Renée Elise Goldsberry, actress, singer, and USC alumna, has become a beacon of success for the next generation of actors from USC to strive for.
Goldsberry was awarded the 2016 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performances as Angelica Schuyler Church in the Broadway musical Hamilton. On June 12th, 2016, she performed at the Tony Awards ceremony along with her fellow Hamilton ensemble at the Beacon Theatre in New York.
She has performed in the production since its inception, as she was cast in Hamilton’s off-Broadway debut in 2015. The show transferred to the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway in August of 2015, and has seen unprecedented commercial and artistic success. Along with her praiseworthy, award-winning castmates, Goldsberry was recognized with a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album for the cast recording of Hamilton. For Goldsberry’s performance, she also won a Drama Desk Award and a Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical.
For students like Sasha Bartol, a music composition major who serves as an artistic director for USC’s Musical Theatre Repertory, the opportunity to see Goldsberry perform was inspiring.
“I have been lucky enough to see Hamilton, and it was genuinely one of the most exciting theatrical experiences of my life,” Bartol said. “From the moment I walked through the doors, the energy was palpable, because everyone I was with was just as ecstatic to be there as I was.”
Goldsberry was born in San Jose, Calif., and raised in Houston and Detroit. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in acting from Carnegie Mellon University, she graduated from the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music, where she obtained a master’s degree in vocal jazz performance.
In 2002, Goldsberry made her Broadway debut as Nala in Disney’s The Lion King. From 2005-2006, she originated the role of Nettie in the Broadway adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Color Purple. In 2007, she played the role of Mimi Marquez in the final Broadway production of Rent.
She has also found great success in television and film, with recurring television roles on Ally McBeal, One Life to Live and The Good Wife. She also made an appearance in the comedic film Sisters, starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.
At the Tony awards ceremony, Goldsberry thanked her family and castmates, noting the collaborative effort. “When one of us win, we all win, because we are one.”
In her acceptance speech, she also expressed her gratitude for her family and theatrical opportunities.
“I have been praying my entire time to take the opportunity to say thank you to my parents who are here tonight, Ron and Betty … a lifetime of miracles one after another…the Lord gave me Benjamin and Brielle and he still gave me this,” Goldsberry said in her acceptance with her Tony held high.
Chris Sampson, USC Thornton School of Music vice dean of contemporary music, reminisced on his experiences watching Goldsberry perform at USC.
“Being a very highly accomplished musician — through her studies here — was just one of the skill sets that she was going to be able to leverage,” Sampson said.
Goldsberry performance in Hamilton includes songs such as, “Satisfied” and “The Schuyler Sisters,” exploring the relationship between two historical figures, Angelica Schuyler Church and Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton — the United States first Secretary of the Treasury — was married to Angelica Schuyler’s sister, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton.
“The thing about Renée’s career is that she is multitalented — that is what enables her to have the career she has,” Sampson said. “When I was observing her before, you can definitely tell she was an exceedingly charismatic performer. She really knew how to own a stage and be able to present very compelling performances.”
Sampson emphasized how musicians and young artists, especially in the Master’s program, progress and develop over time.
“At the time what we’re seeing with students is a work of progress,” Sampson said. “You’re actually seeing somebody start to assemble the skills that will end up resulting in a career, and you never know what the combination of those skills is going to turn out to be.”