June 23, 2024

“Stages”: the life and career of Dr. Maryann Kyle

“So much of what we determine as success or failure is determined by our willingness to just walk through life and still continue to create art and not try to think about the outcome of it. That’s where it gets really beautiful.” said Dr. Maryann Kyle, freelance teacher, performer and visiting director of opera and musical theatre here at the university. 

As Kyle prepares for her next performance, a semi-autobiographical show featuring the music of Stephen Sondheim, she must take a look back at her life and career to create something not only inspiring for prospective performers, but that also resonates with her as an artist.

Through “Stages: My Journey with Stephen Sondheim,” Kyle seeks to help young performers.

“The interesting thing about this show is that young music students’ vision of their journey is like this: success or failure is pretty black and white in that lane at 21 years of age,” said Kyle. “That’s why they’re so hard on themselves because they’re like, ‘this is the only path and if I get outside this path it means failure.’ ” 

While the show has been previously performed at the Laurie Beechman Theatre in Manhattan, as well as Jackson, Mississippi through Opera Mississippi, the show’s next venue is Huntington Recital Hall March 22. 

“This show for me is like a dance,” said Kyle. “The process is fun, because the first show I did, we workshopped it three different times before we took it to New York, and so it’s always kind of been a calling stage of, you know, what do we want to do to refine it? So, this will be the third performance of this show.”

While Kyle is focused on creating a show that is unique to her and her story, she also wants it to feel relatable to the students watching. Her journey of her career, as told through Sondheim’s work, is also something that feels universal to the journey of growing into yourself.

“I’m also using music as a vehicle for telling stories,” said Kyle. “[Sondheim] is probably one of the most complex, beautiful storytellers, musically and in terms of his lyrics, and so, there is an emotional attachment to that not just tied to my personal relationship with the story, but then to be able to go through and workshop; creatively sort of taking things out and adding things in, that creative process for me at my age is very inspiring, because it keeps me curious and keeps me fascinated with the art form.”

Apart from the excitement of “Stages” being performed at Huntington Recital Hall, the addition of junior Baylee Richardson to the cast makes this production even more unique to the university. 

Richardson, a music education student and active performer within the Conservatory, plays a young Kyle as she first begins her career. 

Richardson is passionate about the power of performance, as well as the learning process it takes to be a performer. 

“It’s like I’m giddy, I’m excited to do something new and different and also to have, like I said, that honor to be performing alongside somebody who is so seasoned and so knowledgeable,” Richardson said. 

Richardson is also eager to perform for students like herself that wonder where their career will take them after school.

“I think it’ll make students think and be curious and like, inspired about the rest of their life and like what things they might experience just because a lot of the students in the Con[servatory], most of our majority, our population is under the age of 30,” Richardson said. “A lot of us have not experienced what somebody above the age of 30 has experienced, like there’s just like two sides of that coin. To sit there and see someone who we all admire and know at this present moment in time and see that she has had a whole life beyond this moment.”

Richardson is grateful for the opportunity to perform with Kyle, as well as reflective about her own future pursuits. “Stages,” while focused on Kyle’s life, could resonate with anyone unsure of where the future will take them.

“You admire them, and I think music students have this drive to immediately try to be exactly like somebody who is 40 years more experienced than them. It’s like, ‘I want to be there now,’ like the instant gratification of it. To know that this person didn’t always just have everything that you admire,  this person worked hard, this person went through things, this person experienced life well beyond what you know them as, is important,” Richardson said. 

The upcoming performance of “Stages: My Journey with Stephen Sondheim” will take place March 22 at 6 p.m. at Huntington Recital Hall. 


  • Megan Mitchell

    Megan is a second-year English Literature and History major. She is a Smooth Transitions mentor, an editor for ReCap, a student archives assistant at Blackmore Library, and a member of Film Club. In her free time she enjoys reading and watching movies.

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