Friday, March 30, 2012
Musical Theatre Heads to New York
by Gillian Ellis
Every spring, the seniors in the Musical Theatre program take a trip to New York . . .
We’ll let program director Associate Professor Fred Love explain: “The Senior Showcase is a very important final step in the education of [our] students. On March 3, with the generous support of the Office of the President and Provost, we sent 13 seniors to the Mint Theatre in New York to audition for casting directors and agents. Think of the Showcase presentation as a glimpse into a very important part of the professional stage and film industry – the audition. Each student had only two minutes to "showcase" his/her abilities: a short monologue or song showing the artist’s versatility in acting and singing styles, movement ability, and other talents unique to the individual.
“By pooling our theatre network connections [with Western Michigan University] we were able to perform both of our showcases at 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. to full houses. And I am proud to announce that each of our 2012 graduating seniors received multiple callbacks from agents and casting directors.”
We asked the students themselves for their impressions of this potential jump-start for their careers. Lauren Knox wrote, “Having the opportunity to perform for a room full of casting directors and agents was pretty incredible. I am so thankful for the hard work and coordination between Fred Love, Jay Berkow from WMU and Shorey Walker from the Actors Connection in New York who made our showcase possible. And to the dean and those at OU who approved our proposal. Aside from performing, I loved being surrounded by so much life! It truly is the city that never sleeps. The resources provided by the Actors Connection were invaluable. They made the thought of living and working as an actor/artist in New York, much less daunting. I was encouraged by the feedback and inside advice from the working professionals that they connected us with - truly tailored to us for the stage we're all in right now in our careers. I also got to see some amazing shows. I saw Seminar with Alan Rickman, The Phantom of the Opera -which I had never seen before, and even Mozart's Don Giovanni at the MET! And it was fun to navigate through the city and the subway. We knew the addresses of where we had to be, but it was our responsibility to figure out how to get there and to be early. And once we had that down, there was no stopping us from searching out the best pizzerias and bakeries New York had to offer.”
Some of the students also drove out to East Hampton to visit Grey Gardens, the home of the Beale family and the setting for OU’s March musical production. Susanna Allen wrote that she had, “never been prouder of my classmates and our department than when performing our Senior Showcase. Performing for agents brought out the best in everyone. We were all so honored when every one of us was asked to be seen by an agent. It was my first time being in the city and I was surprised by how at home I felt. I didn't want to come home! A highlight was definitely our trip to historic Grey Gardens. Talk about a once in a lifetime opportunity! It was the best research we could have ever done. You could feel the energy of those two staunch women. I will hold that wonderful week in New York close to my heart for years to come.”
Abigail Alexander was immediately “ smitten. In addition to the honor of being able to perform, I was able to see Once, Rock of Ages, and War Horse. I left each theatre feeling inspired, and honored to call acting my craft. The trip yielded many meetings with agents, and some amazing workshops to boot. For five days, we ate the best food in the world, hung out with the best people, and saw some of the most impressive, stunning, and remarkable theatre in the world. It was an absolute honor to be part of such an adventure, and I cannot wait to make New York City my home this coming September!”
Rachel Dalton remembers the days going by “in a complete blur. We were so busy, however, we got to eat in a lot of small little cafes in the area as well as the giant Olive Garden in Times Square. Each of us had a least one agent interested in us, and many of us had to spend our last two days in New York running around to various appointments with agents. On Wednesday, I had the tremendous opportunity to visit the real Grey Gardens in East Hampton. (I'm currently playing one of the young Little Edies in Oakland's production.) It was truly one of the standouts of the trip and I cannot describe how lucky and floored I was to be in the house where the women lived. It has only made my performance better and more honest. Following Showcase, we got to do three great workshops with casting agents and actors in the area, and made a lot of really great connections. I myself have recently been in contact with the woman who is casting the national tour of Beauty and the Beast and will be returning to New York in May to audition for Belle.”
Ashley Rozanski has made frequent trips to New York, “but being together with the MT senior class and professors, performing in NY for agents, managers, casting directors, friends, and family was definitely something I will never forget. Pretty soon many of us will be moving out of Michigan, and many of us to New York, so it was great to get just a taste of what that would be like. I am very proud of our class this year. Many of us, myself included, have had contact with people since being home from New York as well as having met, auditioned and/or interviewed with them while we were still in the city. This has opened up a lot of very exciting opportunities for our senior class and I know I do not only speak for just myself when I say that the MT class of 2012 will be proud to call themselves Oakland University alumni, in whichever city our future takes us. "
Allie McCaw sums up the experience of the trip and looks forward to the future. “Our showcase trip was certainly one of the most exciting trips I've had! The best part was that afterwards, every single one of us got at least one follow-up request (something that is pretty unprecedented). I felt so proud of us, and so thankful for the training we received at OU that no doubt caused such a commotion with the agents and casting directors. Being in NYC made me feel strangely calm and ready to move, and being there with the friends I plan to live with there made it feel like home. We accomplished a lot just on our own - figured out the subway system, located the best slice of pizza (we tried about five places total) and even talked to a leasing agent in a luxury apartment building (okay, so maybe for that we were just having fun). The icing on the cake for me this trip was our visit to Grey Gardens, of course. I felt so inspired getting to be in the Beales' home, and I feel that those of us who attended were able to translate some of that inspiration into what we do on stage.
“It was a whirlwind trip but made me feel that life as a NYC actor is coming, and fast! I look forward to moving around September, and I'm glad that when I go I have some agents to contact, know how to work the subway, and know where the best slice of pizza is.”
The showcase as an adventure is done, but for all our soon-to-be-graduates, whether in music, theatre or dance, a new adventure is about to unfold, and we advise them all to hold on tight and enjoy the ride.
Photo: Elizabeth Fritsch (left) and Ashley Rozanski in Times Square. Photo by Chris Rozanski.