and inclusive community, and they have taught me so much."
Her mother concurs," Through MSMT, Sophia's eyes have been opened to the highest level of performance, production, and community within the
walls of a theatre. That experience has completely transformed her expectations, not only of who she is as a growing performer, but also of
what a theatre should be. It is more than just a platform to present a show; it is a platform for the community to exist behind the scenes and on that
stage. MSMT doesn't just "bring Broadway to Brunswick;" they bring community to theatre and take the whole idea of community to the next level.
Sophia elaborates: "Working with professionals like Curt [Dale Clark] and
Marc [Robin] has taught me so much; they are huge role models for me, as are the huge cast of [Equity] adults. Watching them work, I take away a
great deal. And by getting to interact with the adult ensemble, I see how hard they work, and I love looking up to them," she says, adding that she
aspires to be an MSMT Performance Intern one day.
Clark explains the phenomenon that the Scotts speak about. "The Broadway-family feeling is what makes MSMT so special. Having union
professionals work side-by-side with our young ensemble helps the young artists to realize that here are people making a living in this profession,
doing what they love and getting paid for it! The professionals see that youth and desire, and they are reminded of why they got into this business
in the first place." He says he finds Sophia's drive inspiring. "When somebody young and eager to learn enters your working space, it validates
your life. It is affirming to know somebody else feels the same way you do about a path. There are times when I cherish that absolute immersion in
the field of musical theatre. It's selfish, perhaps, but there is nothing better than seeing the rush a young person gets from this art form. When I see
someone like Sophia who has this passion in her soul, it is exciting!"
Sophia Scott sees an artistic future for herself. "I really love performing on
stage, and, of course, Broadway would be amazing, but I would also like to work in film or television." And she loves writing, too. "Theatre, music,
and writing are the best ways ways for me to express myself because I am creating a way to share my feelings with the world without be so direct. I
can express emotion through a character or a melody or a figure of language. Writing uses words; the stage uses body language. Theatre has
taught me so much about confidence and finding myself on stage, and writing – especially poetry – gives me so much freedom."
Sophia's award-winning essay is testament to this. She writes with a raw
and brilliant honesty about the surge of emotions that run through her head and heart as the final Wizard of Oz curtain falls on what has been for
her an incomparable experience.
We come out on stage for the grand finale of our performance every
day, but this here together. This is the first song we went over in rehearsal [Somewhere Over the Rainbow] and decided to caress all is
the finale of our time our love to make the ending of the show special. This time it's different. I feel a lump form in my throat. ['Don't do it!'
'Don't cry'] I think to myself.
That this particular performance was to be Sophia's – and every actor like
her – last performance before the pandemic shuttered theatres makes her words even more poignant. "I was missing theatre so much that I felt I had
to put down on paper what I was feeling and let others experience it."
The visceral appeal of the writing is not lost even on a theatre veteran like
Clark. "It felt as if she had just opened her heart and let it fall onto the page. When you think about the year we have missed and the fact that this
was the last public performance anyone saw at the Pickard Theater…" He trails off for a second. "It is such an emotional piece that says so much
about what we do; it tells the public things they don't know are happening on stage. The audience sees the story being told – the passion of all the
artists combining to tell that story. They don't see the subset of [individual] stories that are playing out on stage for the creators of that art. For Sophia,
she will remember this feeling until the day she dies. Her essay reminded me of all those similar moments in my life. Nothing anyone does can take
that experience away."
Cherie Scott understands this kind of passion and drive. Her own journey
parallels her daughter's in many ways. "My passion for theatre started in India. I was in a four-girl singing group which was signed by Virgin
Records, but before I could record with them, at sixteen, right after my high school prom, I left on my own for Vancouver. From Vancouver, I knew I
had to make it to New York City. I knew if I was in the right eco-system I would thrive." Cherie headed for the American Academy for Dramatic Arts,
"AMDA was an incredible catalyst for performing at different levels. You could come with no experience and work or be experienced and take that
to the next level. It was a very safe place to learn, to grow, to find the new me, especially as an immigrant."
But Cherie Scott's Indian roots posed a challenge to her performing
ambitions twenty years ago. "I didn't see anyone on stage at that time who looked like me, and I was not certain how I was going to be a part of the
theatre [scene.] Things have changed a great deal in twenty years, and I am happy that it will be easier for Sophia." Ever resourceful, however, Cherie
Sciott found a way to use her talent for communication and found a new platform for her skills. "I went on to university to study journalism and
broadcasting. I felt that was how I could combine my love for theatre with the academic side of me. I am a curious person; theatre people are curious,
and so are journalists. I have an insatiable interest to learn things and represent them in stories. Actors trying to reflect real life on stage ask a lot
of questions, and so do journalists. It was the perfect transition for me; I found just the spot where I could use my love for theatre and my
understanding of the human race," says Cherie, who later interned at MSNBC while in college.
So what advice would Curt Dale Clark and Cherie Scott give Sophia as she
pursues her dream? Clark's suggestions are practical. "To succeed you need desire, talent, and fortitude. This is not an easy profession. If this is
what you want to do, if it is what you are truly going to do for the rest of your life, then you have to form the habits and skills that will serve you now
– timing, preparation, hard work."
Cherie Scott concurs and uses her own experience as an example. "I would
tell her to take to the next step what her mother was never brave enough to do. I needed to be assured of a career, and I couldn't see myself on that
stage at that time. There wasn't enough of a representation of diversity. But for Sophia, there has been so much movement in diversity, and she can
be one of those changemakers on stage. She can help put diversity on the map. That should be her goal because she is in a very privileged position
which I didn't have twenty years ago. She is in the position to lift others up with her work. She has a great deal of responsibility to be the token
diversity person, to embrace that and make a difference for those behind her. To those to whom much has been given, much is expected. I know she
has in the back of her head that she has to finish what I started. I want her to be on stage one day and say to herself, 'My Mom tried and she gave up,
but I never gave up. My Mom gave me the inspiration to finish what she began, and here I am today able to live the life and the dream my mother had.'"
This conversation about diversity leads Cherie Scott back to her thoughts
about MSMT, on whose Board of Trustees she now sits. "Putting Sophia in the right eco-system at MSMT where she can work at a very high level and
do some of her best work before she moves on to the city" is invaluable, she believes. "I knew in my heart when I saw her come home from
rehearsal or performances totally exhausted with a happiness I had never before seen in my child that I had a social and moral responsibility to give
back to that organization," Cherie says of her decision to join the Board. "When you have a diverse eco-system, you can grow and learn from
different voices. Theatre must truly hold a mirror to society. If we don't see ourselves on stage, then we don't exist. That was the absolute truth of
Cherie Scott, like her daughter and Curt Dale Clark, believes that the arts
have not only a social responsibility but a spiritual one. "Science has saved lives and tech has saved the day," says Cherie, "but the arts sustain our
spirits, our souls, our humanity. The void we have all been feeling during the pandemic can only be filled by live theatre – not by watching something
on a tiny screen. The magic, the nuance, that visceral inspiration and sense of belonging is so much deeper than anything purely technical can bring you."
Clark feels that while "hitting the notes, doing the dance steps, and reading
the scenes are essential," it is the greater human experience – the shared experience - that theatre offers - which is most important. "As an actor, you
need to experience as much of the world as possible in order to be the best you can possibly be. You have to broaden your horizons as far as you can
because the heart and energy and truth of what you give on stage comes not from who you are as an actor, but rather from who you are as a human being."
At thirteen, Sophia Scott appears to have intuited this lesson: In her essay, she closes,
No matter how small our part is, when we put in the effort, and
dedicate ourselves to the opportunity being given to us, it can be one of the most special experiences of our lives. And sometimes, it's just too hard to say goodbye.
For those that know her, it seems likely that, for Sophia Scott, any farewells
will be of a temporary nature because the stage is, as her mother Cherie would say, her perfect eco-system.
Photos courtesy MSMT, Cherie Scott