Maggie Darago exhaled deeply with a timid smile as she rattled off her upcoming 10-day routine for “A Chorus Line” – a 10-hour dance and voice rehearsal, a drive home and a personal practice in her room before turning in for the night.
Darago, a fourth-year theater student graduating in June, will perform in the musical from July 29 to 31 at the Hollywood Bowl.
While she auditioned at the end of winter quarter, Darago said she will have about 10 days starting July 18 to memorize choreography and lyrics, and understudy two lead roles. Her background in performance, studying at UCLA’s theater department and participating in student theater organizations have prepared her for the show, she said.
Darago fell into the world of performance at a young age, beginning dance at age 4 and voice lessons in the fourth grade. However, she did not begin to formally study theater until she enrolled in the theater program at UCLA in fall 2012.
UCLA theater alumna Megan Fitzgerald worked Darago’s first audition for the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.
“Even now, in everything she does, she still has that wide-eyed, energetic freshman feel,” Fitzgerald said.
Darago joined the student-run Act III Theatre Ensemble during her first year. She participated in production, but mainly focused on choreography throughout her four years. Her favorite annual event was Act III’s production Bruins Care, a 24-hour musical to benefit those with AIDS.
Rodd Farhadi, a third-year theater student, met Darago through his involvement in Bruins Care. He immediately connected with Darago because of his interest in choreography and looked to Darago as a mentor, he said.
“She comes to rehearsal with an idea and her song already memorized,” Farhadi said. “She spends so much time in all three aspects of performing rather than only focusing on what she’s best at.”
The collaborative spirit of the students in Act III resonated with Darago.
“Student groups are just completely a lesson in professionalism and patience while interacting with others,” Darago said. “Being able to respect each other and feed off each other’s energy – being able to learn from each other – is the most pleasant lesson you can take away from a student production.”
Darago is not new to the stage, but “A Chorus Line” will push her limits, she said. The premise of the musical centers on dancers auditioning for an intensive Broadway jazz production. She said auditionees wanted to throw up because the show is so athletic.
Darago will dance in the eight-minute-long opening number, the choreography of which has remained exactly the same since the musical’s first production, Darago said. Dancers will fill the stage and perform countless repetitions of kicks and leaps while the audition director shouts out steps and critiques.
“It’ll just be cool to be part of (a show) that has so much history, so much prestige,” Darago said. “I’m pretty sure I’m one of the youngest people in the cast, so it’s already very intimidating from that standpoint.”
Darago said the production will be much greater in scale than any show she’s ever performed in. She will face challenges in terms of adjusting to a highly professional acting job, she said.
“At school you’re still all students and all peers, and I’m always involved in multiple aspect of productions,” she said. “When you get casted in a professional production, performing is your only job.”
Yet Darago said she feels confident in her abilities, which she credited to her upper-division theater courses. She has seen a widespread growth in everything from her foundational dancing, acting and singing to specific mannerisms such as audition etiquette. She plans to pursue theatrical performance as a career in the future.
“To a certain extent if you’ve done your homework, your body knows what to do, your mouth will say the words you rehearsed because you’ve gone over it so many times,” Darago said. “If you start second-guessing yourself, you’re guaranteed to mess up.”