March 7, 2018
Cowley theatre takes a bite out of the Big Apple
Between sight-seeing, shopping, eating glorious food, participating in workshops and Q&As, going backstage at the Lion King, auditioning, and seeing several shows, Cowley College’s Act One Drama Club had four full days of adventure on its recent trip to New York City, New York.
Photograph by Braydee Holmes
Act One students attended a workshop with Broadway performance coach Kimberly Vaughan, who is a regional director and triple Tony-Award nominated producer. The workshop was designed to ensure students succeed in auditions by laying down the foundation both technically and interpretively for getting the callbacks and booking the jobs.
The students also attended workshops with casting director Bob Cline and company manager Kate Egan. Bob Cline is the founder of Bob Cline Casting in New York City. Cline has cast film, TV, commercials, over 70 national tours, and hundreds of regional theatre productions across the country.
Cline is a proud faculty member, at Pace University, in their BFA Musical Theatre Program, in charge of the senior musical theatre majors. He is also a member of the committee for incoming freshman accepted to Pace. Cline has taught and coached actor’s privately and through the Actor’s Loft for the last 17 years, in NYC.
“Having been a casting director for so many years and worked with many different directors and theater companies, Bob has a great idea of what will get an actor cast in a show,” Cowley theatre director Cara Kem said. “His laid back approach helped the students be “at ease” in the room, and I watched them get inspired by each other. Many that had not previously planned to work started volunteering, and Bob helped give them a confidence many of the beginners had not felt before.”
“Getting to work with Kimberly Vaughn and Bob cline was a mind blowing experience! As someone wanting to go into this business, I feel more prepared and confident about future auditions,” sophomore theatre major Peyten Norris said. “This was my first trip to New York, but certainly won’t be my last, and I’m very grateful to John (Rohr) and Cara for making this happen. I couldn’t have asked for a better group to be with on this amazing journey.”
Kate Egan has a varied career, including Rock ’n’ Roll promotions, venue management, presenting Broadway productions and Broadway tours, and producing smaller shows, Egan has been company manager for the national tours of Shrek, Gypsy and The Pajama Game. She has also worked with Broadway shows such as Evita, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Rocky the Musical, The Illusionists-Witness the Impossible, and School of Rock the Musical at the famous Winter Garden Theater in New York City. Currently Egan is the Company Manager for the new play now in previews “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”
Egan took an hour out of her Sunday morning to meet with the students and explain the job of a company manager.
“Since Cowley is one of the few schools to offer an Arts Management emphasis, I wanted the students to fully understand some of the lesser known jobs in our field of entertainment,” Kem said. Egan discussed how she got into the field, what her day to day job entails, how a company manager differs from a General Manager and how Broadway is different than when she was on tour.
“She said someone took the time to speak to her when she was first starting out and was excited when I called her so she could do the same for other people interested in management,” Kem said.
The students also had an opportunity to attend the production of Aladdin based on the hit Disney cartoon movie.
“Aladdin does not disappoint audiences of any age,” Kem said. “It is a spectacle, with many moments that are larger than life, playing out before our eyes. I felt this particular show was important for my students to watch due to its high complexity in sets and costumes. The choreography was dazzling, and though the steps were simple and most of my students could accomplish them, how they were executed was incredibly important. The set changes were also really nice for my tech students to witness, as well as the incredible lighting that changed the world we were watching without having to move hardly any scenery.”
The students then attended Spongebob the Musical.
“It is impossible to describe all of the creativity that went into this production; the music, design aspects, sounds, and performance was not only inspiring, but extremely entertaining,” Kem said.
They then attended the production of Anastasia also based on a children’s cartoon movie.
“This show is a much more dramatic piece, as compared to our other productions,” Kem said. “I found it very moving, with some haunting songs and well placed choreography. But I found the technical elements in the show to be the most impressive. The most incredible part of this show was the use of screens rather than back drops. The screens were built into set pieces as well as stretched across the back of the stage. The story could then morph from moment to another just as it would in a movie.”
Wanting to make sure to expose the students to a variety of Broadway entertainment, Kem had the students attend The Play that Goes Wrong, which is the ultimate farce.
“Brilliantly written, this show within a show has physical comedy and precisely timed charades that must be executed perfectly for the show to work,” Kem said. “What the untrained eye might see as a silly bit, the actor understands the hours of improv training it took to pull off certain skits.”
The students also received a backstage tour thanks to Jelani Remy, who is a dear friend of Kem’s.
“He was hired for the chorus in High School Musical right after graduating high school, and we met at the airport before going on tour together,” Kem said. “He has come a long way from his days as an "East High Wildcat", and his story, along with what he has to offer, was an opportunity I couldn't pass up giving my students. Getting to see the backstage was very eye opening for my students to how a Broadway show of that magnitude functions. Jelani couldn't have been more inspiring or welcoming.”
Despite the limited time in New York, Kem felt exposing the students to an audition would be beneficial, even though they would not be available for the callbacks two days later.
“Once we had performed in our workshops, I knew the students that wanted to audition would feel better prepared,” Kem said. “Having me by their side to “show them the ropes” would help them feel at ease. Peyten Norris, Julian Cornejo, and Ross Ferris broke out of their comfort zones and auditioned for the Holland American Cruise Line.”
Kem made sure their headshots and resumes were properly presented, coached them on what time to arrive and what to expect, and walked them into the studio. From there, she introduced them to the sign up process, waited with them, helped them find a warm-up zone,
explained what the producers wanted after the producers changed what they wanted to see in the room moments before the actors entered to audition, and waited for them outside the door.
“We were there supporting each other, and now they know what they can expect for future experiences to come,” Kem said.
Kem also had a chance to relive her glory days alongside her former Broadway co-stars Jelani Remy (Simba in the Lion King), Arielle Jacobs (Jasmine in Aladdin) and Courtney Bassett (Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812) were just a few of the artists she was able to share the stage with.
“I came to NYC prepared to be a tourist, but a few days later I found myself surrounded by Broadway stars, all collaborating and pulling music that came from the heart,” Kem said. “It turned out to be an incredible experience for my students as well.”
Going to the Cabaret taught freshman Act One member Megan Roth how powerful music plays on our lives and the importance of the arts.
“I don't know what I loved more: having the exclusive opportunity to listen to several Broadway stars or watching my amazing professor belt out beautiful lyrics,” Roth said. “The moment I knew I found a little piece of heaven was when I saw an entire audience go completely silent with awe as each musician got up to take the mic. I am truly grateful that I was able to attend such an amazing event.”
Josh Wolf adamantly desires to be a talk show host one day. In many ways, he has already achieved his goal. At Cowley, he works with the Theatre and Media programs where he writes, produces and hosts the “The Lone Wolf Show” which airs on YouTube.
“We weren’t sure we’d be able to squeeze in a taping of the “Tonight Show” while in NYC, but Josh was determined and organized a group to go while coordinating his schedule with both technical director of theatre John Rohr and myself,” Kem said. “It ended up being an experience he would never forget. During the Q&A process of the show, Josh raised his hand and asked if he could give Jimmy Fallon a mug with the “Lone Wolf Show” logo. This opened the door to an exchange between the two and Josh shared his hopes to become a professional talk show host one day. Then Josh was able to sit on the aisle, which gave Jimmy the opportunity to bond with him once more. On his way out of the show, he gave Josh a hug, had him look right into the camera and point, and then told him to never give up on his dreams. That night, Josh received a phone call from “The Tonight Show” so he could drop off his mug for Jimmy. Josh personalized the mug stating “Johnny Carson inspired you and you inspire me. Thank you!”
On his way out of the studio, someone stopped Josh and invited him to apply for an internship with the show.
“We are now in the process of helping him do everything he can to get that opportunity,” Kem said.