Co-op High seniors heard tips Friday from professional touring actors: how to warm up for a show, how to pack for a national tour, and how to use Skype to stay in touch with your boyfriend back home.
Those pearls of wisdom were dispensed Friday at Co-op High downtown, when young actors in a nationally touring production of Godspell stopped by for a visit.
Godspell, the rousing 1971 musical with a Christian message of love, is at the Shubert just for this weekend. When a new production is in town, however briefly, the Shubert’s education department always tries to bring some of the actors or behind-the-scenes crew down the block to Co-op “so kids can get a first-hand understanding and really see a professional theater person,” said the Shubert’s Anthony Lupinacci.
Two senior acting classes and a tech class sat riveted Friday morning before members of the Godspell cast in a rehearsal space at the school. Four of the 12 actors in the Canadian touring company visited the school, along with their stage manager. They talked about everything from how they knew they wanted a theater career to what to pack in two suitcases to be crammed on a tour bus going through 25 towns.
Maybe because the actors—Michael DeRose, Alessia Lupiano, Jake Stern, Janelle Murray, and the stage manager Paul Pembleton —were not all that much older than the Co-op seniors, an exciting current of affection, humor, and confidence-building identification seemed to fill up the blackbox theater.
Co-op senior Harry Keller asked how the performers got started and what’s important at auditions. His question unleashed lots of personal stories from the young Canadians.
“You need to learn to be your own producer. And don’t put too many songs in your audition book” said DeRose. That is, include only the songs that you know you can perform very well.
“Don’t put yourself in a box just because you’re not a dancer or singer,” said Allesia Lupiano. She said dancing is not her strength, but she took part in an audition that required it. She said she knew that if she could get past the dancing call, she’d ace the audition when she got to sing.
“Just go for it. Put yourself out there. Hope for the best,” she said.
“When you leave home, how hard is it?” asked Javonda Hughes (at left in photo, with fellow senior Simone Ngongi)
“I have a 3-year-old and I miss her like crazy,” replied stage manager Pembleton. “The lovely thing is she doesn’t understand I’m going to be away for 13 weeks.”
Lupiano said she often misses her boyfriend but “thank God for Skype,” the video calling service. “If I’m going to the opening night party and I don’t call my boyfriend, he still knows I love him,” she added.
Ngongi listened intently and then followed up on her friend’s question: When you perform the same show for 25 weeks, sometimes twice a day, “how do you make the show new every night?”
DeRosa said you just find a way within yourself.
Lupiano added, “This is not always an easy career.” If you’re lucky enough to have a contract, you need “to be on 100 percent of the time.”
Murray, the only member of the cast with extensive operatic training, provided the most moving answer, a lesson conveyed to her from a former teacher: “Every time you do a show, it’s the first time someone has seen a show and it’s the last time someone will see a show. So think of those two people and give it your all.”
At the end of the session, a half dozen of the Co-op kids shared with the visiting actors the kind of artist they aspire to be, and the young professional artists responded.
When it was over, Lupiano, speaking on behalf of her colleagues in the cast, said to all the Co-op kids, “You’ll be our inspiration tonight.”