“My Mom is in the Audience Tonight”

“My Mom is in the Audience Tonight”

My mother recently came to see me in a production of Bye Bye Birdie.  I had the opportunity to play the role of Harry MacAfee, the perplexed father of Kim and a role originated by Paul Lynde.  I got to sing “Kids!” and “Hymn for a Sunday Evening” (“Ed Sullivan”) and be bombastic and utterly ridiculous.

I’ve been doing community theatre for about 7 years, but this was the first time my mother made the trek from out of state to see me.  I knew that there was a strong chance she would make the trip, given that Bye Bye Birdie is one of her favorite musicals.  My mother is in her 70’s and travel is sometimes difficult for her.

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Meisner and Me: The Start Of A Journey

Meisner and Me: The Start Of A Journey

For the past few months, I have had the honor and privilege to attend a true, rigorous acting School. Being an out of state student (Chicago Pride all the way!) New York has given me a breath of fresh air and this school has given me a new outlook on acting. I'll never forget my first day of acting class, there I am clad In all black ready to take on whatever challenge I'm faced and ready to perform! Ideas running through my mind, scenes playing in my head! This was it! 

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Through Good and Bad, My Dad and I Always Had Theatre

Through Good and Bad, My Dad and I Always Had Theatre

The last show I saw with my father was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. It was an early October evening in 2014, and it was the first time I realized he was sick. He coughed all through dinner and the show, insisting it was just a cold, but his pallor and inability to focus indicated otherwise. He died of a rare cancer the day after Thanksgiving that year.

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Five Things Theatre Students Learn from a Devised Work

Five Things Theatre Students Learn from a Devised Work

Aspiring actors and theatre majors should not pass up the chance to work on a devised work. At Hope College, where I serve as professor and Director of Theatre, we have had the fortune of working on four devised works to date. Every single time, I’ve seen our students flourish and grow because of their experience with this type of theatre making.

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It's Time for a Tony for Best Ensemble

Last year Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 received the ninth annual "ACCA" Award for Outstanding Broadway Chorus. Presented by Equity's Advisory Committee on Chorus Affairs (ACCA), the ACCA Award is the only industry accolade of its kind to honor the distinctive talents and contributions made by the original chorus members of a Broadway musical.

Past winners include Past Broadway chorus recipients of the ACCA Award are Legally Blonde (2007), In the Heights (2008), West Side Story (2009), Fela! (2010), The Scottsboro Boys (2011), Newsies (2012), Pippin (2013) Beautiful (2014), An American in Paris (2015) and Shuffle Along, Or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed (2016).

Upon hearing this news, I was thrilled for the cast but it got me wondering, "why isn't there a Tony Award for this yet?"

Now before the Tony "purists" start in on me, let me make a couple things clear:

1. I don't think a Tony Award should become a participation ribbon.

2. I know there are some areas of theatre that would be near impossible to properly adjudicate, ie. Stage Manager. 

However, the overall performance of members in the ensemble is an area that certainly could be adjudicated as part of the Tony nomination process. From the performance of various roles, conciseness of choreography and harmonization, there is a lot to consider.

And it's not like entire casts or ensembles aren't awarded in other industries. In addition to the ACCA Award, the Screen Actor's Guild also awards entire casts of movies and television shows, even more so, they are the final awards of the ceremony. 

I'm not looking to add competition into the Broadway season, but it would be nice to truly recognize these incredibly hard-working performers with more than just a group performance during the telecast(or not, ahem Hello Dolly!). 

With all due respect to talent in the lead and featured roles, a quality performance from the ensemble is, in many cases, just as important. They are the bullets in Hamilton, Ozians in Wicked and the groundhog in Groundhog Day. These people play more roles in more performances for less money. And for far too many of them, this might be the only time they perform on these stages.  

I sincerely hope the Tony Awards truly step up and recognize these performers and etch their names in Tony history. 

UPDATE: Since I wrote this article last year, AEA has started a campaign to make this award a reality at the Tonys. The campaign is title . Everyone On Stage. More info is listed here. The idea? The title. If this happens, I'm taking credit for giving them the idea :)

Lying On Your Resume Never Works, So Why Are People Still Doing It?

Lying On Your Resume Never Works, So Why Are People Still Doing It?

Lying on your theatrical resume may have worked before the internet and social media, but it amazes me that today, people still do it. For such a small item, it's something that could get you cut from an audition more than your talent, because if you're dishonest about your experience, what else are you being dishonest about? How trustworthy are you if you were cast? Directors don't have time or patience to deal with these questions, so they'll cut you and move on. Even worse,  it's something that can ruin your reputation, which will never be repaired. 

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Cold Readings and Singing Should Be Encouraged More for Community Theatres

Cold Readings and Singing Should Be Encouraged More for Community Theatres

Last year I sat in on an audition for an upcoming community theatre production of Oklahoma. I was friends with the director and he wanted some feedback on how they run their auditions and organize their talent pools. 

As auditions began, something stood out to me. Depending on the role they were auditioning for, every man sang either "Kansas City" or "People Will Say We're in Love". Every woman who auditioned sang either "Out of My Dreams" or "The Farmer and the Cowman". There were even a couple of "I Can't Say No" and "Lonely Room" auditions thrown in as well. 

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Want To Make Your Community Theatre More Inclusive? Try Casting Different People

Want To Make Your Community Theatre More Inclusive? Try Casting Different People

I’ve had the pleasure of working with many wonderful community theatres over the past several years. We’ve worked on some excellent productions together, and I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. However, I’ve noticed that a few of these theatres I’ve worked with – as well as a few others whose shows I’ve seen as an audience member – had a small element of hypocrisy in what their mission supposedly was. Many of these theatres take pride in saying things such as “Here at [insert theatre’s name here] everyone has a chance to shine!” or “We want everyone to feel welcome here!” or “We help every star reach its full potential!”, just to give you a basic idea. Yet at these same theatres, which take pride in saying how inclusive and welcoming they are toward many people, I couldn’t help but notice something: Many of them also cast the exact same people in the lead roles of nearly every show that they do. 

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