A Daughter to be Proud of: Jenny Lester

Jenny then and now

I have 3 daughters. They all make me proud. But only one, so far, has left the safe cocoon of the house she was raised in, venturing her way slowly but surely into the adult world.

With no parental helicoptering, our oldest child, Jenny Luisa (her middle name comes from the role I was playing in the musical The Fantasticks when I became pregnant with her) navigated her way through at least two dozen college applications, and numerous auditions for musical theatre programs at universities around the country. 

Jenny is currently a sophomore at Point Park University in Pittsburghknown for their amazing Conservatory of Performing Arts

Based on her grades, talent, and her essay below, Jenny was recently accepted into their prestigious BFA program. 

Jenny finding the right notes

My daughter the writer, and more…

(Yes, I have a blog. Yes, I write. Do I love it? No. Writing is not something I actually enjoy. It’s simply a necessary part of my EasyLunchboxes online presence, so I do it. Therefore, having a child who loves to write, who loves to express herself via the printed page, who is living her passion so fully at only 19 years old, makes me prouder than I could dream. I look back at myself at age 19 and marvel at how very similar, yet different we are.  Similar in our enormous love of all things musical theatre, but oh so different in self-esteem, direction, and maturity. She’s light years ahead of where I was at her age. Sure, I’ll take a little credit (along with my husband) for that, but her essay below, well, it’s all her… )

Jenny Lester essay application for the BFA program:

(In case you’re not familiar with the titles, I’ve italicized and made green, the names of musicals she cleverly wove through her text below.)

Twice a week I stumble out of bed at 6:30 am to make it to the shuttle by 7:30 in order to be at my 8:00 am theatre history class on time. For the first ten minutes, sure, I stumble around, loudly lamenting the life I have chosen. “Stop the World, I Want to Get Off!”  But after a strong cup of coffee, and the sun’s appearance, I could not be more grateful to be heading off to the library. I adore learning about the history of theatre and all the people along the way, who made sacrifices and took risks in order to set up my generation for an age of Anything Goes in the theatre.

Theatre has become so widely accepted, in fact, that it is Next to Normal that I am allowed and able to spend the four years of my life after high school in a musical theatre conservatory program in lieu of a formal college education. And while I am here, I am desperate to reap every ounce of training I can from this program. I need my BFA degree. As one of the few wait-listed students involved in the over-enrollment scandal of 2010, I feel like Point Park took an enormous chance allowing me to partake in their wonderful program. I entered the school with an enormity of Passion and gratitude, and have already grown so much from two years of classes. If I could take more than eighteen credits per semester, believe me, I would. My two wonderful parents sent me across the country from the City of Angels, on the erratic salary they collect as two full-time working actors. I want to be able to proudly show them their sacrifice was totally worth every penny because I took advantage of every opportunity and every high level class offered at Point Park.

To be quite honest, if not awarded the BFA, I will still enroll in every one of the extra classes required for the degree—even if it means Working as a waitress to pay for the extra credits, as I did last semester. I’m a Virgo. I don’t want a half-baked degree. I could go to just about any liberal arts college in the country and collect my BA in theatre—and I know for a fact that the training would be less than thrilling and ultimately not applicable to my career. But the Good News is that a BFA from Point Park says that I was accepted into one of the top ten musical theatre schools in the country and most likely didn’t sleep for four years while I earned my degree. Moreover, it says I was able to really finish something and therefore am a good candidate for whatever position I am being considered for in the future—whether it be as a performer or director or adjunct faculty somewhere. It says I am a better candidate then the person who took less concentrated classes while they were in school and never received the beautiful ‘F’ to add to their BA. It says I am a trained professional, not just a kid with a Pipe Dream.

And the more concentrated musical theatre classes I’ve taken here at Point Park, the more I’ve cultivated a love of watching other people do musical theatre. Sure, I’d love to be on Broadway as much as the next person, and ultimately, I see myself there—just not on the stage. I’ve always had a knack for seeing the big picture when it comes to a show. As a kid, I would drive my directors Les Miserables. They would always have to remind me to worry about myself, because I was busy trying to make sure everyone around me looked good.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized being really opinionated about how a show should look as a whole, and wanting to discuss, conceptually, what is going on, as well as a desperation to give other actors notes, has a name—directing. My leadership skills have always indicated that The Life I’m meant to lead is as more than a tunnel-visioned performer, and I owe so much to my education at Point Park for showing me what it is I’m supposed to do. It all started with the freshman showcase last year. I realized that in the case of a room full of college freshman, anarchy was absolutely not the answer, and thus nominated myself to direct the opening and closing numbers. I was so unbelievably proud witnessing my ideas and hard work come together, and seeing my classmates respond with excitement, gratitude, and Applause.

For the past two semesters, even with the insane scheduling of sophomore year, there is a small group of us who meet twice a week for what we call “accountability sessions.” We take turns performing our techniques songs for one another and then the group offers advice or reminders of notes given by our techniques teachers in class. Diligently we meet—usually around 11:30 pm when everyone is out of rehearsals and off of work—and it occurred to me the few times I was unable to make it to these sessions, my friends were exceedingly irritated with me because they were eager to hear my opinion. It was so eye-opening for me to realize that my opinions and ideas have become invaluable to my friends and most of the time I would rather offer advice than actually sing my own song.

These experiences, and countless others, including directing for ‘Experimental Theatre Project’s 24-hour play festival’ have solidified my assertion that I will be involved in the arts for the rest of my life. Thus, I would feel cheated out of a valuable extension of my arts education, without the classes and degree. Earning my BFA from Point Park would open the door to so many directing and teaching positions that would otherwise remain unavailable. And perhaps one day, I will go back to school for an MFA in directing, which would be nearly impossible without the BFA degree.

Regardless, as this Funny Girl grows into herself as (hopefully) a Funny Lady, I will be able to look back on my time at Point Park University and say, “I Had a Ball,” discovering myself. Because as they say, Anyone Can Whistle…but not everyone can direct.

Thank you for your consideration,

Jenny Lester

Jenny comes home for the summer on May 5th. I’m counting down the days till I can hug this marvelous child adult in person.

Saga of Jenny

Jenny and me 1993