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From Booker T. to Juilliard

Michael McGee | 5/9/2014, 8:37 p.m.
“From the time that she was really little, she’s always been theatrical,” explained Wade Crowder, the father of 17-year-old Alicia.
Alicia Crowder and her father, Wade, relax outside the Montgomery Arts Theater where Alicia has performed in the past. Mike McGee

The Dallas Examiner

“From the time that she was really little, she’s always been theatrical,” explained Wade Crowder, the father of 17-year-old Alicia. “When’s she’d wake up in the morning, even before I saw her, I would hear her singing a lot of times, and she communicated in ways that were more theatrical than your normal child, I guess. So that encouraged me. I’ve worked in DISD for 26 years, so I’ve always been aware of the performing arts here. I thought it would be a perfect fit for her.”

Alicia, who graduates June 3, is one of five students from the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts who have been accepted into the Juilliard School, the performing arts institute located at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in Manhattan. Three of five are African American.

Alicia, who will study drama, said she has been involved with stage performance since the sixth grade, going back to her time at Austin Academy for Excellence in Garland. There, she participated in UIL competitions and student theatrical productions.

“And then my dad really encouraged me to audition at Booker T.,” she noted.

Once accepted, that first audition would be just one of many in her time at the Dallas institution. She has performed in three musicals with The Black Academy of Arts and Letters, a summer production with The Junior Players, and numerous student plays. When it was time to apply for Juilliard, Alicia’s audition experience came in handy.

“I really like drama, and I also like Shakespeare a lot,” she said as she discussed her favorite theatrical genres. She confessed one work that especially stood out for her was a play about date rape called Rock Candy, written by her friend Gabi Greenfield. “That really affected me. It was very powerful and the experience of doing that show, and working on it, helped me a lot, I think.”

The trip from Garland to Broadway hasn’t been without its challenges, father and daughter admitted. In the fall of 2013 there were 2,854 undergraduate applicants to the College Division of Juilliard, according to the school’s website. Of that number, less than 192 applicants, 6.7 percent, made the final cut. Alicia put the acceptance number in a more personal perspective.

“Oh, it’s the whole world,” she remarked about the field of talent that she was competing against. “Eighteen [accepted] for the theater – and half of those are graduate students, and then another half are men. I’m like one of four or five undergraduate women. Yeah, so, it’s crazy.”

It was a complex road for Alicia to get where she is. She talked about the online applications she had to fill out and the essay that she had to submit – the usual hoops one jumps through to get into college. Yet the process didn’t end there for her. She had to go through an audition in Chicago, she revealed. Out of a field of thirty contenders, only Alicia and one other applicant got called back for another audition. A week or two later, she was notified that she had made the final call back. That led to three full days of classes at Juilliard and the final audition, all in New York City. She nailed the tryout with a monologue from A Raisin in the Sun.