Finding self-worth through theatre

Story/Video posted December 9, 2019 in Best of CommMedia by Maria Valdisera.


Before arriving at Penn State, Camryn Powers wasn't able to participate in theatre. Now she is vice president of the Penn State Thespian Society and a member of Shades of Blue a cappella.

Her high school in rural Virginia did not have an active theatre program. So she found another outlet to satiate her passion for performing: beauty pageants.

It "was super weird," Powers said, "but in the South, it was more common than you thought." Powers is originally from Madison County, Va., which is roughly 45 minutes outside of Charlottesville.

Powers primarily competed in the Miss America's Outstanding Teen competition, a subsection of the famous Miss America beauty pageant. There she would spend hours teasing her hair, putting on her makeup, and trying on various outfits for each category. She would also participate in philanthropic events for the pageant, such as volunteering at soup kitchens and nursing homes.

She competed in local and state contests, using her singing as her talent. Powers would use the opportunity to show off her love of theatre by singing songs from various musicals, including 'On My Own' from "Les Miserables," 'God Help the Outcasts' from "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," and 'Defying Gravity' from "Wicked."

However, life as a pageant girl proved to be hard on Powers' self-esteem. She said that members of her family would make comments about her weight in relation to the results of a competition.

"I had people around me who were telling me I was beautiful," Powers said, beginning to tear up. But then they would say "'If you’d just lose ten extra pounds, you’d win.'"

As someone who struggled with her body image, Powers found it difficult to be judged on how she looked in comparison to other contestants in the pageants she was competing in.

UG93ZXJzIHBlcmZvcm1zIGluIHRoZSBQZW5uIFN0YXRlIFRoZXNwaWFuIFNvY2lldHnigJlzIHByb2R1Y3Rpb24gb2Yg4oCcSGVhdGhlcnMgdGhlIE11c2ljYWzigJ0uOnce she entered college Powers was done with pagentry. She immediately joined the music and theatre groups that she had been craving all her life. Along with the Thespian Society and Shades of Blue, Powers is also a member of No Refund Theatre, another extracurricular theatre club on campus, and was an intern for the Penn State Center for the Performing Arts this past summer.

Since entering college, Powers has performed in various theatrical productions, including Stephen Schwartz' "Godspell" and Kander and Ebb's "Cabaret", made famous by director and choreographer Bob Fosse. Powers said her favorite roles include Helen Bechdel in "Fun Home", Ms. Fleming in "Heathers the Musical" and Elizabeth Benning in "Young Frankenstein".

Powers said she is grateful for the friends she has made through her involvement with the arts at Penn State, and that she is finally able to express her passion in the way she has always wanted. "Now, I don’t do anything else," Powers said with a laugh, "It’s all I think about."


Being Vice President of Thespian Society

Powers is the Vice President of the Penn State Thespian Society. She is in charge of all prospective members who want to join the club. In her role, Powers facilitates meetings for those interested in different aspects of the Thespian Society.