Commencement 2019: URI Theatre star looks forward to bright future

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Emily Turtle.
Emily Turtle. URI photo by Nora Lewis

KINGSTON, R.I. — May 17, 2019 — Milestones, seminal moments, epiphanies—for many, the watershed moments of life map to getting a license, meeting a spouse, or having a child. For others, it’s a soundtrack.

Such is the story of University of Rhode Island senior and Barrington native Emily Turtle, who will receive her bachelor of fine arts degree Sunday, May 19 at the University of Rhode Island. One of her earliest memories involves belting out show tunes, specifically those from “The Phantom of the Opera.”

“I was 2 or 3 at the time,” Turtle says.

Turtle made her acting debut in her elementary school’s production of “The Christmas Star.” She was Twinkle Star, the youngest star in the constellation. High school musicals followed. At URI, Turtle’s star rose higher with lead roles in “Lady Windermere’s Fan” and “Mary Poppins,” for which she received rave reviews from local news outlets and a 2018 Motif Theatre Award for best female actor in a college or university production.

“You go through your acting classes and then get to transmit all of that information into your character,” Turtle said of playing Mary Poppins. “So then with ‘Mary Poppins,’ that was almost like a pinnacle of having been in musicals and having been in period shows and kind of combining everything that I learned.”

Following graduation, Turtle will direct the music for OUT LOUD Theatre’s production of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” OUT LOUD was founded by Kira Hawkridge ’12. Turtle, a vocal performance minor, composed music for URI’s production of “The Great Gatsby.” That Turtle’s first job out of school involves working for a fellow alum is not unusual. Hawkridge directed Turtle in URI’s fall production “Women and War,” and Turtle composed the music for that production as well.

“There’s a sense of family in the theater department, and it definitely opens doors,” Turtle said. “Everyone cares about the program and the students. It’s a great place to study.

“You get to put to work what you learn in the classroom,” she said.

Eventually, Turtle would like to go to graduate school and continue her study of acting, theater management, and music. In the meantime, she’ll be auditioning for roles locally, building her acting resume.

“I have so much better understanding of the craft, and I have the desire to learn even more,” Turtle said. “I know I’m headed in the right direction.”