No More No's; Only Yes

Corrine Calderbank on becoming Actors Creating Theatre President

On April 2, 2018, Corrine Calderbank sat in the seats of the MSU Alumni Auditorium, awaiting the results with everyone else in Actors Creating Theatre (ACT). The old members of the e-Board ran in and out of the back room while the stage held comedy performances. 

But Calderbank was nervous. She was up against one of her best friends and roommate, Abby Greco, for the position of President of the club. One of them would be elected, and the other wouldn't. Calderbank and Greco, both sophomores at the time of the election, had spent the same amount of time in the club and had proved their worth to become President. Now, it all came down to the final votes.

When the members of the board who were graduating finally finished their tallies, they came out to announce the winners. They started with the Public Relations officer and slowly went up the ranks, leaving President for last. 

“And ACT’s President for the 2018/2019 school year will be Miss Corrine Calderbank,” the former Parliamentarian Chris Cooper announced.

2018 eBoard passing down the baton to 2019 eBoard  

It was in that moment that Calderbank’s joy overtook her, and the room cheered as her name was proclaimed. It had finally happened. All her rejections finally became an acceptance.

I sat down with Calderbank, and I could immediately tell how excited she was for the interview. Her smile was extremely inviting, and the more I talked to her, the more that l could tell she’s a very happy and positive person. Her laugh was super infectious during the interview. It felt like talking to an old friend that I hadn’t seen in years.

Not only that, but her poise was also extremely proper. She knew exactly how to conduct herself as if she’d been interviewed a thousand times. It was like she was never actually nervous because I never saw a trace in her brown eyes as she spoke to me.

That makes her story all the better for me to tell.

Back in 2016, Calderbank arrived at Kutztown as a freshman, not even truly wanting to be here. She didn’t want to go to community college, and since Kutztown was only an hour and a half away, she figured she’d be able to go home every so often to see her parents and her chocolate lab, Cooper. 

Calderbank wanted to branch out, and she didn’t really know anyone at the school. She decided to try out for several different clubs and activities. 

She rushed sororities, thinking maybe one of those could be her place. But the longer she was there, the more she felt like she didn’t really belong. After a few days of rushing, she finally decided to drop out because it wasn’t her thing, and she didn’t want to be told she didn’t belong.

Having done cheer for 13 years until she graduated, she seriously considered going back to cheerleading. She taught it for so many years and was on the varsity team growing up, but she didn’t want to go back to cheering while she was in college.

So, after having heard about the theatre club on campus, she decided that she wanted to audition for “Spring Awakening.” This was ACT’s second musical ever, and she thought it could be like theatre back in high school with her friends. Unfortunately, when the cast list came out, her name wasn’t on it. 

Another no and another day of Calderbank feeling stuck. "I just kept hearing the word 'no,' and honestly, it was really upsetting. I seriously considered transferring to Temple or Penn State because I wasn’t happy here,” she confided in me during our interview at Starbucks. 

Having no idea what else to do, she did continue to go to ACT meetings. She even took part in the Mentor Program, where older members are mentors to the new members. Her mentor at the time, senior Sean Connors, took on Calderbank and her soon-to-be best friend, Yeiber Gonzalez. That little bit had her going back to ACT more, because she loved spending time in the Alumni Auditorium with this group of people.

Since she hadn't been cast in “Spring Awakening,” she ended up asking one of the directors of the musical about stage crew.

“I thought I could at least make some friends doing this. After the first [crew] meeting, where I actually talked to some ACT members that I saw frequently, my now-roommate and fellow board member, Cali, texted me asking if I wanted to go get lunch with her and two other ACT members on the crew. After that, she said that they needed a fourth roommate. And the rest is actually history.”

Calderbank started playing with her hair during this part; it was then I noticed her blonde hair was actually dyed, and I could see her brunette underneath the layers. Her curls are extremely thick, so it was hard to see at first. Her voice got noticeably more excited though as she told me how her luck began to turn.

She had quickly found her stride. When crew started showing up for tech week at the beginning of the second semester, she found herself assisting Erika Cassell, the female lead of “Spring Awakening.”

“[Erika] was so nice to me. The directors told me I would be helping her with quick changes backstage, and I would also make sure her hair, makeup, and everything were in order.”

This caused the two of them to become very close in the two weeks of tech. Calderbank even admitted that Cassell referred to her assistant as a "Mini-me".

Calderbank and her family, the C-Sharps

Working closely with Cassell and the rest of the stage crew helped her gain some confidence, and by the end of “Spring Awakening,” Calderbank was ready to branch out within ACT. She was already looking forward to the Spring Cabaret auditions at the end of February, but now she was starting to consider running for the e-Board.

“I asked Yeiber, my other family member from the Mentor Program, ‘So, e-Board?’ And he told me, ‘I’m thinking about running.’ When I told him I was considering running as well, he told me to go for it. I mean, what was the worst thing that could happen?”

While being part of the Spring Cabaret, getting to know more ACT members, and continuing her first year of college, she was also getting ready to run for a position on the board. Being a student-run club, she knew she was going to have to prove herself as a person who could become a member, and she figured Public Relations Officer was her perfect foot in the door.

“I always loved filming and editing videos, so I thought it wouldn’t be too hard,” she admitted. After all the years of leadership in cheerleading and being part of theatre since she was in third grade, she was excited at the prospect of becoming an e-Board member. Her first feat was to do something that was brand new to the club: promo videos.

She created and published the promotional video for the Spring Cabaret, and it was passed around quickly in the group and through Facebook. In just a few days, it already had over 1,000 views and was proving that people were extremely excited to see the show.

Cut to e-Board elections--Calderbank was one of three people nominated for Public Relations Officer. “Next thing I knew, I was on the board, and I was being taught everything I needed to know for the position the following year.”

It was soon after the election that Calderbank's life was completely changed by joining the board. Now that she was involved in making decisions and understanding how ACT functions, it creates and earns money and rights to shows, she was starting to become fully hands-on in the club.

I skipped ahead a bit, knowing that a good chunk of the past year was Calderbank working as the PR officer: producing content, uploading pictures, and creating fun captions and advertisements for the shows and the club. 

When the musical was announced, she even tried her hand at auditions again and was cast in "Legally Blonde" in 2017. Not only that, but her leadership skills were taken further, as she was asked to be the co-choreographer for the show.

It wasn’t until after “Legally Blonde” (when ACT was picking the spring show) however, that Calderbank’s true potential came to be. While looking through suggestions for the shows, she got to read the well-known classic play, “Almost, Maine." It takes place in a little town called Almost one Friday night in winter when the Northern Lights appear in the sky. Already familiar with the show, Calderbank was excited and began to push not only for this play to be the spring show but also decided to put her name in the hat to possibly direct the show.

“I got a text from our President, Ben, saying, ‘Hey, do you want to direct the play?’ and I wrote back, ‘Yeah, sure.’ It was only afterward that the Secretary and my roommate, Abby, texted me congratulating me that I found out that one of my best friends, Meghan Artley, who had just been Elle Woods in ‘Legally Blonde,’ would be my assistant director.”

From there, Calderbank and Artley began working as a team that would eventually lead to them becoming President and Vice President of ACT, respectively. They cast 8 talented actors and actresses and, in the span on about two months, put together the highly anticipated and beloved play. All three showings over-sold all of their tickets. 

"I was so extremely proud," she said, thinking back to the closing night of the show. "The cast put on an amazing show, and Meghan and I couldn't have been more thrilled for them."

The cast and crew of Almost, Maine

This leads back to April 2, where Calderbank officially became the President of the club. 

Our interview also happened to coincide with this year’s “Learn the Dance,” where the choreographer creates and teaches a dance to all the students who want to be part of the musical. This year, Calderbank is the head choreographer with her mentee, Sierra, as her assistant.

The new C-Sharp members

Dressed in her Anastasia t-shirt from the Broadway musical and her jean skirt, Calderbank taught a roomful of students the dance to this year's musical, "Grease."

"Those Magic Changes" from “Grease, Live!” played over the speakers as Calderbank taught the dance to about two-dozen people. By watching her point out exactly how to position their arms, demonstrating how to do a “Pony,” and laughing when she accidentally messed up her own dance, it was clear that Calderbank was in her element.

“I love ACT and theatre, and it’s made me so excited to see what junior and senior year bring,” Calderbank told me after she taught the dance. 

It seems that after all of her negative denials, she finally created a positive affirmation that has completely changed her life. 

All I can say is that I'm glad this underdog got the chance to shine and show everyone exactly what she's made of.

Calderbank and her eBoard for the first ACT Meeting of the School Year