New York – take two – Broadway Teachers Workshop

Not a lot of pics during this section.

There really was a transition in my trip starting with the costume exhibit, meeting Jhett and watching Something Rotten!

As for the workshop this is a summary of what I did;

Day 1
Thursday, July 7, 2016

MAKE A CONNECTION AND BE INSPIRED with Susan Blackwell ([title of show])   Our opening session will provide a fun, relaxed opportunity for you to meet your fellow participants. Once we’ve had a chance to get acquainted, Susan will moderate a discussion on inspiration–how we inspire others, and how we access our own inspiration.

This session was an awesome start to the workshop. 

I knew some songs from [Title of Show] and they are brilliant!   It is a musical I’d love to see and possibly would be fun to direct.  Students would enjoy it, but I’d need to learn how to sell it to an audience.

I loved Susan before she started speaking from hearing the songs from the show as well as hearing her on On Broadway (Sirius FM).

She did a great job on having us reflect as educators, as artists, and shifted our thought process to inspiration, and how to ‘refill our well’ as we give so much that we should make the next couple days about recharging.


BROADWAY DANCE CLASS: ON YOUR FEET!   Join Luis Salgado from the cast of Broadway’s ON YOUR FEET! for a high-energy dance combination direct from the show.  This class is for all levels of experience!

Okay – so hiking Breakneck Ridge kicked my a$$ but so did Luis!   This was an awesome choreography session!   

Luis is a wonderful artist who is immersed in his craft.   For someone who is living the art in his body he balances it with an incredibly philosophical outlook. 

He examines his success, his story and history, and honours how he can give back to the community and his people.

We started the session walking around, learning to respect the space, ourselves, the people in the room.

We talked about how dance and choreography needs to be influenced by everyday actions, by the story.  In no time we were up and dancing and had learned the first couple measures to one of the numbers from the show One Your Feet, without even knowing we had learnt it.  

Dance is for everyone, and even if you don’t think you can dance and that you are a ‘hot mess’ then it our job as educators to ensure that those ‘hot messes are welcome!’

I’m not sure if I am a hot mess when it comes to dance, but I’ve never let it stop me from giving my all and owning it.

It was good to dance with a professional choreographer who lives his craft, even if it was for only an hour+!   This was a high energy class I needed!


PUPPET THEORY with James Ortiz and Will Gallacher (The Woodsman

This workshop will teach would-be puppeteers the art of animating the inanimate. Students will learn the basics of multi-performer bunraku puppet manipulation, which includes a crash course in lecoq style mask work, elemental exploration, and learning how to work together with other puppeteers in order to bring a single character to life.

This class was so much fun, I never really realized the importance of puppetry, or necessarily thought of it as an art form in it’s self.

There is a craft in meeting the puppet, and it needs to start with realizing our own limitations and capabilities (physically as well as mentally).   Then we can start to animate the puppet, bring to life and give it breath.   A puppet is so much more than just a prop.

MEET THE ARTIST: Lin Manuel Miranda

Hamilton is on track to become one of the biggest critical and commercial hits in Broadway history. It won the Pulitzer Prize for drama, a Grammy Award for best musical theatre album, and most recently received 16 Tony nominations (the most in Broadway history.) And if that wasn’t enough, Mr. Miranda received a “genius grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Meet the artistic force behind the show in this intimate conversation led by Hamilton Associate Director, Patrick Vassel.

Okay, so I need to admit that I did not know much about Lin-Manuel, his story or involvement with the hot show Hamilton.

But after meeting him, listening to this engaging keynote address and Q&A session I realized that he is an educator, and an artist who again lives his craft and gives back so fully!  (You can read the transcript here)

He really did a great job of engaging us and having us think of our job of educators and how do we honour the craft, our students and the process.   He talked about his role as an educator and how he decided he needed to be a substitute so that he could write, he talked about successes, failures, self discovery from high school and beyond.   

He talked about In the Heights another musical he had great success with, a musical written by him, a Latino, for Latinos that show then as more than punks and robbers as they are defined in most theatre (cough, cough, Westside Story).

And then we started talking about Hamilton!   I really think that after this day, the musical tonight is even going to be more magical then it could be.


The wildly inventive smash hit musical from the creative team behind the In The Heights,  HAMILTON is about the scrappy young immigrant who forever changed America: Alexander Hamilton. Tony and Grammy Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda wields his pen and takes the stage as the unlikely founding father determined to make his mark on a new nation as hungry and ambitious as he. From bastard orphan to Washington’s right hand man, rebel to war hero, loving husband caught in the country’s first sex scandal to Treasury head who made an untrusting world believe in the American economy, HAMILTON is an exploration of a political mastermind. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Eliza Hamilton, and lifelong Hamilton friend and foe, Aaron Burr, all attend this revolutionary tale of America’s fiery past told through the sounds of the ever-changing nation we’ve become. Tony Award nominee Thomas Kail directs and Tony Award winner Andy Blankenbuehler choreographs this new musical about taking your shot, speaking your mind, and turning the world upside down.

 Okay so all though I knew the music, and had met Lin and knew that this was supposed to be The Musical to see, I knew it had been nominated for an unprescedinted 16 Tony’s, but I still wasn’t prepared for how awesome a show it would be.   

I must admit I did not know much about Alexander Hamilton, or his story.   It appeared that he was smarter than his time and as a result underappreciated.   

I think it was more than just an ethnic cast with hip hop music that made the play relevant to Americans and their current political situation.  That night there was a #BlackLivesMatter protest in Times Square.   My heart hurts when I think of the upcoming election and the people of the US.

Day 2
Friday, July 8, 2016

CHOREOGRAPHY FOR EVERYONE with Patrick O’Neill (School of Rock) Let’s face it: most young theatre kids haven’t spent years locked away in a dance studio perfecting their technique. So what do you do when you’ve got a bunch of “movers” and a five minute production number to stage? Don’t panic! Let’s get through this together. During this workshop, we will develop the vocabulary to approach dance from the perspective of a young actor, finding ways to empower kids to get out of their comfort zone. As choreographers, we will discover how to get away from “dance steps” and instead use character driven movement to connect your kids to stories they are telling. Exploring musicality and dramatic architecture will bring a flood of creativity that will leave you wishing that five minute number went on forever!

Okay this was a lot of fun, not everyone got to dance, so you want to bet that I made sure to be a volunteer.

Patrick did a great job of explaining how choreography writes itself once you study the score.   The music dictates what needs to be done.   He was very good at articulating the importance of score study and translating it into movements that are easily understood by all.   I guess working with the cast of School of Rock he needed to push his comfort in teaching choreography to non dancers.

Watching the way he moved, you could tell that he lives and breaths dancing and moment enraptures the essence of his soul.


THE IMPORTANCE OF TABLE WORK with Jeremy Dobrish (adobe theatre company) We often talk about table work, but what is it really? How does table work effect the entire process and not just the first few days? What are the best ways to maximize your time around the table to set the right tone, and empower your actors to do their best work? This workshop will be broken into three sections: 1) Discussing the rehearsal schedule and table work’s role within it. 2) Doing actual table work with two actors on a scene from Our Town and exploring how to maximize table work. 3) Engaging in an open discussion about table work and the rehearsal process in general.

Fun workshop, it was more of a sit and observe, with a few questions.   That being said it did reaffirm a lot of the work I do and gave me a few things to think about.   


NEW PRODUCTION IDEAS AND A SNEAK PERFORMANCE FROM A NEW MUSICAL: Music Theatre International   Spend some quality time with your friends from MUSIC THEATRE INTERNATIONAL who will introduce you to the latest tools and resources for making your school production a knockout success – and preview the newest shows about to become available for license. This summer, the MTI crew will be joined by composer and performer guests who will perform material from a new musical, written especially for students. Note: Be prepared to test your theatrical knowledge and win prizes in the legendary MTI musical theatre challenge game.

Got to see some of the new tools that MTI are offering.   Orchestra is an extremely powerful tool that could be used by any percussionist.


ACTING/INTERPRETING SONG with Tony nominee Brad Oscar (Something Rotten!)

What’s the best way to attack the acting values when singing musical theatre songs? How do we stop students from focusing too much on the sound of their voice and not enough on the given circumstances of the scene. And what’s the best way to encourage movement and staging that feels organic and true to the piece? This workshop will tackle these issues and give practical tips and techniques for directors and music directors looking to get the most from their students. Guest performers will join the session to help illustrate key points.

Another fun workshop, it was more of a sit and observe, with a few questions.   

We got to see two groups of actors; cast members from The Color Purple who sang a song from Ragtime.   It was a flawless performance and their was little for us to critique or correct.   The second were some NYU grads who did Do You Love Me from fiddler.   We did spend a lot of time working with them.

Overall today seemed like a lot of sitting and was not as hands on as I would have liked, but still a good day.


On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan

Gloria Estefan has sold over 100 million records and sold out stadiums around the world. Emilio and Gloria Estefan together have won 26 Grammy® Awards. But their music is only half the story. ON YOUR FEET! is the new Broadway musical about two people who believed in their talent, their music and each other and became an international sensation. The show features some of the most iconic songs of the past quarter century, including “Rhythm is Gonna Get You,” “Conga,” “Get On Your Feet,” “Don’t Want To Lose You Now,” “1-2-3” and “Coming Out of the Dark,” and the Broadway musical boasts a creative team to match its incomparable song list. Two-time Tony Award® winner Jerry Mitchell (Kinky Boots) directs the cast of 20, with choreography by Olivier Award winner Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys) and an original book by Academy Award® winner Alexander Dinelaris (“Birdman”).

Okay so no one told me this was going to make me cry.   Although the story line was a little punchy at times, other parts were incredibly powerful and moving.   

It was so awesome knowing the choreography to one of the songs and getting to see Luis work his magic!   He really is awesome and probably will be the most memorable part of my trip.

During the talk back afterwards, there was talk about the current political situation including discussing the opening of the Cuba boarder with the US, but more than that the importance of a cast of latino’s in a musical that displays them in a positive light.

Between listening to Lin, seeing Hamilton, meeting Luis, watching and listening to the cast of On Your Feet, I have been inspired, I need to direct a play that displays FNMI students in a positive role, acted completely by FNMI students.

Day 3
Saturday, July 9, 2016

WHAT I LEARNED FROM MY FRIEND HAROLD: PRACTICING THE META SKILLS OF IMPROV   “Harold is more than a game– It’s a way of looking at life.”   Mike Myers Long-form improv structures like Harold (a form created by improv guru, Del Close) offer players a chance to practice deep listening, generosity and group vision as they create a performance piece spontaneously from random offerings.  Often, in the process of harvesting ideas, remembering and recycling offerings and discerning patterns in story-telling, a group mind emerges that is more attendant, resilient and innovative than any one mind.  This workshop will introduce ways that teachers can use the principles and structures of Harold  in classroom exercises, group composition and performance.

Okay, this was so much fun!   I’m looking forward to employing Harold in my classes, maybe some improv Friday’s can be used to help everyone learn Harold.   Very exciting.   I almost did a back stage tour instead, but am so glad that Amy was trying to have me do this Workshop.   Some fun games; including a new singing agreement game.


PLAYING WITH THE CLASSICS, MAKING COMPELLING THEATRE WITH WHAT YOU HAVE – Stephan Wolfert, Bedlam Theatre Company  The celebrated Bedlam Theatre Company is committed to the immediacy of the relationship        between the actor and the audience, creating theatre in a flexible, raw space for contemporary reappraisals of the classics, new writing and small-scale musical theatre.  In this workshop, led by Bedlam director of outreach Stephan Wolfert, you will leap right into Shakespeare’s text the instant you walk through the door. Working with the shared lines of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth from Shakespeare’s Macbeth ACT II, scene 2, we will take a a hands-on approach to both teaching verse “on the fly” as well as making compelling theater with “what you have” (in the Bedlam aesthetic of making theater with just the actors, audience and the script). Participants will leave with a text exercise handout, handouts to help create future workshops, and hands-on experience of how to created a short performance.

A great way to end the workshops of the 3 day program.   This was a very fast, hands on activity that got us moving and building Shakespearean characters.   I’ve always thought of Shakespearean acting as being very physical, something students don’t always pick up on, but this  workshop helped show is some techniques to help strike it home, and then how to incorporate Shakespeare into regular classroom work.


Shuffle Along

In May 1921, the new musical Shuffle Along became the unlikeliest of hits, significantly altering the face of the Broadway musical, as well as that of New York City. By the time Shuffle Along stumbled into town after a back-breaking pre-Broadway tour, it was deeply in debt and set to open at a remote Broadway house on West 63rd Street. But with an infectious jazz score and exuberant dancing, Shuffle Along ignited not just Broadway, but all of New York City. Because of Shuffle Along, Uptown and Downtown met — and became one.

The 2016 Shuffle Along, created anew by a remarkable constellation of artists (including Tony Award winning director George C. Wolfe, Tony Award winning choreographer Savion Glover, and stars Brian Stokes Mitchell and Billy Porter), brings the original show back to glorious life, while simultaneously telling the heretofore unknown backstage saga of its creation — and how it changed the world it left behind.

Another great show, the tap dancing and singing was incredible.   This musical told the story of how an all black cast worked to get their show on Broadway.  Thinking about the importance of this historically, a show with a cast who would not even be allowed to vote for another 44 years.   Again I couldn’t help but think of the political state of the US, and again another #BlackLivesMatter rally in Times Square.   I hope the voters educate themselves, and get out to vote for the best person for the job.

The New York American had this to say about the 1920’s show, “this jolly evening manages to lift the drear from your entity and to live up your disposition”.   In that manner I hope everyone who thinks the future of the US could be dreary go visit this show to know it will be okay, we will overcome the unfairness, the hatred, the prejudices and that the arts will lead the way.


Fun Home

One of the most groundbreaking productions ever to hit Broadway, Fun Home is the winner of five 2015 Tony Awards including Best Musical. Based on Alison Bechdel’s best-selling graphic memoir, Fun Home features music by Jeanine Tesori, book and lyrics by Lisa Kron and direction by Sam Gold, whose work on this production earned them Tony Awards for Best Score, Best Book and Best Direction.

Fun Home introduces us to Alison at three different ages, revealing memories of her uniquely dysfunctional family – her mother, brothers and volatile, brilliant, enigmatic father – that connect with her in surprising new ways. This intimate and emotional theatrical experience is performed entirely in the round, bringing audiences closer to Alison’s story than ever before. A refreshingly honest musical about seeing your parents through grown-up eyes, Fun Home is “a blazingly original heartbreaker and a nonstop treasure of invention

I was surprised, everyone told me that this musical was going to make me cry, so I was preparing for a huge sob fest; after preparing myself for the worst, it ended up that I did not cry all that much.   That being said, it was a remarkable play.   I love theatre in the round, it really helped the audience feel like they were in a more intimate setting.  The story line touched on the difference between the struggle of sexual identity and how that has changed over the last 40 years across multiple generations.

Somewhere in watching all these shows, I couldn’t help but think of Jhett’s instance on me seeing a show so many nights ago!   In all truth, I am here to re-ground myself as a drama teacher, and if that is the case I should take every opportunity I can to catch some theatre.   As a result, I’ve bought tickets to two more shows.

Day 4
Sunday, July 10, 2016

Spend the morning with Sam Kusnetz, product manager for QLab, as he gives a tour of QLab’s features and shares some tips and tricks for bringing your sound and projection designs to life. Bringing a Mac laptop with QLab installed is encouraged but not required. Attendees will be given a one-week demo license to experiment with. Come ready with your questions.

Sam and I had a wonderful talk about the Canadian Fringe Circuit, he has fond memories of Thunder Bay and Winnipeg from his 2002 road trip and show.   He said it is very different than New Yorks fringe, in that most preformers and shows hope that this will be a launching point for them onto broadway, when in reality it leads nowhere and the result is an anti-climatic feeling.   Where on the Canadian circuit there is a sense of family, of a love for theatre, of appreciation from audience members.

Q-Lab itself is remarkable software for sound and video cues And something I want to check out.  It could be well worth the $$$.



Whether your school facility is outfitted with the latest stage lighting technology, or is comprised of mid-century relics that have done the job since the 1950’s, this workshop will shed some light on how to get that “Broadway shine” from your available resources.  Focus will be on how to assess your facility’s infrastructure, equipment capabilities, student staffing options, and design choices – and apply them to a wide variety of potential event styles common to the school auditorium.  Whether it is a school play, the spring musical, a talent show, holiday concert, or school assembly, we’ll discuss techniques that will help you create the most visually vibrant, believable, and artistic lighting design that will not only serve the purposes of your event, but provide educational experiences for your students.  Additional topics will include:  Lighting tricks for video recording, renting equipment, assessing capital improvements and upgrades for your facility, and evaluating new technology and trends in the business.

A good talk, that made me drool a lot about some of the lighting equipment we could have.   There were some new idea’s that came from this, but basically it confirmed that we are maximizing our lighting resources, unless we want to rent or upgrade the system.   Some good ideas about what would be ideal.



Emmy nominated designer Rob Bissinger discusses how to apply fundamental design principles to discover practical solutions for any show on any budget, large or small. Discover Broadway insider resources and “tricks of the trade” to get the most bang for your scenic buck”.

Rob was a very enthusiastic and dynamic presenter.   His mind as well as his talk bounced from one topic to the next leaving us wanting more.  We talked about what we can do to get that classic broadway look.   I want to look at using more canvas, or even getting some for a mood wall upstage.


School of Rock

School of Rock is a rock musical with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Glenn Slater and a book by Julian Fellowes. Based on the 2003 film of the same name, with a screenplay by Mike White, the musical follows Dewey Finn, an out of work rock singer and guitarist who pretends to be a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school. After identifying the musical talent in his students, Dewey forms a band of fifth-graders, in an attempt to win the upcoming Battle of the Bands contest.

I was very excited to add this musical to my itinerary!   I love Sir Andrew Llyod, and although this did not fit what I call his genre, it was very good. B it closely mimicked the movie in many ways but was great.

An added surprise is that in tonight’s cast was Patrick O’Neill from an earlier choreography workshop.   It was so great to see him on stage in addition to the choreography he does with the ‘kids’.

It seemed every musical struck me on some chord, and this one was no different.  There was a line towards the end about how Mr. Finn helped the students find their voice.   This is something that has always been important to me; providing opportunities, advocating for students, and teaching them how to advocate for themselves.


Last full Day in NYC; Day 5

Monday, July 10, 2016 

Well after a nice sleep in and slow morning I decided it was time for something not touristy again, well maybe a little.

I like to think of Coney Island as the place New Yorkers go to get away from it all, a beach, an ammusment park, etc.   I could be totally wrong on this but I do not think it is a major destination for those who only want to visit the city for a few days.

I had 4 goals, Meet the Mighty Zoltar from the movie Big, go for a swim in the ocean, ride the cyclone, and play skee ball (because it is God’s favourite past time when he takes vacation in the movie Dogma).

I started with a Coney Dog from Nathan’s which has been serving up hot dogs on this spot for 100 years and is home to America’s largest 4th of July hot dog eating contest.  I think this year’s winner are 79 hot dogs and buns.   Crazy!

After my Coney dog, it didn’t take too long to find Zoltar and seek some advice.  He told me destiny is a chcoice and can be achieved.   His fortune was something about (and I’m majorly paraphrasing here) how the early bird catches the worm, and that I have some good fortune coming my way because I wake up early seeking the best each day.

Next, the cyclone, America’s 10th oldest but still working wooden roller coaster, and also the fastest of those reaching speeds of 65 mph.  This was a crazy ride and I was glad I was not riding it with any young’ns as I’m always afraid they are going to fall out, or that I’ll squish them and as a result can never enjoy the ride.

Next a swim;

Then some skee ball, which took more searching than expected because one of the large arcades had recently burnt down.   I’m not the best at the game, but practice makes perfect.

It was time to say good bye to Coney Island and hello to the city once more.

I stopped at an old haunt for a drink in memory of friends, and then off to Wicked.



Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Winnie Holzman. It is based on the 1995 Gregory Maguire novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, an alternative telling of the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz and L. Frank Baum’s classic 1900 story, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The musical is told from the perspective of the witches of the Land of Oz; its plot begins before and continues after Dorothy’s arrival in Oz from Kansas, and it includes several references to the 1939 film and Baum’s novel. Wicked tells the story of two unlikely friends, Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West) and Galinda, (whose name later changes to Glinda the Good Witch) who struggle through opposing personalities and viewpoints, rivalry over the same love-interest, reactions to the Wizard’s corrupt government and, ultimately, Elphaba’s public fall from grace.

My first impression was the Gershwin Theatre, this was a massive newer building, built in 1972 and holding an audience of 1 900 people.  Regardless due to a powerful storyline and phenomenal acting it was still a somewhat intimate experience.  I felt bad for the Wicked Witch Elphaba. Who started out with such a good heart, and was turned wicked because of the actions and reactions of people around them.   Again thinking of the current state of affairs in the US, I hope good people can remain good people despite all the wicked things being said around them.

Overall it was a mind numbing, emotional experience of hiking, theatre workshops, musicals galore, reflection and contemplation.   I guess you just never know what you are going to experience when you step foot in the big apple.

It took me 21 hours to get back to Dryden (with a 7 hour lay over in Kenora for a visit).   I was in Dryden for just 40 hours, enough time to do laundry, repack, visit friends, watch some street theatre and cut the grass.

I am now off to the UK on the International Air Cadet Exchange.   I am not sure when I’ll be able to post my next update on this trip.

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