The most stand-out of these opportunities for me are the weekly master classes Rider provides for the musical theatre majors. The first one this past week was a lecture and Q&A with Casey Nicholaw, Now for those of you who don't know who that is he is a director and choreographer known for Something Rotten, Book of Mormon, and many more including the upcoming Tuck Everlasting the Musical. It was really inspiring to hear the story of his journey from performer to choreographer, and eventually director. His advice was filled with encouraging reminders that the only way to be successful in this business is to be true to who you are. As a casting director he says, "I want to see who you are. Don't beat yourself up about an audition, it's wasted energy. When you walk in we think right for the part or not and then we listen." Unfortunately, so much of the performing world revolves around how you look, but presenting a good and truthful audition will result in jobs, even if you aren't right for the role or show you are currently auditioning for. It is deprecating to be told you are not right for something, but in the end art comes from a deeper place than what we look like. For me in particular, it was amazing to listen to Casey talk about choreography. He breathes an idea the way I do. I have had concepts for this year's recital swirling in my brain since before the last one. It gives me hope that my passion, which seems so similar to his, is enough to get me where I want to be when it is partnered with hard work and patience.
The second guest artist we had this week was Thayne Jasperson. He is currently a part of the Hamilton cast, but is a Newsies veteran, a dancer in High School musical, and a participant on So You Think You Can Dance. He taught a master class with Hamilton choreography along with his own original choreography. Now I'm gonna be honest hip hop is not my forte, but it was really fantastic to work some new material and just be a part of such an energetic class. We all had so much fun with the quirky mash up between urban and revolutionary styles in dance. He was a blast as a teacher, and really complimentary of the Rider students.
This week the American Reperatory Ballet, based in New Jersey, came to Rider and performed. One of the pieces was even choreographed by my teacher Mary Barton, and another by her husband, Douglas Martin. Miss Mary's piece was absolutely jubilant. Under the name, "Straight Up with a Twist," Mary chose Indian inspired music that gave a Bollywood feel to her movement. With times of promiscuity and curiosity, as well as joyful exuberance the piece perfectly matched Mary's passionate and fiery soul. My favorite piece of the night would have to be Douglas's piece. Under the name "Ephemeral Possessions" with an underscore of Samuel Barber's Adagio for strings, the piece certainly pulled at the audience's heart strings. The contemporary movement influenced by clocks and pendulums emphasized the limited amount of time one has with their lover. The intensity of the piece was bewitching and inspired me to choreograph immediately. Although I grew up to mostly ballet, tap, and jazz, the power of both modern and contemporary dance has become quite apparent to me in the past few years. With these newer styles, dancers are becoming story tellers much like actors. The influence a dancer can have over one's soul is just as significant as an actor's skill. I challenge all of my dancer's to be better story tellers in their artistry and to see what sort of impact you can have on an audience member.
This Sunday was certainly one of the best days I have spent at Rider. For starters, I volunteered at The Broadway Flea Market and ran errands for those in charge. I was able to do this through the fraternity I joined: Alpha Psi Omega.The fraternity is co-ed-hence the label fraternity- and is an outlet for Fine and Performing Arts majors to conduct community service. Thus far it has mostly been mixers and meetings, but it is an awesome opportunity to get to know the upper classmen better and has absolutely made me feel more a part of the community here. The opportunity to work at a Broadway run event was spectacular. I met Beth Malone, Tony-nominated actress for Fun Home, and snapped a picture with her and some friends. Along with interacting with many working professionals and chatting about the business. Not to mention the incredible shopping! An original Broadway Ariel tale was on sale for $700!! Don't worry I didn't buy it, but geeze I was tempted. Personally, I settled for a vintage sweatshirt from the original 42nd Street production, because who doesn't love vintage? After such a fun-filled morning, a few of my friends and I attended the matinees of Spring Awakening. For those of you who don't know, Spring Awakening has been reimagined to include actors who are deaf; as well as the first disabled actor, restricted to a wheel chair, to perform on Broadway. The cast is full of familiar faces including Marlee Matlin (ABC Family's Switch at Birth), Andy Mientus (Smash), Krysta Rodriguez (Smash, The Addams Family Musical), and many others! With such an all-star cast and a fascinating take on a classic musical the show was destined to be good. However, the beauty that took place on that stage is indescribable. Two of the main three characters are deaf in this production. With musicians who sing and speak for the deaf characters when necessary the show combines both the spoken English language with American Sign Language. The silence of these character's is chilling. At one moment a fight took place between parent and child using only ASL until the parent screamed in frustration, an intensely intimate moment to share with the audience. The flow of the show along with incredible tableaux provided a beauty unlike any production I have seen before. The technology aspect of the performance took everything to an entirely new level. I won't ruin important plot developments for you, but I have never been so moved by a single light change. The performance of the actor's who are deaf was inspiring. Providing an entire story with no vocalized words seems excessively demanding to me, and yet each actor did so flawlessly. The true lead of the show, Melchior played by Austin P. Mackenzie, was the true break out artist for me. While we has able to sing and speak his own lines, his communication with the deaf characters was impossibly effortless. He broke my heart over and over again with his modernized thinking, for the time period of the show, and ability to accurately humanize each character. He was truly exquisite in his performance. The show brilliantly got each audience member to consider the importance of being truthful with children. To forcefully shelter a child often results in naivety that increases the difficulty of transitioning into the adult world. The thematic components of the show really touched me as I am transitioning from child to adulthood. I think above all it is important to be honest that our world is not all rainbows. There are so many hardships people are enduring right this second and we cannot turn a blind eye to them. I hope that in my future and even my present I am able to ease the pain of those hardships with art. I think one of the few untouchable parts of our society lies within the theatre. While theatre often exposes real world issues, it always brings optimism to make changes.
My evening wound down with a trip to one of the best restaurants in New York, 5 Napkin Burger, as well as Schmackery's cookies! With so many friends along for the ride I'm really beginning to feel settled here. I can't tell you how many times I wonder "How did this become my life? Why was I blessed with all of these glorious opportunities?" I'm not sure what made me so lucky, but I know that I will spend each day here giving my all to earn what I have already received. I have never worked so hard in my life, and yet I have never been so overjoyed by my craft. As always, I am missing you like crazy.
Tu Me Manques, McKenna