You may know Erin McNally ’02 (B.A. theatre arts) from her appearances at CSUF’s Concert Under the Stars, performances at the Hollywood Bowl or sold-out shows at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. This summer, she’s busy doing musical theater at South Coast Repertory, co-directing its Summer Players’ production of “Seussical” and teaching musical theater classes.
McNally will come back to alma mater yet again for a Saturday, June 23, performance at Meng Concert Hall — an eclectic repertoire of jazz, pop and crowd favorites — benefitting CSUF performing arts students. The proud alumna shares memories of her time at the university and why she gives back.
Was there a particular experience that helped you shape your trajectory at Cal State Fullerton?
There were so many, but the one that really started something for me was my senior cabaret. I wanted to shake things up and not do the usual clever theme with costumes and such. Instead, I chose to do a more intimate show and tell my personal story. It was cathartic. And it really lit the fire for my particular kind of concert performance: a hybrid of cabaret and traditional concert. It’s never just about pretty music. It also must be strongly rooted in storytelling. That all began in class at CSUF.
What makes you want to give back to your alma mater?
One of my mantras in life is: “Be the kind of person you needed when you were younger.” There is such a feeling of family in our Titan community. This school is where I not only learned so much about my craft and work ethic, but I really felt validated and accepted for who I am.
The best part of coming back to perform at CSUF is interacting with the current students! I love getting to talk to them, hear their stories and encourage them to keep reaching higher. No matter how long ago you graduate, being at the school and around these amazing young performers makes me remember what it felt like to be in their shoes. It’s why being a part of this concert means the world to me.
What has been your most memorable experience as a performer?
Hands down, as a CSUF student, the most memorable experience was traveling to Barcelona, Spain, with the award-winning student musical “All That He Was” when it was chosen to represent the U.S. in the Humana Theatre Festival. The majority of the audience didn’t speak English, and yet at the emotional conclusion of the show, the crowd was in tears, sharing the journey with us. It reminds me how theater transcends language to unite us in love and humanity. It’s an honor to be a part of this glorious community.
What should audiences look forward to in the June 23 concert?
When you’re in my audience, I treat you like a dear friend. We laugh together, we cry together and we do it all through some fabulous music. Beautiful standards, stirring musical theater, hilarious comedy songs and, of course, a certain delicious food medley!
What advice do you have for those studying theatre arts at CSUF?
Work hard! Soak up everything you can about every genre and style of theater. Take every opportunity you can to grow: shows, directing scenes, one-acts … there are so many great ways to get involved and meet new people. Also, remember to take care of each other along the way!
Tickets to the concert are available online.