A week of Broadway shows and masterclasses with professional actors was life-changing for musical theatre major Facia Lee.
Lee was one of 20 students who went on a theatre tour of New York City over spring break during the first week of March. Dana White ’14, assistant professor of theatre, coordinated the experience. Students took masterclasses with actor Timothy Hughes of “Hadestown,” Brian Gonzales of “Aladdin” and Sean Montgomery of “Beetlejuice.” They toured Radio City Music Hall, took a historic Broadway walking tour and saw multiple Broadway performances.
Some students also met alumni at a PBA Alumni Association reception that coincided with their visit.
For many students, it was their first time in New York or to take in a Broadway show, White said. Both were true for Lee.
“It was a really life-changing experience,” Lee said. “It reminded me of the beauty of theatre. It reminded me why I do what I do.”
“Hadestown” was a highlight for Lee, who was cast to play Sandra Bloom and the witch in PBA Theatre’s production of “Big Fish.” “Hadestown” won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It’s a retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, where Orpheus goes to the underworld to rescue his fiancée Eurydice.
“It was probably the best spectacle I’ve ever seen,” Lee said. “They were so deeply rooted in their characters. It broke so many boundaries of what theatre is.”
Hughes, a standout member of the “Hadestown” ensemble, taught a masterclass on movement, during which students learned choreography from the show. Hughes was very encouraging, said junior musical theatre major David Bunting.
“It was a great time to learn your craft better and be confident,” Bunting said.
In an acting masterclass, students rehearsed scenes from the Broadway version of “Beetlejuice.” It strengthened their ability to do cold reads, auditions where the actor has next to nothing memorized and is largely unfamiliar with the script.
“It was a time to learn how to take some risks,” said Bunting, who played Peter Shaw in PBA Theatre’s recent stage play “Silent Sky” and the Cowardly Lion in the musical “The Wizard of Oz.”
Gonzales, of the “Aladdin” cast, spoke to students about life in the theatre business and the importance of having a life outside of work.
In addition to “Hadestown” students saw “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” “Chicago,” “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.” They watched one show every day of the trip, and two shows on some days.
The stage adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Harper Lee’s beloved classic, was Bunting’s favorite.
“In this time where we are politically divided, the show provided a beautiful message of the need for unity and love for all people,” Bunting said. “It was nice to see a story that I had read in high school come to life on stage.”
Lee said she was impressed with how thoughtfully-organized the trip was, and Bunting expressed gratitude to White for coordinating it.
“I would like to praise the Theatre Department for making this happen,” he said. “It was a great time to learn about myself, to learn about my future and to spend time with friends.”
Photo 1: Twenty theatre students went on a New York City theatre tour at the beginning of March. They saw Broadway shows every day and took masterclasses with professional actors, including Timothy Hughes, in blue, of the "Hadestown" ensemble.
Photo 2: PBA Theatre students practice on the barre bar during a tour of Radio City Music Hall. They toured Broadway, took masterclasses and watched at least one show every day on a trip to New York City at the beginning of March.