School of Theatre, Film & Television

Musical theatre senior Lillie Langston has been named the Outstanding Senior for both the School of Theatre, Film & Television and the University of Arizona College of Fine Arts.

From an early age, Lillie Langston knew exactly what she was meant to do. “I never really remember a time when I wasn’t involved in it,” she said. “I would not be here today without the arts, without any form of the arts, but especially theatre.”

Langston grew up in Meridian, Mississippi, but quickly turned to home schooling to train in musical theatre in Atlanta, Georgia.

“My mom signed me up for a musical when I was about five years old and I never really looked back,” she said. “I guess the turning point for me wanting to do this as a career was when I was in the fourth grade, my grandmother took me to see Wicked on Broadway Tour and I was like ‘yeah, I’m doing that,’ I haven’t really had any doubts since.”

When the time came to apply for colleges, the University of Arizona was at the top of her list. 

“I love musical theatre, but Arizona is the perfect place because I love hiking, I love the outdoors, I love getting out and getting involved in Greek life and in so many clubs, so it was definitely the right choice for me in all of those aspects,” she said. 

Last year, Langston played Elle Woods in Arizona Repertory Theatre’s rendition of Legally Blonde.

“This is so cheesy and so corny, but Elle Woods changed my life. I never thought of myself as a leading lady let alone Elle Woods,” she said. “It really taught me that I can do so much more than I thought, it changed my perspective of what I am capable of as a performer and a person.” 

“This is so cheesy and so corny, but Elle Woods changed my life. I never thought of myself as a leading lady let alone Elle Woods,” she said. “It really taught me that I can do so much more than I thought, it changed my perspective of what I am capable of as a performer and a person.” 

Langston said the role pushed her to her limits as a performer and taught her leadership skills when having a leading role. Currently, she is one of five interns for Arizona Theatre Company; she’s playing Isabel in their holiday production of Scrooge. 

“We’re working with Shuler Hensley, who is a Tony Award winner, and he is a fantastic performer and human being, he’s playing our Scrooge and Matt August, he is a Broadway director, he’s directing it,” Langston said. 

The internship is offered to upperclassmen in the musical theatre department. She said the internship can count towards performance credit. The opportunity came up when Matt August arrived at musical theatre’s annual auditions for the new show season, offering internships to a few students. 

“It’s been a huge blessing to be a part of that and kind of transition into the real world,” she added. 

Sophia Scarsi, Brach Drew, John Henry Stamper and Lillie Langston traveled to Las Vegas as sophomores to perform during the Wildcat Vegas Takeover. Today, Brach Drew says, “Lillie Langston is the most disciplined and committed person I have ever met. She knows what she wants and will invest her energy into getting it. I’m personally inspired by her continued effort to hold unconditional positive regard for those she loves.”

After graduation, she has been auditioning for theatre companies all over the country for the summer and hopes to eventually move to New York City. 

“This career is so up and down and sideways and left and right and there’s so many things that I do want to do in my career. I want to be able to inspire people and change lives with live theatre and it doesn’t really matter to me where it is or what it is as long as my work is doing something good in the world.” 

Outside of school, Langston has another passion for giving back to the community. 

Act Up and Encountering Chekhov in Tornabene May 3, 2022. Photo by Madison Farwell / Arizona Athletics

“I grew up in the South. The South is a very tight-knit community. It was always modelled for me that the way that you show people that you love them is by giving back. I feel like if you have the resources to do so, why not.”

She has been a part of multiple community service opportunities for the university and for her sorority. However, most of her community service work has been for the arts.

“The arts can connect to people on such a visceral level that I don’t think anything else can,” she said. “I kind of had trouble moving about the world, but once music turned on or once there was dance or something that I could latch onto like that, the world was safe for me again and I think it’s so important that we keep the arts alive.”

One organization, Saguaro City Musical Theatre, helped her find a passion within a passion. Saguaro City Musical Theatre’s mission is to provide inclusive arts education for children ages seven to 17, tuition free. 

Langston was awarded the 2023 Start Up to Stardom award from Barbara Molotsky, who presented her with a certificate and check for $10,000. Molotsky, a long-time arts patron, founded the award to recognize and support outstanding Acting and Musical Theatre graduates. “I think Lillie has real potential for stardom, which is what the award is all about,” said Molotsky. “When she’s on stage, where I’ve seen her several times in various performances, she absolutely sparkles. You can’t take your eyes off her. I have a lot of faith in her and her success.”

“Getting these kids all in one room and teaching them about theatre was so healing for me but also you can tell that it was healing for them because a lot of these kids have never seen anybody different from them, but somehow a story about Horton the Elephant brings them all together,” she said. 

Langston performed Suessical with the group over the summer. She said Suessical helped teach friendship, loving one another despite having differences, and real-world skills such as working as a team and how to support one another when life becomes stressful. 

“As I graduate, I want to come back and help them in any way that I can. Maybe one day, I’d love to start something like that in my hometown,” she said. 

Lillie as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. Photo by Tim Fuller.

She said that within this field, you can get wrapped up in yourself and have self-doubt, but she said when you go into spaces that serve the community, it is an easy reminder that you are working for the common good.

“There’s been so many times that I wanted to quit, and I know that won’t stop…A lot of times yourself worth gets wrapped up in your career and it’s difficult for your career to also be your passion in a way, but knowing that there’s nothing else I want to do, it’s kind of like ‘okay, well you’re going to find a way through this, she said. 

“I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason, but I do believe that we can be in charge of how we react to things that happen and how we move forward.” 

With all her hard work and determination, she was awarded as the overall Outstanding Senior. She said that this is as much her award as it is for the faculty and staff that helped nurture her art and craft. 

As she is leaving the university, she left this piece of advice for incoming students going into the fine arts: 

“If you have an idea, create it. This is the space where there’s so many opportunities at the U of A, especially in the arts. If you want to create something, find a way to do it. This is the time to do those things, so create as much as you can.”