Featured Artist: Lawrence McDonell

Joshua Shaffer: Where are you from? Why did you come to this school in particular?

Lawrence McDonall: Okay, well I was born in St. Louis. I lived there for a spell, then moved to Chicago for a while where my mom was finishing her doctorate at Northwestern [University]. Then I moved to Seattle around the age of six or seven. I’ve been in Washington since then. What brought me here was probably the most roundabout thing you can imagine. I was looking at colleges. I was looking at a lot of musical theatre colleges because that’s kind of where my niche is. So I was auditioning for conservatories, Tisch, and various other schools like that. Honestly, from what I saw I liked this one conservatory the best. Except I didn’t really factor in how much these colleges and conservatories [cost]. It was just really difficult to get some scholarships. So I came to the realization that I couldn’t go to the places that I got into and it was pretty difficult. So my mom sent a few prayers up to get into JPCatholic and I instantly got a email in my inbox. She was like, “It’s a sign!” And I was like, “No mom, it’s probably just a coincidence.”

JS: At what point did you realize that acting/musical theatre was the career choice for you?

LM: I was kind of more of a jock in high school. I was one of the bigger freshman. I was about 227 pounds and was pretty strong. So, I got onto the football team and did pretty well. I got to varsity by sophomore year, but I moved at that time to the heart of Seattle. I ended up at my dad’s alma mater, Bishop Blanchet. I did about one year of football there but one of the things that got me out of it was that I wasn’t growing anymore. I got stuck around 5’ 8” or 5’ 9”. Well I guess it’s 5’ 9” on a good day. Also, just seeing the injuries of my teammates made me stop. My friends knee cap got put out of commission. It was like floating around somewhere in his thigh and the trainer had to snap it back in. It was disgusting. So I decided to try out the theatre program.

My dad is a published musician and my mom has a doctorate in music so I’ve always been interested because of them. I played jazz piano for nine years and sang a little. I stopped singing though when my voice was changing because I was just embarrassed with the voice cracks and stuff. I didn’t realize it had settled until I auditioned for the school musical. My parents and I were both surprised when I got one of the leads. It was Charlemagne in Pippin. I remember thinking that this was amazing. This was probably one of the most fun times I ever had. So I rediscovered my love for the theatre. I forgot about how much fun it was. I learned that I was pretty good at it. Teachers urged me to try and pursue a career in this if that is what I wanted to do. I hadn’t found a passion but after the musical I discovered my passion. I started doing musicals every year. So with all the encouragement from various teachers, they made me realize the opportunities I could take with acting.

JS: How has it been being the lead in our first school musical, while the program is just starting to get developed?

LM: I really am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it. I’d say the coolest thing is being able to begin the culture surrounding the musical at this school. I want to promote a culture of professionalism. I want this to be present in the rehearsal process. Anyways, I’ve always liked building things so being part of this process is really cool. I’m really happy for the opportunity. I get bored way too easily too. So, the fact that there’s a show every quarter is great. That means there is no down time and I love to be busy. Otherwise I just get pouty, mopey, and a little depressed.

JS: Is there any specific goal you want to achieve when you are done with school?

LM: Oh, sure. Vocally speaking, I super excited for my 30’s because that means that my baritone voice will start to settle. Also, all my golden tones will come out which is what you should look for in a professional vocalist. All those golden tones emerge to a more full extent. So, the quality of your voice increases from 17% to like 26%. It’s incredible what your voice does. Especially with men, the voice just becomes a cleaner, crisper, and more beautiful sound. I’m excited for that since most of the roles I would compete for is for men from 25 onward. Where as with women in the industry, getting in early is the way to go since their voices are more ready around 19.

Anyways, I’m probably going to go for my Master’s. I just recently went to this Northwestern vocal intensive and it was a really great opportunity for networking so I really went in there with my best foot forward. Basically the leader there really wants to teach me in some capacity. So pretty much I’ve been courted by Northwestern’s Master program. I think I might go that route. My sister and I will probably rent a flat in New York. I will be going to auditions and we will both work weddings and stuff to get some income. I’d also like to start a music business. So yeah, that is the plan so far.