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Music Theatre

Student Voices

  • Alexis Gilkes '18
    Hanna Agar

Alexis Gilkes ’18


Westby, Wisconsin


Music with an emphasis in Music Theatre



Favorite spot on campus

“Honestly, my favorite spot on campus is my room. I live on the theatre floor in the Oaks Residential Village which means I am constantly surrounded by my friends, but can also find peace and solidarity. I have a lake view as well. Some days you just need to curl up to watch a storm over the lake with some Netflix and a cup of tea. I’m lucky to be able to do that.”

As a lover of the fine arts, Alexis Gilkes ’18 could not be happier with her choice to major in music with an emphasis in music theatre at Carthage.

“Sometimes the community that surrounds [fine arts majors] doesn’t truly understand what it means to make a life in the arts,” Alexis says. “They worry about our financial situations and if we’ll really be able to support ourselves. Once inside this world, though, the support is imminent. Everyone will be there to love, guide, and support you the whole way. We’re in this together, and we’re in it for each other. If you love this life, take a chance on it. It’s waiting to love you back.”

After Carthage, Alexis plans to take some time to audition in Chicago.

“I found Carthage late in the game, but the second I met a few members of the voice and theatre faculty, I knew I was in the right place,” she says. “Everyone was so welcoming, and it was apparent they were invested in my next four years.”

Career goal

“I plan to take some time auditioning in Chicago after graduation. As a performance major, it is important to me to grab some time on the stage right away in the real world. After that, we’ll see where things go. I could wind up in film or direction. This program and my colleagues have prepared me for a vast number of experiences.”

Favorite professor

Prof. Martin McClendon and Prof. Corinne Ness have both helped me reach new heights as a performer that I never even dreamed of. Two rehearsals into a run of a show with Marty, and I can find myself far more specific in my acting choices than ever before. Ten minutes into a lesson with Corinne, and I’m singing notes that I didn’t even know existed. They have both had a huge impact in my growth as a performer in Carthage Theatre.”

Favorite class

“If I had to pick, I would say my favorite class at Carthage so far has been Acting I: Fundamentals of Acting (For Majors and Minors) (THR 2110) with Prof. John Maclay. I grew so much as an artist and learned so much about myself and my craft in just one short semester. Every concept we discussed we put into action which allowed us to really find our footing as collegiate performers.”

Toughest class

“My toughest class at Carthage so far has been Acting II: Character and Scene Study (THR 3110) with Prof. Herschel Kruger. He pushed me and helped me to grow so much as a performer. In Acting II you have to know more than just who you are as an actor. You have to know who you are as a scene partner and how you work with every other actor. We explored shows with heavy messages that required an abundance of research and analysis. This class truly prepared me to work independently as an actor.”


“I haven’t had any internships, but I did travel to China with a company from the Music Theatre Program this summer. We toured a production of Seussical and a cabaret about finding love in your twenties. We traveled, performed, and worked alongside Chinese students pursuing music theatre for two weeks. We had a blast making new friends across the globe, experiencing a new culture, and practicing our craft all along the way.”

Opportunities at Carthage

“This summer I took a J-Term class in New York City. As a class we saw 15 shows (including Hamilton) and explored the city’s greatest art museums. I have also had the privilege of participating in several Carthage Theatre and Carthage Music Theatre productions. Some of my favorite shows to work on have been Afghanistan/Wisconsin, Urinetown, and Young Frankenstein.”


“I am a recipient of the A.W. and Joycelynn Clausen Scholarship. This scholarship has helped lift an enormous weight off of my shoulders. I am so fortunate to be able to focus my free time in the practice room and dance studio instead of worrying about how to reduce my own personal student debt.”

Campus involvement

“I am a member of Alpha Psi Omega, our theatre fraternity here on campus. Our motto is ‘seek a life useful,’ and I am thrilled to be pursuing that each day alongside my colleagues. Our largest event is our Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS event each spring which I will play a large role in as the head of our Philanthropy Task Force. I can’t wait to make a difference with these talented artists this year!”

Favorite moments at Carthage

Oaks lounges are some of the greatest places to make lifelong memories. We’re fortunate to have the theatre floor in the Oaks community because we always have a great place to hang right outside our doors. Whether we’re all crammed in choreographing a dance for theatre forum, loving every minute of the Flowers in the Attic movie saga, or having a girl’s night where we order pizza and talk about life, the lounge is where many of my favorite memories live.”

Biggest surprise so far?

“I grew up in Wisconsin, but if you think I was braced for the lake wind in February, you would be mistaken. Honestly though, the lake in winter is just as beautiful as the lake in summer. Campus is compact enough that if you bundle up to get to class, the weather isn’t so terrible, and you get to enjoy the view the whole way!”

What would your 8-year-old self think of you now?

“I think on some level, I always knew I would wind up in the field of fine arts. I bounced back and forth between a career in law or medicine for a while, but ultimately decided to follow my dreams. I think my 8-year-old self would be proud that I decided to break through the doubts and disbeliefs of others and take a chance on myself and my dreams.”

Advice for other students considering your major

“Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it. Do it. Sometimes the community that surrounds us doesn’t truly understand what it means to make a life in the arts. They worry about our financial situations and if we’ll really be able to support ourselves. Once inside this world, though, the support is imminent. Everyone will be there to love, guide, and support you the whole way. We’re in this together, and we’re in it for each other. If you love this life, take a chance on it. It’s waiting to love you back.”

  • Quick Facts

    • Carthage is named a Best Midwestern College by The Princeton Review (2019), a designation given to only 25 percent of four-year schools.

    • The Tower, Carthage’s newest residence hall, provides some of the best views on campus — if not in the Midwest! In addition to #carthageviews of the lake from seven stories up, residents enjoy suite-style living and two floors of shared campus spaces for gaming, cooking, group meetings, or quiet studying. Learn more about all housing options.

    • You’re going to need brain fuel. Grab a morning coffee and a snack and Starbucks or Einstein Bros. Bagels. Later, meet friends at “The Caf,” where the specials change daily but the staples are constant, or swing through “The Stu” for wings, a burrito, or a sub. A new option, Carthage Cash, even covers some off-campus meals.

    • More than 90% of Carthage alumni report that they have secured a job or are continuing their studies six months after graduation. Visit Career Services.

    • 91% of employers say critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills matter more than your major when it comes to career success. Learn more about how the liberal arts prepare you for a successful career.

    • Lots of schools wear the four-year label. Carthage stands behind it. More than 90% of Carthage graduates earn their degrees in four years. Learn more

    • Oscars. Emmys. Tonys. Golden Globes. The playwrights we’ve brought in have them. Each year, the Carthage Theatre Department commissions an original script by a renowned playwright for its New Play Initiative. Carthage students then work with the writer to stage it. 

    • Carthage has been named a top producer of Fulbright Fellows three years running. Read about Carthage Fulbright winners.

    • Things look new at Carthage because they are. Our science center, student union, athletic and recreation center, and numerous residence halls have all been constructed or newly renovated in the last 15 years.

    • Carthage offers majors, minors and concentrations in more than 50 areas of study, from archaeology to neuroscience, nursing to music theatre.

    • Our Summer Undergraduate Research Experience offers select students a research budget, one-on-one mentoring with a professor, and 10 weeks of analyzing, deciphering — and getting paid.

    • So the lake is kind of a focal point, but there’s a lot more to love about our campus — like the fact that our more than 80-acre campus is also an arboretum and wildlife sanctuary. Focused on keeping campus lush forever, we plant between 50 and 75 new trees every year from a variety of species.

    • Carthage was founded in 1847. That’s more than 170 years of leaders, makers, and go-getters going out and going forth. Read more about Carthage’s rich history.

    • More than 90 percent of students receive financial aid. Carthage awards more than $20 million in scholarship and grant assistance. That includes $5.5 million in competitive scholarships in business, mathematics, science, languages, the fine arts, leadership, and overall academic strength. Learn what’s available.

    • Abraham Lincoln was an early Trustee of the College, and U.S. Secretary of State John Hay was a Carthage alum. The two still have a proud place on our campus. Spend some time with them in our Sesquicentennial Plaza. On warm days you’ll find professors leading their classes here.

    • Come to Carthage; hear yourself think — think … think …
      Legend has it that Sesquicentennial Plaza holds a perfect echo. Just stand with both your feet on the “1847,” face Straz, and start talking. “You’re the only one who can hear you, but you’ll be crystal clear,” promises English and theatre alumna Mikaley Osley.

    • Our Great Lake provides Carthage students with some amazing views. Think classes on the beach, lake views from the lab, and sunrises from your dorm room. “I love waking up in the morning with the sun shining off the lake. Nothing compares to the view in the morning,” recalls biology and neuroscience major Ann O’Leary.

    • Carthage awards up to 35 Presidential Scholarships each year, which range from $20,000 up to full tuition. Learn more.

    • For a full decade, NASA has selected Carthage students to conduct research aboard its zero-gravity aircraft. Lately, the stakes have risen. A team of underclassmen is grinding to prepare a tiny but powerful Earth-imaging satellite for launch to the International Space Station. Learn more about the space sciences at Carthage

    • Carthage is the only college or university in the Midwest where every freshman takes a full-year sequence of foundational texts of the Western intellectual tradition. Learn about the Carthage core.

    • With a student-faculty ratio of 12:1, your professors will know who you are. They will also know who you want to be — and how to get you there. Meet our faculty.

    • There are more than 120 student organizations on campus, from Amnesty International to Fencing to Frisbee, Chem Club to Stand Up Comedy. See how easy it is to get involved.

    • True story: There are more than 27 art galleries, a dozen museums, and nine theatres within 25 miles of Carthage. Some highlights: The nationally recognized Racine Art Museum, the world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago, and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Learn more about our location.

    • What’s better than one professor? Two professors. What’s better than two professors? Two professors from totally different fields teaching a single class. There’s debate. Discussion. Differing perspectives. This is where the magic happens. That’s why every student takes a Carthage Symposium.

    • You can’t hide here — not with only 17 other students in the classroom with you. That’s going to be rough some mornings. But later, when you’re able to argue your point of view thoughtfully, express your opinions succinctly, and meet challenges head-on, without fear … Yep, you’ll thank us.

    • Carthage is ranked No. 5 in the country for student participation in short-term study abroad. Every J-Term, hundreds of students travel all over the world on faculty-led study tours. Imagine a month in Sweden, Rome, Cuba, Senegal, India, Japan …