MEET YOUR NEIGHBOR: Rowan Pelfrey, 17
Rowan Pelfrey is like a lot of other high school students who like to watch television shows and movies about gruesome crimes and hideous characters. But, while most are doing it for the shock value, Pelfrey is paying close attention for a far different reason – she is honestly intrigued.
It’s not the blood and the crimes themselves that keep her rapt attention. It’s why those things even exist that has Pelfrey so engaged.
“I just love the sociology and looking at how society can make people really, really messed up,” Pelfrey said. “I love the shows and movies that have a story behind them.”
She loves the stories so much, in fact, that the Seminole Ridge High valedictorian is planning to make a career learning every single thing she can about those stories.
Pelfrey, 17, is headed to the University of West Florida, where she plans to double major in musical theater and history. The goal, at least with a couple months left in her senior year of high school, is to become a dramaturge.
Dramaturgy is, basically, the intense study of every aspect of a particular theatrical show, including design, style, past performances, history and anything else related to that production.
“It is researching everything you possibly can about a production’s history and gaining intelligence about anything that’s ever been done,” Pelfrey said. Many of the bigger productions usually have one on staff. I would think there is one working at the Kravis Center and other places like that.”
Dramaturgy combines several of Pelfrey’s loves.
She began acting on stage when she was in elementary school and Seminole Ridge needed someone to play the roll of Molly in “Annie” who was actually smaller than the lead role of Annie. Pelfrey’s mother works at Seminole Ridge and suggested she fill in since she met the size requirement.
The theater career grew from there. And then it began to incorporate her other love – singing.
Pelfrey has been singing since she was 6, performing weekly with the Praise Team at Palms West Presbyterian and showcasing her skills at the Florida Vocal Association’s state competition.
A member of her school’s Chamber Choir, she has earned superior ratings each of the last three years at that competition and will compete in April in the Musical and Theater categories.
“I love performing,” Pelfrey said. “There are lots of things that I like to do, but I love to perform musicals because I get to sing and act at the same time.”
Pelfrey’s road to valedictorian wasn’t one she concentrated on from day one.
After her freshman year, she was ranked in the Top 20 in her class and thought Top 10 might be a pretty good goal. She took some dual enrollment classes her sophomore year and some more classes in the summer and found herself ranked No. 2.
“Then I said I said I was going to go for it,” Pelfrey said. “But it wasn’t going to interfere with theater or choir.”
During her junior and senior years, she took enough dual enrollment and AP courses that her 4.0 unweighted GPA ballooned into a 5.2 weighted score and she ran away with the top ranking in her class. When she enters West Florida, she will have already completed her associate’s degree.
“I’ve worked hard for this,” Pelfrey said. “I always push myself to do really well, but I didn’t expect to be No. 1 when I started high school. But I worked hard to get there.”
What are your hobbies?
I have a slightly morbid fascination with true crimes and serial killers. I love shows and movies that deal with subjects like that.
What would you do if you were invisible for a day?
I would do what anybody would do if they were invisible … prank people. Things like flick the lights on and off, turn on the TV, flush toilets. Just make people think they were haunted. I think that would be funny.
If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be?
William Shakespeare. He wrote so much in such a relatively short period of time. He was so prolific and profound and his work is still so genius. I really want to sit and ask him if he really wrote everything his name is on, because there is a lot of talk about other people doing some of the work.
What is the best advice you ever received?
My sophomore year, I was all over the place. I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up. I loved theater. Paleontology. Maybe be an archaeologist because I love history so much. But I don’t love science that much. There was too much for me that I could do and it was overwhelming. I sat down with one of my teachers and he told me “You are ready for whatever you’re going to do, but whatever you’re going to do isn’t ready for you. You need to be patient and wait until the time is right. You would rather be doing something you like rather than just something to get by”.
What event in history would you have liked to witnessed?
The British Invasion - when all those bands came over. I don’t know if girls have changed since then, but they were crazy back then. Maybe not the Shea Stadium show, but something like when the Beatles were on the Ed Sullivan Show, just to see the reaction. I love the Beatles and I’ve lived my whole life with two of them being gone. That’s sad.
What is your favorite childhood memory?
When I was in sixth or seventh grade, one of my brother’s friend’s sister passed away from a rare form of cancer. I was feeling super philanthropic at the time and I had made all this stuff, just random stuff, and I decided to sell. I only made, like, $160 or something like that and her family said to donate it to the Ronald McDonald House, but I just remember the feeling of spending the whole day selling things and doing something for someone else.
Who is your hero, someone who inspires you?
I have two. Carole King. She is just the most prolific songwriter in the second half of the 20th century. She is such a strong woman and wrote so much music and used her own experiences to write beautiful music. She wrote for so many other people and other things that we don’t even know. People like the Monkees and the Drifters. She wrote the “The Locomotion!” Someone who inspires me is Tim Curry. Even though he is usually cast in terrible movies, regardless of how terrible or unforgettable the role is, he puts his heart and soul into it and gives it his all.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I am super into “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” I have my own costume and a group of friends and we go to and put on performances. I have been to Comic Con to meet the people who were in it. If I really like something, I really like something. I’m not a complicated person, but I put a lot of effort into things I care about.
What three things would you bring with you if you were stuck on a desert island?
My dog, Charlie, because I wouldn’t want to be alone. A solar-powered air conditioning unit because I’m not about to sit there 365 days a year just sweating. And Kurt Vonnegut novels. He seems to make those dire situations really hilarious. I love reading his stuff. I think if I was reading “Slaughterhouse Five” and I was on a desert island, it would help me realize things could be worse.