Southeast Missouri State University imagined a campus dedicated to the arts. And now it’s inspiring students like Dempsey Hankins to dream big.
Hankins, a sophomore from Eldorado, Illinois, was tapped to enroll in the Summer Conservatory at the prestigious Michael Howard Studios (MHS) in New York City while qualifying for the Southeastern Theatre Conference.
Hankins, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting, is one of just 20 students in the program where she is taking 14 classes this summer, perfecting her craft under the guidance of teachers Gabrielle Berberich, Admondo Diaz, Angela Pietropinto, Greg Chwerchak and Polina Klimovitskaya.
“I auditioned for over 100 theatre companies and conservatories, Michael Howard Studios being one of them,” Hankins said. “After my audition, I attended a workshop that the MHS staff was putting on, and that’s where I really met and fell in love with the people and the program. I gave them my contact information, and they called me with the good news that I was officially invited a week later,” Hankins said.
She moved to New York at the end of June, where she has had a full schedule since arriving. She is in class from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and spends many of her nights and weekends rehearsing with other actors.
“The Summer Conservatory program here at Michael Howard Studios is a very in-depth, hands on approach to acting,” Hankins said. “We have a lot of movement classes that allow us to free up our bodies for more natural movement on stage, vocal classes that teach us how not to ruin our voices with a theatre career, and comedy and clown classes that teach us how to be our craziest, silliest, most-open selves.”
She says she’s had to put in a lot of work, but it has proven to be fun. She’s been able to enhance her skills and gain confidence in those abilities.
She says one of her classes this summer, “Scene Study,” requires her to cast herself in three scenes and perform those scenes throughout the course.
“I just performed my second scene last week which was met with tons of laughs and applause,” she said. “It was a joy to work on!
“I have learned a lot about acting, of course,” she continued, “but I have also learned a lot about the culture differences that are apparent between New York and the Midwest.”
She says New York City is a wonderful place if visitors give it a chance, and when she’s not working, she tries to see as many sites as she can.
“Two of my favorite places so far have definitely been Roosevelt Island and Central Park,” Hankins said. “Taking the tram to Roosevelt Island over the island of Manhattan at night is just so cool. You also can’t beat the surreal feeling of being in the country, but also in the city, that comes with strolling through Central Park.”
At Southeast, Hankins is very involved in theatre and in the activities Campus Outreach offers. After she graduates, Hankins hopes to become a working actress in either New York or Los Angeles.
“I hope to take away so much from this internship,” she said. “This internship has enhanced my knowledge of acting and of the business side of the entertainment industry tenfold, and I hope to not leave any of that knowledge here in Manhattan! This internship has given me the ability to walk into any audition room confident, which is something that is hard to master and definitely to be envied in this business.
“I hope to take all the knowledge that I have learned here and apply it to any and all future auditions to get me there,” Hankins said.