Olivia Pelton, Brenau Scholar

Brenau Scholar Olivia Pelton

From the moment you meet Olivia Pelton, with her golden Rapunzel hair and delicate cat-eye makeup, you might imagine she is straight out of a Disney fairy-tale musical. It’s no surprise, then, that she started her own business at age 14 called Party Princess, in which she dressed up as Disney princesses to attend community events and birthday parties in her native Milledgeville, Georgia, to entertain children. While being a real-life princess isn’t an option, becoming a theater star is the next best thing, and she is excited that Brenau is helping prepare her to chase her dream.

Thanks to her mother, who was the dance director at Georgia College, where her father was also associate vice president, Pelton studied pointe ballet and tap dancing at 2 and hip-hop dance at 11. At six she started classic and opera voice lessons with her grandmother, but later switched genres to musical theater, singing at Baldwin High School. But there was one particular moment where she knew she wanted to become a theatrical triple-threat.

“My parents always showed me classical musicals, like The Sound of Music and Carousel,” she says. “I remember watching the 2004 Phantom of the Opera film and fell in love with it. I knew then I didn’t want to only dance; I wanted to sing, act and make music as beautiful as that.”

When preparing for college, Pelton auditioned for 14 colleges for her musical theater major before she narrowed it down to Belmont University or Brenau. A theater professor at Georgia College, Karen Berman, with whom Pelton had worked on a production of the musical Chicago, guided her to go to Brenau citing the Gainesville Theatre Alliance’s reputation and professionalism.

Aspiring to be a Broadway playwright, Pelton is also pursuing a creative writing minor. Georgia College writing professor Elaine Whitaker helped teach her how to write narratives and short stories, but she is really looking forward to learning playwriting at Brenau.

“I particularly love dramas,” she says. “I love the fact you can experience something very emotional and deeper and intellectual on a personal level for the stage, and have that connect with the audience. If you can change an audience member and let them leave the theater altered by your work, it’s phenomenal, so I’d love to create an insightful drama that lets the audience walk away with something new in mind.”

Pelton was selected as the 2017 Distinguished Young Woman of Georgia (formerly known as Junior Miss), a program that positively encourages young women to be leaders and be their best selves. She won at both the local and state levels, and went to nationals last summer. She has also been involved with the Youth Enrichment Services (YES) Program, Kids University of Georgia College, and Girls Incorporated in Atlanta to name a few, contributing her time to work with kids with cerebral palsy, with the elderly, and at the veteran’s home in Milledgeville.

“Being able to perform for kids is just one part; being able to encourage kids to be their best selves is another huge part,” she says. “I hope to bring those same values and experiences with me to Brenau to help my peers as well.”

In her first semester at Brenau, Pelton joined Phi Mu sorority and was cast in the role of Sheila in GTA’s production of Crazy for You in November. Her ultimate goal is to work in summer stock theaters, go on national tours, and, naturally, perform on Broadway.

“I spent so much time in high school studying and working, and constantly doing what I love while sacrificing social experiences. But it’s all paid off in a way that will let me pursue what I want to pursue.”

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