One "Wicked" Day at BGSU
BGSU students hear firsthand about inspiring, challenging reality of Broadway
By Devan Costello-Mays
When people hear the word "Broadway," many probably assume that the glamorous life on stage translates into the personal lives of the actors and performers. Recently, cast members of the national tour of the musical "Wicked" visited Bowling Green State University and spent the day teaching master classes to theater and dance students, and also spoke about the ever-changing realties of Broadway.
David Nathan Perlow, a lead member of the cast who portrays the character Fiyero; Ryan Jackson, a swing cast performer and dancer; and Justin Wirick, an acrobat and dancer in the production, all agreed that, in their experience, master classes with visiting artists have a large impact on students and their education, but not simply because of the instruction - visiting artists offer invaluable insight into life on the stage, they said.
"The industry is always changing with time and it's really good to give students relevant adjustments for what is currently happening," Perlow said.
But some lessons are basic and constant, the performers said.
"The most important thing to know about the business is to enjoy your craft," Jackson said. "For example, you are going to hear 'no' a lot and you have to learn to let it roll off your back and keep going." To be in the business of Broadway as a performer, he told the students, "you have to be in love with your craft: the auditioning, the singing, and long rehearsals."
As an artist and performer, hearing the word "no" at auditions can be discouraging and at times difficult to work through, the students heard. To make it in the industry and hold onto your identity as an artist, you need your own personal toolbox for dealing with the rejection.
"You have to be in love with your craft: the auditioning, the singing, and long rehearsals."Wirick's approach to dealing with rejection as an artist is to "seek out every performance opportunity possible, whether it is paid or not. You can use those opportunities as a way to reset, as an artist, and try to figure out why certain things were not working for you on stage or in the audition room."
Auditions can be a scary prospect for artists because they are making themselves vulnerable to criticism about an art form they live and breathe every day. At auditions, stage fright can be a serious impediment to performance. Jackson believes that "repetition is key. A lot of the times it is one of those things that you have to fake it till you make it. Once you start to have fun with it and have friends in the audition room, auditions start to feel like class because you know more people. You also start to encourage your friends, see who has great style and you end up trying to one-up each other."
Another aspect of stage life that many do not consider is all the traveling and behind-the-scenes work that has to happen in order to make a show seem effortless and extravagant. "When you are touring, you are in hotels, away from home, and it is the same as saying 'I am away on business,'" Perlow said. As a Broadway performer, "you just happen to be lucky enough that there are people that clap for you at the end of the show every night, which makes it worth it."
Morgan Melchert, a senior, and Kelly Schmit, a junior, are both dance majors at BGSU. Melchert said that the master class experience "was really cool. I like that Ryan focused on self-confidence and really selling it rather than the knowing choreography, because that's one of my weaknesses. It helped me bring out my self-confidence, and I love the way he taught and really got us involved and excited."
"Find something that makes you different and better than everyone else in the room."Schmit's take-away from the master class experience with "Wicked" was "learning how auditioning is so much different than the classroom setting. But being in the classroom should always be like and audition, and remembering that throughout the classes that I take would make me a better dancer and professional."
The cast members also advised that "there will always be someone who is taller, prettier, better looking, or fits the character better than you, but find something that makes you different and better than everyone else in the room."
As part of the master class event, the cast also provided signed copies of "Wicked" production posters for the benefit of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids, a nonprofit organization that raises money for essential services for people with AIDS by drawing upon the talents and generosity of the American theater community.
A great deal of learning takes place for both the students and visiting artists in master classes, the "Wicked" cast members said.
"I always learn from students who I am working with," Perlow said. "The students remind me of things that I still need to work on as an actor during my performances and it reinvigorates my love for performing."
(Posted September 4, 2013 )