Alumni Spotlight: Summer Priest

Summer graduated from BA (Hons) Musical Theatre in 2022, having previously completed a Foundation course at Mountview. Just months after her final classes, Summer has opened in the cast of Get Up Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical at the Lyric Theatre in London’s West End. We recently caught up with Summer to talk about her time in training and what it’s been like to transition into a professional musical.

Photo by Samuel Black

How did you get into acting? 

I find that to be a really hard question, because as a child, I was born on an adventure playground. I’m always doing random stuff. I love animals, so I would do a lot of mimicking animals sounds and stuff like that, and I just enjoyed performing. My mum put me into performing arts schools from the age of seven, and then I’ve just been acting. I have always been scared of acting, the idea of speaking out loud and everyone watching you. That freaks me out! I came to Mountview, and I found very quickly that acting is the fundamental of everything. I would say, its more that I started to grow to love acting, rather than “that’s what I’ve always wanted to do”.  

Why did you choose Mountview? 

I was at college, and I didn’t really know where to audition. I think it was my school teacher who said “Oh just go these drama schools” and I was like, “I don’t know anything about drama schools”. When I went there, I was just like “Rahh, this is a whole different playing field.” It got me excited! I didn’t know what I was walking into, so I was like “let’s just go and see what happens”. I went to the audition, and saw Eddie (Head of Short Courses). We thought that Foundation would be the better course for me, so I could hone those skills a bit. Even then, I was so scared, because we went into the new building as well, so it was a whole different environment. But after a while, you kind of get used to Mountview; what are the flavours there. It’s really hard to explain, because I feel like I was very scared, but then I just started to love it, because of the people. When you find your click of friends, it does help the process. Then finally, I got on to the three-year course – I was like, “yeah, this is the place to be”.  

Any highlights from your training? 

Company | photo by Cesare De Giglio

Third year! Well actually, let’s be real. During first year, Covid hit us! We were zooming from the middle of first year, all the way through second year. It is a highlight though, seeing the progress from being on Zoom, to then going into Les Mis for the first production. I do feel like Zoom helped me sometimes. At home, I am very comfortable with the singing, the acting and the dance. Sometimes at Mountview, I did get a little bit nervous in class, so I felt like I brought that confidence with me when I was going through Les Mis, in Company and doing Legally Blonde. Going through such extremes – I just love that personally. It gives me less time to think, I have to just do instead.  

How did the scholarship support you received for your Foundation course make a difference? 

It really did make a difference. My mum was made redundant, so we were doing everything we could to get funding for schools. I got onto the Part Time [Foundation] first and I was like, “right, let’s start doing everything that I can to get onto the course”, as I really wanted it. Then Eddie rang me and said that he was going to give me the scholarship. I was like, “yeah let’s do it!”  

Travel expenses are really hard sometimes! So having that support helped. Obviously, food is very important, because you’re doing so much and you’ve got to keep going, you’ve got to eat! So having that extra help with everything really did support my whole year, especially because I was so new to the environment. It guided me really well and I am really appreciative of that.  

How are you finding professional auditions? 

You know what? I absolutely love it! I’ve got to be real with you, there’s something about going into an audition room and not knowing what’s going to happen. As in, I’ve got my material and I am ready and set to go, but meeting new people and trying to build those connections – I really do enjoy it. I feel like Mountview really did prep us for that. They made sure that we knew everything about everything. I feel like it’s not competitive, it’s more like showing off what you love doing, so I’m all for that. 

How did you feel when you were cast in Get up Stand up The Musical 

Get Up Stand Up The Musical

I think I was on the sofa, or watching a TV series. My agent called me and when he told me, my mum was screaming! Obviously, I was screaming inside, but I had to hold my excitement. It’s one of those things though, where you have been waiting so long to hear back, and when he called me, I was just like *sigh of relief*. That settlement, like “Woo!” I’ve done it!”  

I’m a swing, so I’ve got a lot of different tracks. It was difficult doing rehearsals for four weeks, learning all these different things. But having that unit there – these lot are my family now. It sounds really cheesy, but honest, when you’re put into such an intense environment, you just click.

It was a magical experience, I’ve never really experienced such intensity, being thrown into the deep end. I didn’t know how I would react, but I think I have done pretty ok! Well, I feel like with the help of my colleagues it’s been such a good experience. The musical Get Up Stand Up, I cannot tell you, it is beautiful. The energy the audience gives you, and your cast mates, it’s hot! Every time I go on that stage, everyone knows that I am on it, I’m on fire, because it hits differently. The music, the story, the love! I get so happy talking about it. When you’re on a production and it connects with you both culture-wise and just a part of the world – I think it’s amazing.  

What were you, or are you, most looking forward to as part of the cast?

What I was most looking forward to was the music. Everyone knows Bob Marley and his music. But to actually go into depth of why he is singing these songs, and the reasons behind it, it’s a whole different ball game. That why I said before that it hits different, because I now understand why he’s singing it and the actual struggles that all of us are going through. Like it’s a different level. I just – I really love it.. What am I still looking forward to? I guess for all my swings to be on, so we can all be together, and just do what we love doing. 

What advice would you give people applying to drama school? 

Les Miserables | photo by Marc Brenner

I would say, know your material. I think your material is really important. I’ve learnt that from Mountview as well, knowing what you feel like you’re good at. When you feel you sing a song and you’re like, “I can rock that” it shows your love and connection for the character. Just keep honing what you are and what you can bring, but also be open minded to different things. In the beginning, I was trying to fit in to a lot of things, but then I was like “no!” I should be thinking “What makes me unique?” that I can bring to different productions and use and help others. I think people need to be open-minded, but also have respect for themselves and know what makes them beautiful.  

What would be your dream project or role? 

I would love to be seen as an actress. I feel that the beauty of being an actor is that you can fit into anything. So, if you see me as this character, then see me as that character, then I’ve done my job. But obviously on a secret note, fantasy-wise, Marvel and DC! But, if I had to say anything, I’d like to do any role. Legit musical, contemporary musical… Anything! Because I don’t want to be type-cast into a role. I want to be known as someone who can play anything.  

Find out more about Foundation and Undergraduate Musical Theatre training at Mountview.