Friday, June 27, 2014

Overtures - The Casting Session

Ryan looks on as Allison audition.
People get nervous. This is a regular part of life. Day in and day out, people the world over fret and stress over a variety of things both of worth and of inconsequential value. It should be no surprise then that performers get nervous as well. 

Overtures students support one another
throughout the casting session.
Auditions can be terrifying. As a performer myself I know the stress and anxiety that goes into the preparation and over-analyzation of an audition and all it entails. There is just so much to think about and let yourself get caught up in. Am I prepared? Am I dressed appropriately? Do I have all of my headshots, resumes, and paperwork in order? Am I on time and in the right place? Are my monologues and songs memorized and in perfect order? Is my music binder neat and organized? Did the casting director like me? Was I too engaging? Did I not talk enough? Etc, etc, etc till you make yourself sick with worry.
Signature's Walter Ware II looks on
throughout the casting session.

Ashley receives a bit of feedback from
the casting panel.
The Overtures students got to experience a casting session yesterday and dealt with some of these minor worries and woes. (And made it through the session with smiles on their faces and knowledge to use in future auditions.) The session itself was made up of casting directors and producers from the DC area that included Alan Paul from The Shakespeare Theatre Company, Amelia Powell from Arena Stage, Danisha Crosby from Round House Theatre and our very own Walter Ware III.

Each and every Overtures student presented two 32 bar pieces and a short monologue to the casting panel and then received feedback on their performance, composure and how they presented themselves both on the stage and on paper. The advice was far ranging from student to student, but the lessons learned were invaluable. These talented young men and women essentially went before a, albeit supportive, firing squad of casting directors. They all presented themselves brilliantly and I am proud to have them represent Overtures this year.

This Saturday, June 28th is the final day of Overtures. With this final day comes the Overtures Showcase, where these 19 amazing people show off all of the training they have been through over the past two weeks. The performance begins at 11:00 AM in the MAX Theatre at Signature Theatre. Doors open at 10:30 AM. There will be a brief reception following the performance. The event is unticketed and free.

By Matt Strote

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Overtures - Eric Schaeffer

Eric looks on as Neil presents "Try Me" (She Loves Me)
Yesterday, the one, the only, the Artistic Director of Signature Theatre, Eric Schaeffer joined the Overtures students for the second of two master classes on musical theatre performance. We were so very lucky to have Eric with us as he has so much information and experience to pass on to these young performers as they start their careers.

Joe sings a cut of "I Could Be
In Love With Someone Like You"
(The Last Five Years)

Underneath Eric's leadership, Signature Theatre has won 90 Helen Hayes Awards and received 340 nominations for artistic excellence in theatre. Over the course of his career, Eric has directed over 80 productions at Signature and received 6 Helen Hayes Awards for Outstanding Direction and 28 nominations. Eric has directed over 80 productions at Signature Theatre and served as the Artistic Director of the Sondheim Celebration at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where he directed Sunday in the Park with George, and Passion. He also directed Mame, First You Dream: the Music of Kander and Ebb, and Follies at the Kennedy Center. On Broadway, his productions include Putting it Together starring Carol Burnett, Glory Days, Million Dollar Quartet and the Tony-nominated Follies. In the West End/London, he directed The Witches of Eastwick and Million Dollar Quartet. He has also directed at the Mark Taper Forum, Goodman Theatre, Arena Stage and Disneyland. He currently has productions of Million Dollar Quartet in Chicago, Las Vegas and on national tour. 

Leah presents "Passover" (Elegies)

This second master class with Eric was a relaxed and enjoyable experience for all. As the students presented cuts of songs they would be performing for an upcoming casting session, Eric interspersed words of wisdom and suggestions. Some of the most potent adjustments included things such as emotional vocal variation throughout a piece, visualization of whom you want to be singing a song to, and contextualizing an audition song. To Eric and other theatre heads around the DC metro area, one of the most important skills a performer can demonstrate is the ability to remain versatile throughout a performance / audition. As Eric stated, when you are auditioning for someone for the first time it is likely the first time they are seeing you. "The first time someone meets you is the only first impression you'll get to make on them." Therefore, it is best to leave a solid impression on those behind the casting table in regards to you. You want to be seen as flexible, supportive, and most importantly easy to work with.  

With another masterclass under their belts, the Overture students are one step closer to the Showcase this Saturday at 11:00 AM. We would love to extend an invitation to you, to see these brilliantly talented young men and women perform on the MAX Theatre stage. The performance is free and unticketed. Doors open at 10:30 AM.

Emily gets into her performance of "How 'Bout a Dance?" (Bonnie and Clyde)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Overtures - NBC's Dean McFlicker

Dean McFlicker leads the Overtures
students in a camera performance exercise.
Yesterday, the Overtures students had the pleasure of getting to work with Dean McFlicker. Dean comes to Signature Theatre's Overtures Musical Theatre Institute from California where he is Vice President and Creative Director of NBC Entertainment Marketing. An award winning producer, director, and choreographer of countless productions, Dean has worked on and created campaigns for some of the most successful shows on television, including The Voice, America's Got Talent, ER, Law and Order, Smash, Heroes, The Apprentice, The West Wing, The Biggest Loser, and The Sound of Music

Dean McFlicker works with Allison
and Christina.
Having such a talented and valued member of the Hollywood executive scene join us here in Arlington was a delight for all involved. Throughout the day, Dean helped explain and explore the world of film and television, how it differs from the world of theatre, and how to best adapt one's skills to new platforms. This was one of the initial takeaways from Dean's time spent with us. 

Performers must be able to adapt and translate their skills to new mediums and avenues, particularly in this day and age where options are so varied and plentiful. The lines of entertainment are blurring and performers need to be ready to take the stage in whatever form it appears, whether it is a television show, movie, short film, web series, play, musical, one act, music video, awards show, television special, live event, etc.

After an in depth primer on the do's and don'ts of auditions in the world of film and television, Dean flipped a complete 180 and taught a brief dance routine to the students. After learning the steps the students were then taught how to play out for multiple cameras in a space. As they kicked, shimmied, and moved around to the music, Dean called out and changed their areas of focus quickly to different cameras, always keeping them on their toes. Keeping in time, focus and rhythm with several cameras around you is incredibly difficult, but if you can conquer that as a performer you can do anything.

Dean's time spent with the Overtures students was fantastic and we were so lucky to have him. Be sure to check Dean out on his Twitter and Instagram.

Half of the Overtures students strike their first pose in Dean's dance sequence.
We hope to see you at the Overtures Student Showcase, this Saturday, the 28th at 11 AM in the MAX Theatre. The event is free and unticketed. The doors open at 10:30 AM.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Overtures - Singing with Tracy Lynn Olivera

Tracy Lynn Olivera demonstrates good vocal technique.
Private vocal sessions are a wonderful and necessary thing to have and receive as a student studying musical theatre and performance. This one-on-one time with a vocal instructor gives the student the chance to ask questions and focus on problem areas that they might not otherwise be noticing on their own. Here at Overtures, in addition to a litany of other classes, workshops and master classes, the students each receives several private voice sessions with Tracy Lynn Olivera. Tracy is a singer, actress and teacher based in the Washington, DC metro area and has appeared on the Signature Theatre stages in Gypsy, Crossing, Company, Brother Russia, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Les Miserables, Merrily We Roll Along,The Happy Time and Allegro
Adrianna presents "An English
Teacher" (Bye Bye Birdie) to Tracy and others.

Tracy comments on
students' performances.
We are thrilled to have Tracy teach with us at Overtures. With a long list of teaching experience and venues that include Catholic University, Theatre Lab, Adventure Theatre-MTC, Imagination Stage, and her very own basement (for private coaching), Tracy brings a plethora of experience to the students here at Signature. In both her private sessions and group vocal sessions, Tracy is a constant delight. Her relaxed attitude and knowledgeable musical mind make the students at ease and realize they are in the best hands when it comes to vocal educators.

In one of her most recent group vocal sessions, Tracy put the students through a gauntlet of exercises as they presented their showcase songs. Tracy's side coaching throughout their performances as well as her suggestions on song presetatin helped amazingly. Whether it was a simple physical adjustment or vocal intonation change, the suggestions and adjustments she made increased their performances greatly. 

Edward Simon listens as Tracy offers advice on his
performance of "You and Me (But Mostly Me)" (The Book of Mormon.)
 We are only five days away from the Overtures Showcase in the MAX here at Signature Theatre. (June 28th at 11 AM) The students still have several oppurtunities to squeeze as much information and knowledge out of Tracy as they can. You do not want to miss this performance this coming Saturday. 

The Overtures Showcase is free and open to the public. Doors open at 10:30AM. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Overtures - The Actor Auditions

Mitchell Hebert helps students adjust the pacing
and rhythm of their monologues. 
The Overtures students were back in action with acting professor Mitchell Hebert this past week to further explore the monologues they have been working and adjusting. In one of the most recent sessions, Mitchell helped the students visualize and find better and easier ways to get into and out of their monologues. (Physically, mentally, and emotionally.) This was quite difficult for some students, especially for those whose monologue topics were less than "light and fluffy". 

Mitchell Hebert gives students
the lowdown on auditions.
Visualization is meant to ground an actor in the world of their monologue. Exploring it as an exercise is meant to provide a good, solid base from which the actor can do good work and be truthful. As Mitchell walked the students through exercises, they explored their own imagined spaces where they felt real. They were to visualize a location where they could see, smell, head, taste, and touch all that they needed in regard to the world of their monologue. As Mitch stated, visualizing your environment provides you with "a basket to place yourself in during auditions".

As human beings, we cannot help but constantly think of "things" throughout the day. The same can be said when it comes to performing a monologue. A performer cannot walk into an audition completely empty and free of thoughts and opinions. This is fine. No one can think of nothing. Instead of attempting to think of completely nothing during an audition, performers need to acknowledge the thoughts and impulses they have and perform "little dances inside of themselves" as they go on to perform. What this boils down to is an acknowledgement of thoughts and feelings and a welcome acceptance of them as they course throughout ones self. The feelings should This honesty and awareness lead to much better performances and people overall in the grand dramatic scheme of things.

The Overtures class looks on as Mitchell Hebert offers suggestions to students in regards to monologue preparation. 
 We are fast approaching the final days of Overtures here at Signature and would love for you to see the talented students of ours in action. Please join us on June 28th at 11 AM in the MAX Theatre for a free student showcase of all of the talent Overtures has to offer. This collection of brilliant solos, duets and group songs by the talented Overtures class will no doubt leave you in awe. We hope to see you there.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Overtures - Darius Smith

Darius Smith gracefully conducts and plays off of
the Overtures students.
We are entering the period in Overtures when it's time to start really buckling down. In a little over a week, the Overtures students will show off all they have learned in a showcase in Signature's MAX Theatre. The showcase will naturally feature solos from the roster of students but will also feature a slew of group numbers featuring the entire Overtures company. One of the most exciting aspects for the students is getting to work with Darius Smith in preparing these group numbers.
Adrianna and Christina run
through Next Story.

Darius Smith is the music director of Overtures and has premiered several different original works in the DC area.Some of these include The Snowy Day at Adventure Theatre and U.G.L.Y. at The Kennedy Center. Not new to the area and Signature, Darius has worked on both Dreamgirls and Defying Gravity at Signature. In addition to directing music around the DC metro area, Darius is also an educator and currently coordinates the musical theatre program at Howard University. 

This is Darius's second year as the music director of Overtures and he couldn't be more excited to work with all of the talented students that this year brings to the table. I recently sat down with Darius and the students as they ran through the three group numbers for the showcase. The songs include "Magic to Do" from Pippin, "Put On Your Sunday Clothes" from Hello, Dolly!, and "My Next Story" from Glory Days. This eclectic mix of massive group songs was a pleasure to watch in rehearsal as Darius instructed the students on the intricacies of each song. We are halfway through Overtures and the songs / performers / sequences are only going to get better as times goes on!

The Overtures Tenor and Bass section hard at work.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Overtures - Workshop with Erika Shannon and Jen DeRosa

Jen DeRosa looks on as Erika Shannon
give physical adjustment suggestions
to students.
Yesterday, the Overtures students had the pleasure of spending a large portion of their day participating in a workshop with Erika Shannon and Jen DeRosa. What started out in the early part of the day as one of the most intense physical warm-ups any had experienced eventually led to a more relaxed and far less sweaty vocal workshop in the afternoon. As one student described the morning warm up / workout, "It was the most intense workout I've ever had. Definitely a lot more exhausting than any class or personal training session I have done at any gym before." Another student cried, "Why didn't you tell us to bring a spare shirt to move in? I didn't think I was going to be sweating this much today." All sweatiness and exhaustion aside, the morning warm-up session ended with tired smiles and energized bodies, exactly what Jen and Erika needed for the work they would do later that afternoon with the students. 

Allison takes note and adjusts her performance
of "You've Got Possiblities"
After a well deserved lunch break and stretching session, the Overtures students were back in the rehearsal room with Jen and Erika to focus on the performance side of things; both vocally and physically. Each student presented a short cut of one of their assigned songs to the instructors and was then given individual feedback. Some may think that only seeing 32 bars of a song is not enough to offer advice to improve ones performance. Those people would be wrong! For every student that presented a piece for the class, Jen and Erika had eclectic and useful advice to adjust physically and vocally to make their songs truly their own. Suggestions and adjustments varied greatly from barnyard animal noises, vocal centers, physical pressence / blocking, to even throwing words and objects around the room. No student was forgotten and none of the students will likely forget this unique workshop session.

Ashley gets some warm up advice from Jen DeRosa as the workshop gets underway.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Overtures - Acting Out

Lawrence listens as Eitan describes
how an acting exercise made him feel.
By Matt Strote, Education Intern

With the first day of Overtures under our belts, it was time to really dive into the work with our second day of the program. I can only describe our second day as a whirlwind of activity. The Overtures students ran through nearly every type of class and workshop one might imagine in a musical theatre intensive in just one day. (It was a busy and varied day to say the least.) 

Starting off the day, bright and early, with a few intense hours of dance instruction with the talented Karma Camp, the students danced, shimmied and jumped their way around the room. Not even an hour later the students split up into their teams. With the rest of their team in tow, the students participated in group voice lessons with Tracy Lynn Olivera and their first acting intensive with Mitchell Hebert.  

Michell Hebert gives direction
to an Overtures student during
the first acting class.

Mitchell has long been a DC area performer and director. He was the 2014 Helen Hayes Award recipient for Outstanding Director of a Resident Production, as well as Outstanding Ensemble of a Resident Production for his work on Round House Theatre's Glengarry Glen Ross. Mitchell also received the 2012 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in After the Fall at Theatre J. Overtures is lucky enough to have Mitchell join us on several occasions throughout these two weeks.

The first session with Mitchell featured a slew of insightful experiences, exercises and helpful advice. What started out as a simple session on the nature of auditions, eventually turned into a discussion on actors being "actors", and how to best prepare and adjust oneself for an audition. (How to get in the proper mindset and physical state before you enter that big scary audition room.) I don't want to give away any secrets that might have been discussed in the room, but let's just say that there are more than a few secrets when it comes to relaxing and being audition ready. The students are very excited to have Mitch back soon to work monologues and additional actor readiness techniques.

Wrapping up an already busy day were individual musical coaching sessions with Signature provided accompanists as well as sessions on The Business of Show Business with Associate Artistic Director, Matt Gardiner. As we keep going through this exciting two week period with you via this blog we hope to excite you and interest you in joining us on the June 28th, when the Overtures students will take the stage in the Max Theatre at 11 am. The students will perform in a free final showcase, highlighting and showing off all of the work they have done over the past two weeks and that you have heard about here on the blog!

Mitchell and others watches as students present one minute introductions of themselves to the class.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Overtures - Beginning With a Bang

Cristina is getting her steps down.
Signature Theatre's Musical Theatre Institute, Overtures got underway yesterday and is off to at stellar start. The program, dedicated to nurturing and training emerging musical theatre artists, will be running for the next two weeks. Over the course of the intensive the students will go through classes and special masterclasses in singing, dancing, acting and finding their place in the professional world of modern theatre.

Lawrence takes flight in dance class.
Our first day got off to an exciting and slightly nerve racking start as each student auditioned before their peers with selected songs by the faculty. After seeing and hearing some of these students for the first time during this "audition" let me just say that this is one of the most talented groups Overtures has had in a long while. (I am very excited to see where they end up following their two weeks here.) Once that initial hurdle of nerves and first impressions was over and past, the students got to enjoy a quick tour and info session with the dashingly handsome, talented, and intelligent Education Department at Signature. Rounding out the day the students were put through the ringer with a dance class with the talented Karma and Brianne Camp as well as a group music rehearsal with Darius Smith.

In the coming days we will be updating the blog to feature moments, classes, and quotes from the program that we found particularly interesting and fun. We hope to have you join us on June 28th, when the Overtures students will take the stage in the Max Theatre at 11 am to perform in a free final showcase, highlighting all of the work they have done over the past two weeks.

Ian's getting into it towards the end of class.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The World of Noir - Cloak and Dagger

Closing out the spectacular season here at Signature Theatre is the world premiere of Ed Dixon's mile a minute film noir spectacular, Cloak and Dagger. We are very excited to bring this hilarious new musical to the MAX stage this coming June. With a cast of four actors playing over 20 roles, this stellar group of performers will have you rolling in the aisles as they jump from character to character in this madcap send-up of noir and all it holds sacred.

For those of you that might be unfamiliar with the world of noir, have no fear, the Signature Theatre Educaton Department is here for you with all the information you thought you didn't need to know.(But now realize you are happy you do know.) So where to start with such a topic? Why not the beginning?

Two silhouetted figures in The Big Combo 
Beginning in the early 1940s, numerous screenplays inspired by hardboiled American crime fiction were brought to the screen, primarily by European directors who shared similar storytelling sensibilities. These films were highly stylized, overtly theatrical, with imagery often drawn from earlier eras of German expressionist cinema. Fritz Lang, Robert Siodmak, Billy Wilder, and Otto Preminger, among others, were among this Hollywood vanguard who flourished in a genre that created a dark, stylistic atmosphere which captured the fatalism that pervaded the accompanying stories.            

During and immediately following World War II, movie audiences responded to this fresh, vivid, adult-oriented type of film — as did many writers, directors, cameramen and actors eager to bring a more mature world view to Hollywood product. Fueled by the financial and artistic success of Billy Wilder’s adaptation of James M. Cain’s novella Double Indemnity (1944), the studios began cranking out films with particularly dark and venomous views of existence.

Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray 
 in Double Indemnity
In 1946, a Paris retrospective of American films embargoed during the war clearly revealed this trend toward visibly darker, more cynical crime melodramas. Several Gallic critics christened this new type of Hollywood product “film noir,” or black film, in literal translation. Few, if any, of the artists in Hollywood who made these films called them “noir” at the time. But the vivid co-mingling of lost innocence, doomed romanticism, hard-edged cynicism, desperate desire, and shadowy sexuality that was unleashed in those immediate post-war years proved hugely influential, both among industry peers in the original era and to future generations of storytellers, both literary and cinematic.

So, we now have a rough idea of what noir might feel like but what does noir look like? How does one look at a film and identify it as noir instantly? What follows is a small and general sampling of elements and archetypes found in noir. 

  • Flashback / Flash Forward: A scene set in a time earlier / later than the main story. The protagonist often experiences several of these throughout the story. 
An alluring femme fatale.
  • Femme Fatale: An attractive and seductive woman. Normally one who will ultimately bring disaster to whomever becomes involved with her.
  • Detective / Anti-Hero: The noir character who often lacks conventional heroic attributes. Usually sardonic, sarcastic, hardboiled and just generally grumpy.
  • Narration: The act of describing what happens. The hero in a noir often does a large amount of narration both internal and external.
  • Black and WhiteNoir is often in a world of black and white, literally. In terms of colors and characters there are only the extremes of black and white, with few shades of gray in between.
  • Cigarettes: Whether it is the radiant femme fatale or the brooding down on his luck detective, everyone smokes at least several packs a day..
Jan Greer and Robert Mitchum in Out of the Past
  • Red Herring: An instance that is used to distract. In noir it could be a character or clue that makes the viewers and hero suspect something else.
  • Sexual Tension: When two individuals interact and one or both feel sexual desire, but it is postponed or never happens. Often happens between the hero and femme fatale.
  • No Happy Ending: Not everyone can have a perfect life and ending in noir. Some might get what they are after, but in the end largely no one is much happier.
  • Crime: Murders, heists, and cons are often major focal points of noir. These events might start the action of the story or may happen throughout the course of events.
There is clearly a lot of history and material built up in the world of noir. Stop by Signature Theatre and check out Cloak and Dagger in the MAX Theatre, which runs from June 12th - July 6th. Tickets can be purchased at our box office at 703 820 9771. We hope to see you there.


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