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  • NYFA Summer Camp Students Attend Special Performance of “PIPELINE” at Lincoln Center

    Celebrating the end of a busy summer camp season, the New York Film Academy was privileged to share an incredible opportunity with our New York City campers to attend Dominique Morisseau’s original play, “PIPELINE,” at the Lincoln Center Theater (LCT). Morisseau is an accomplished writer whose credits include theatre hits like “Ain’t Too Proud,” “Detroit ’67,” “Blood at the Root,” “Sunset Baby” and TV’s Shameless.” To add to the excitement, “PIPELINE” also stars NYFA Instructor Jaime Lincoln Smith, whose credits include Broadway’s “Holler if Ya Hear Me” and the TV shows “Blue Bloods” and “Elementary.”

    “PIPELINE” was an especially timely and thought-provoking piece to share with NYFA’s teen students, as it portrays a mother’s hopes for her son clashing with an educational system rigged against him.

    Sarah Kinsey (Youth Enrollment), Kenzie Ross (Director of Youth Programs), Jaime Lincoln Smith (played Dun in “PIPELINE” / Acting For Film Instructor at NYFA), Tyler Buckner (NYFA Liberation Diploma HS Program), Jaime Cartagena (NYFA Liberation Diploma HS Program). Bottom left: Krystal Flores (NYFA Liberation Diploma HS Program). Bottom right: Lily Buchanan (NYFA Kids Acting For Film Summer Camp Student).

    To facilitate the event, Morisseau coordinated with NYFA Director of Youth Programs Kenzie Ross to arrange a special performance for a student based-audience, organized by LCT with teenagers attending from different schools and organizations all over the greater New York City area. Dominique Morisseau and Kenzie Ross had previously worked together on her play, “Blood at the Root,” and discovered their mutual passion for bringing young people to the arts.

    To facilitate the special showing of “PIPELINE,” Morisseau collected personal donations during previews to sponsor student tickets later in the run, and people volunteered happily. From NYFA, three students from the Liberation Diploma Outreach Program and one student from NYFA Kids Summer Camps were able to attend, together with NYFA Youth Enrollment Admissions Specialist Sarah Kinsey and Director of Youth Programs Kenzie Ross.

    “It was truly moving to be a part of an audience of young people as their voices were heard and they watched themselves be represented on stage in an authentic way,” shared Kenzie Ross. “This conversation between parent and student, particularly between young black men and their mothers, is an incredibly raw and significant one due to the climate of our education system today. To hear and feel a mother’s heartache as she watches her son float in and out of her ability to keep him safe is beautifully mirrored by seeing her son, a young black teen, grapple with his own heartache and frustration as he struggles with his own place in society and concepts of reality.”

    From left to right: Tyler Buckner, Lily Buchanan, Krystal Flores and Jaime Cartagena

    After the performance, students were treated to an exclusive talkback with the artists, covering many topics including like the school to prison pipeline in our country; the craft of acting; the experience of being a person of color in the entertainment industry; and how the many different perspectives from different characters in the script lend to the complexity of this issue.

    NYFA camp students then had a chance after the talkback to meet with NYFA Instructor Jaime Lincoln Smith at a restaurant nearby to say congratulations and chat in more detail about his experience with the play.

    September 22, 2017 • Academic Programs, Acting, Community Highlights, Musical Theatre • Views: 29

  • NYFA Alumna Meghan Modrovsky is Arya in “Game of Thrones: The Musical”

    NYFA acting alumna Meghan Modrovsky is on her way to Broadway as one of the most popular characters in America: Arya Stark, the littlest assassin on HBO’s “Game of Thrones” is now a rapping, singing assassin in “Game of Thrones: The Rock Musical.”

    Modrovsky was interviewed via email by NYFA Correspondent Joelle Smith to talk about the monumental task of playing Arya and what it’s like to be a part of something with such a large fanbase.

    NYFA: Can you talk a little about the audition process? Did you go in for Arya or were you surprised by the casting decision? 

    Modrovsky: I applied for the part of Arya via Actor’s Access in October of 2016. The audition itself was the same as any other. I had to prepare 16 bars and a scene, but there was one big exception.

    The role of Arya required the actor the rap. While I’m a fan of the genre, I had never rapped for anyone other than my cats. I prepped my song, my sides, and my 60 seconds of rap and went into the audition that day fully expecting to make an *ss out of myself.

    As I was sitting in the waiting area about to implode from anxiety, a wave of calm washed over me and I just started smiling. I’m sitting here about to rap a frickin’ Eminem song so I can hopefully play Arya Stark in a “Game of Thrones” parody musical. As soon as I accepted how ridiculous the whole situation was, I was ready to go. This was a rare audition. I felt really, really good afterward, so I was just elated when they called to offer me the part.

    NYFA: Are you a fan of the book or the show? Who is your favorite character? 

    Modrovsky: At this point in time, I prefer the books to the show. Once the show ran out of George R. R. Martin’s source material and started bending towards fan fiction, the carefully constructed character logic started getting sacrificed for sake of the plot and the show has suffered as a result. Yes, I’m that person.

    My favorite character has always been Cersei. She is vile, vindictive, power-hungry, murderous, and her blowing up the Sept is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen on television. What’s not to love?

    NYFA: Did you base your characterization off of the book, the show, a mixture of both, or just use the script you had? Why?

    Modrovsky: I stuck to the script we were given almost exclusively for Arya’s portrayal. Our show’s plot focuses on season one of “Game of Thrones,” with some well-placed spoilers, and Arya wasn’t a big player in the story yet. We are first and foremost a parody musical, so the writer decided to play with Arya’s arc and make it a running gag. I don’t want to give too much away, but in our show, you see Arya go through hilarious phases and stages of adolescence as she tries to figure out who she is.

    NYFA: What was it like performing at Comic Con? Do you have a favorite memory from this performance? 

    Modrovsky: San Diego Comic Con was an absolute madhouse in the best possible way. We had eight shows over four days and we were all sick and exhausted by the end. The audiences loved it though. My favorite memory happened after our final show.

    We went out into the lobby to take photos with people and after some time, I headed backstage to change out of my sweaty costume. As I rounded the corner to the entrance of the theatre, I heard someone shriek, “Arya!”

    It was a group of audience members from the last performance. They rattled off how much they loved the show, how much they loved what I did with Arya, how much they loved my rap sequence and a slew of other incredibly kind words. We all hugged and they went on their merry way, but man, that was a truly amazing way to end a crazy week. That alone is one of the coolest things that have ever happened to me.

    NYFA:  Is there any fan interaction with the show? What has that been like? 

    Modrovsky: There is! Not so much with famous lines, but during the transition from the opening number to scene one, we normally start singing “Peter Dinklage” to the tune of  “The Game of Thrones” theme song.  It always gets a good laugh. At Comic Con the crowds participated loudly and enthusiastically. They loved booing Joffrey and even started singing the chorus with us for “Things I Do For Love.”

    NYFA: What’s the most exciting part about taking the show to NY? 

    Modrovsky: The most exciting part is being taken to NY as an off-Broadway production. This is not the normal fate of most theatre productions, and we are very fortunate to have this opportunity. I’ve been doing theatre since I was 13 and the notion that in one short month I’ll be playing several doors down from some of the biggest names on Broadway is mind-boggling.

    NYFA: Has the cast and crew watched this season of “Game of Thrones” together?

    Modrovsky: Yes! Several cast members would regularly organize screenings and good portions of the cast would get together to watch. Sadly, I don’t know about any fun reactions. I haven’t been present for any of the viewings for two reasons. One, my fiancé would be very upset if I watched it without him. “Game of Thrones” runs deep in our relationship. Two, I am incapable of shutting the heck up during an episode. I didn’t want to inflict that on my friends.

    NYFA: What’s your favorite song to sing in the musical? 

    Modrovsky: Definitely “Stronger.” “Stronger” is our feminist power ballad where all the women of Westeros including Daenerys, Sansa, Arya, Catelyn, and Cersei come together to say, “Yes, our current circumstances suck, but we possess the strength to rise above and conquer.” The song is about empowerment and overcoming the odds of your situation. We’re a parody show, so this number is particularly special as it’s our one serious moment.

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that helped you with this role? 

    Modrovsky: It wasn’t specifically something that helped me with the role; rather it helped me land the role. I learned to never make the casting director’s choice for them. I was so nervous the morning of the audition that I seriously considered canceling my time slot. I’m so glad the logical side of my brain told the emotional side to shut up.

    It’s not your place as an actor to decide if you’re right for the part. That’s the casting director’s job, and your speculation on the whys and why not’s are irrelevant and a waste of your energy. Focus on being prompt, prepared, likable, and leaving a good impression in the room.

    NYFA: Why do you think fans have flocked to the show? 

    Modrovsky: “Game of Thrones” has a ravenously devoted fanbase. People have flocked to ”Game of Thrones: The Rock Musical” for the same reasons they flocked to ”A Very Potter Musical.” They love these characters and story so much and they want to share their love of it with their fellow nerds.

    You can watch “Game of Thrones: The Rock Musical” at The Jerry Orbach Theater on 50th and Broadway in midtown Manhattan. The show runs from October 13 – 29. Click here for ticket information.

     

  • NYFA Harvard Musical Theatre Students Create Powerful Music Video Cover of Sia’s “Bird Set Free”

    This summer, NYFA Harvard students from around the world had collaborated and performed in a unique and empowering music video project as part of NYFA’s musical theatre workshops. Performing their own vocals in a cover of Sia’s powerful ballad “Bird Set Free,” students created a piece that celebrates the diverse voices and in our international community, as well as the liberating power of the visual and performing arts.

    NYFA Musical Theatre Instructor Bobby Cronin led the music video project, which is as a part of the NYFA curriculum he developed alongside Musical Theatre Chair Mark Olsen and Shani Patel to help students gain insight into the potential power of musical storytelling in film as well as live theatre.

    “I was blown away by the message the first time I heard the song,” said Bobby, “and I’d since been yearning to use the song in an educational environment. Once I met the students at the New York Film Academy’s summer program at Harvard, I knew this would be the song for our music video.”

    The group brainstormed together, and Bobby suggested the idea of using paper signs to represent an important battle each student felt they had struggled with individually, and the students loved it.

    “We then worked with NYFA’s Shaun Clark who was the DP/cinematographer on the project,” said Bobby. “He was very inspired by our ideas and pitched using videos like [Sinead O’Connor’s] ‘Nothin’ Compares 2 U’ as reference — close shots that give the inner turmoil of the artist. We then discussed that the song is about breaking free of these turmoils, and the idea to use black and white (darkness) transitioning into color (light) became the metaphor for our video.”

    The message of Sia’s song resonated especially with the burgeoning musical theatre performers. Some of the lyrics include:

    “I don’t care if I sing off key

    I find myself in my melodies

    I sing for love

    I sing for me

    I shout it out

    Like a bird set free…”

    The students learned the song under the guidance of musical director William Demaniow, in an arrangement created by Bobby. After recording the song with professional equipment, the faculty and student collaborators filmed the music video, which was poignantly edited by Elise Ahrens.

    “I wanted this video to represent the world we live in today and the dream I have of us all co-existing as a human race,” said Bobby. “And, how as an artist, it is of the utmost importance to create from your soul.”

  • June Graduation for NYFA Teens and Kids Summer Camps

    On Friday, June 27, the first New York Film Academy teen and kids summer camp programs came to an end. As students waited for their graduation ceremony to start, they took selfies while their parents banded together.

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    As the lights dimmed, the acting students presented their one to two minute monologues. Their head shots were projected before the video began. Filmed against a white background “audition style,” each actor chose a unique piece to perform.

    Then, the student’s short films were screened. Their backdrop was the Universal backlot, the same place “Hairspray” was filmed. Students were given a challenge to make a movie without dialogue. They wrote, directed, filmed, and edited their own productions from start to finish.

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    Their instructors and councilors were in attendance and issued certificates of completion. In their farewells they offered words of encouragement. Camera Instructor Bart Mastronardi offered the wise words of Helen Keller: “Life is either an incredible journey or it’s nothing at all.”

    “In five days you’ve done an amazing job. This is one of the best one-week programs. You’re all so ambitious. Parents and grandparents keep pushing these kids. They really appreciate it. Even if they don’t always show it,” said NYFA Instructor Martin Thompson.

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    After they collected their certificates each student was given a copy of their work to use for reels or to share with friends and family. The graduates and their families finished the night with cupcakes and dancing by the pool.

    Head of programs Ale Salinas described the programs objectively in her farewell, stating, “Some of you may have learned that this isn’t what you want to do at all, that’s valid, too. But I’m being honest when I say we’re going to miss you.”  6B2A0062

    The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate all of the students in finishing their first film. We look forward to the seeing second film real soon.

  • NYFA Welcomes Hire Heroes USA

    On June 24, The New York Film Academy College of Visual and Performing Arts (NYFA) Veteran Services Department was fortunate to collaborate with Hire Heroes USA (HHUSA) to host a daylong exclusive employment workshop for NYFA’s veteran students. The NYFA military students also benefited from one-on-one time with the Transition Specialists from HHUSA.

    Hire Heroes and New York Film Academy

    Hire Heroes visits the New York Film Academy

     

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    Hire Heroes USA is a nonprofit that provides free, expert career coaching and job sourcing to hundreds of transitioning U.S. military members.

     

    Hire Heroes USA is a nonprofit that provides free, expert career coaching and job sourcing to hundreds of transitioning U.S. military members, assisting veterans and spouses with finding employment.

    The first half of the eight-hour workshop was a practicum related to resume theory, networking techniques, and how to affectively prepare for an interview. Representatives from Hire Heroes USA, Jamie Rimphanli and Walter Serrano, coached veteran students on how to properly format their resumes and discussed, in-depth, the importance of networking and how to prepare for a job interview.

    For the second half of the workshop, industry professionals from Disney Studios, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Legendary Entertainment, and Plan A Locations joined the workshop for a moderated Q&A panel discussion. Panelists discussed how they began their careers in the entertainment industry and how they’ve navigated their careers for success.

    Highlights from the day included an exercise that had all of the participants do a speed networking session. Also, HHUSA brought a photographer who took professional head shots for the veteran students’ LinkedIn pages.

    “We felt that this training and these types of vet student-centric activities are increasingly important because they help prepare our students to meet with HR/Talent Acquisition teams from the major studios,” explained NYFA Director of Veterans Services Department John Powers.  

    Retired Army veteran and MFA cinematography student Bryan Hudson stated, “The Hire Heroes USA workshop was a fantastic forum to introduce veterans with industry insiders and provide the opportunity to learn from them. The event was beneficial to everyone involved about learning the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of the interview process and how to break into the entertainment industry. One thing that I learned from the workshop is to establish relationships that will be beneficial to both parties. Thank you to the NYFA Veterans Department for putting on this marvelous event, and I hope that this will be the first of many events with Hire Heroes USA.”

    The NYFA Veteran Services Department is extremely grateful to Hire Heroes USA for partnering with us to bring this wonderful opportunity to NYFA veteran students.

  • Musical Theatre Alumnus Pierre Marais to Perform in Baayork Lee’s “A Chorus Line,” “Dancing Queen” and “West Side Story”

    Pierre Marais comes from a family of circus performing trapeze artists from Ringling Brothers’ Barnum and Bailey, who were undoubtedly influential towards his aspirations to perform in his own way.

    “I still have very vivid memories of watching them perform and wanting to be up there with them,” said Marais.

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    It wasn’t long until Marais got his first break in the industry when he met Jean-Claude Van Damme at a training facility in his hometown of Cape Town, South Africa.

    “We met and struck a conversation; being from Belgium we immediately had a few things in common,” recalled Marais. “By the time I had gotten home, without my knowledge, Jean-Claude had called the producers of the movie, told them to fire the kid they cast as his son, and hire me instead.” Two days later, Marais was screen testing to play his son in “The Wake of Death,” which was about him being captured by the Triads and Van Damme coming for revenge.

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    After coming to the realization that he would need to move to the U.S. to further pursue his career as an actor and performer, Marais decided to take up the 2-Year Musical Theatre Conservatory at the New York Film Academy.

    “Broadway is a billion dollar industry; my New York training had a musical theater focus and most of the connections I made at college were in the theater world,” said Marais. “Taking classes with the right choreographers and casting directors has directly led to more job offers than I can count. Loyalty is certainly not dead. So taking classes and improving is a part of life. My friends who have been on Broadway for decades still take classes for acting, singing and dancing regularly.”

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    Since graduating, Marais has continued to work steadily as a performer. He recently finished performing in the musical “Rock of Ages.”

    This summer he will be in Niagara Falls as a lead singer for a show called “Dancing Queen,” and then after that he will be doing “West Side Story” and “Saturday Night Fever” at the Ivoryton Playhouse in Connecticut.

    “Doing different shows presents new challenges and those are the things that keep me excited,” said Marais.

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    Though he continues to book show after show, Marais said he still has a strong desire to return to Broadway. Surely, it’s only a matter of time. His next stop will be portraying the role of Paul in the national tour of “A Chorus Line,” directed by Bayork Lee next year.

    June 21, 2017 • Musical Theatre, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2157

  • Highlights From the 71st Annual Tony Awards

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    The New York Film Academy was especially excited to watch the Tony Awards this year, as our Musical Theatre Program has welcomed many members of the Broadway community as instructors, guest speakers, and featured artists in our original movie musicals, from our Artistic Director Kristy Cates to visiting Master Class lecturer Jonathan Groff. For industry insiders and theatre lovers everywhere, the 71st Annual Tony Awards on Sunday was the theatre event of the season. The New York Film Academy provided live social media coverage on Twitter, while the live CBS broadcast of the Tony Awards ceremony at Radio City Music Hall gave nearly 6 million home viewers a glimpse into an evening full of Broadway royalty, moving speeches, and much-anticipated performances, all hosted by Oscar-winning actor and NYFA guest speaker Kevin Spacey.

    In case you missed it, here are some highlights from the 71st Annual Tony Awards:

    Best Musical

    After much anticipation, audience favorite “Dear Evan Hansen” swept the Tony’s this season, taking home awards in not one, not two, but six categories — including the coveted spot for Best New Musical. The groundbreaking musical is a true original, featuring a small cast and orchestra and offering some innovative tie-ins to social media.

    Best Actor in a Musical

    Dear Evan Hansen” also gave us one of the evening’s brightest new stars, when leading actor Ben Platt snagged the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical. Platt received a rousing standing ovation from the live audience and the orchestra at the Tony’s, and used his moment in the spotlight to spread some inspiration.

    As quoted in the New York Times, Ben offered encouragement to fellow theatre kids: “To all young people watching at home, don’t waste any time trying to be like anybody but yourself, because the things that make you strange are the things that make you powerful.”

    Best Actress in a Musical

    “Dear Evan Hansen” was not the only star of the evening. The Radio City Music Hall audience also swept to its feet to recognize and celebrate beloved industry icon Bette Midler, as she won the the Best Actress in a Musical award for her portrayal of Dolly Levi in the revival of “Hello, Dolly!” 

    Best Play

    While musicals and musical performances punctuated the evening, the Tony’s also celebrate legitimate Broadway performers and plays. This year, the category for Best Play (non-musical) was especially competitive, but in the end the award went to “Oslo,” which dramatizes the 1993 Middle East peace accords.

    Best Actress in a Play

    Laurie Metcalf had been nominated for a Tony Award four times before her emotionally-charged win on Sunday, when she took home the category for Best Actress in a Play for her performance as Nora in “A Doll’s House, Part 2.”

    Most-buzzed Acceptance Speech

    Cynthia Nixon took the stage to accept an award for Best Featured Actress in a play for “The Little Foxes,” the Lillian Helman classic which was also nominated in the Best Revival of a Play category. During her acceptance speech, Nixon caused major internet buzz for quoting the playwright to make a political statement: ““Sixty years ago, [Hellman] wrote, ‘There are people who eat the earth and eat all the people on it and other people who just stand around and watch them do it.’ My love, gratitude and undying respect go out to all the people in 2017 who are refusing to just stand and watch them do it.”

    Host Hall of Fame

    Kevin Spacey made his debut as a Tony Award host last weekend — and brought along some of his Hollywood pals for support. Spacey performed an affectionate homage to this season’s Broadway shows and playfully poked fun at himself for not being the first choice as this year’s host, bringing in pals like Steven Colbert, Whoopi Goldberg, and Billy Crystal to offer him hosting tips.

    Surprise Stars

    Former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, rocked Radio City during Jill’s moment on stage. Mrs. Biden made a brief appearance during the ceremony to promote Got Your Six, a campaign benefitting military veterans. And Variety reports that the crowd’s enthusiasm for the political superstars cased selfie-seekers to create traffic jams at the after-party as they clamored for a pic with the Bidens.

    Lifetime Achievement Award

    James Earl Jones received recognition for a full and incredible career on the stage, taking home the  2017 Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theater. The superstar, who has portrayed roles from Darth Vader in “Star Wars” to Othello on Broadway, graciously thanked the New York City Police Department during his moment on stage for their work keeping the Broadway community safe.

    Here is the full list of this year’s Tony Award winners, as reported by The Tony Awards website:

    BEST PLAY

    “Oslo”

    BEST MUSICAL

    “Dear Evan Hansen”

    BEST REVIVAL OF A PLAY

    August Wilson’s “Jitney

    BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL

    “Hello, Dolly!”

    BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE IN A PLAY

    Kevin Kline for “Present Laughter”

    BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE IN A PLAY

    Laurie Metcalf for “A Doll’s House, Part 2”

    BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE IN A MUSICAL

    Ben Platt for “Dear Evan Hansen”

    BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE IN A MUSICAL

    Bette Midler for “Hello, Dolly!”

    BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A PLAY

    Michael Aronov for “Oslo”

    BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A PLAY

    Cynthia Nixon for Lillian Hellman’s “The Little Foxes”

    BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A MUSICAL

    Gavin Creel for “Hello, Dolly!”

    BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A MUSICAL

    Rachel Bay Jones for “Dear Evan Hansen”

    BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL

    Steven Levenson for “Dear Evan Hansen”

    BEST ORIGINAL SCORE (MUSIC AND/OR LYRICS) WRITTEN FOR THE THEATRE

    “Dear Evan Hansen” Music & Lyrics: Benj Pasek & Justin Paul

    BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A PLAY

    Nigel Hook for “The Play That Goes Wrong”

    BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A MUSICAL

    Mimi Lien for “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812”

    BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A PLAY

    Jane Greenwood for Lillian Hellman’s “The Little Foxes”

    BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A MUSICAL

    Santo Loquasto for “Hello, Dolly!”

    BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A PLAY

    Christopher Akerlind for “Indecent”

    BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A MUSICAL

    Bradley King for “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812”

    BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY

    Rebecca Taichman for “Indecent”

    BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL

    Christopher Ashley for “Come From Away”

    BEST CHOREOGRAPHY

    Andy Blankenbuehler for “Bandstand”

    BEST ORCHESTRATIONS

    Alex Lacamoire for “Dear Evan Hansen”

    SPECIAL TONY AWARD® FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT IN THE THEATRE

    James Earl Jones

    REGIONAL THEATRE TONY AWARD

    Dallas Theater Center

    ISABELLE STEVENSON TONY AWARD

    Baayork Lee

    SPECIAL TONY AWARD

    Gareth Fry and Pete Malkin

    TONY HONORS FOR EXCELLENCE IN THE THEATRE

    Nina Lannan and Alan Wasser

     

    June 12, 2017 • Entertainment Australia, Entertainment News, Musical Theatre • Views: 1203

  • Musical Theatre Grad “Ione” Performing as Alternate Lead in West End’s “Thriller Live”

    Growing up in Manchester, UK, Mica “Ione” Townsend began developing her singing chops at three-years old in her church choir. From there, she progressed through classical vocal training and performances to sharing her gift with renowned professionals around the world.

    At just 14, Ione became a session singer and backing vocalist, displaying an outstanding vocal talent that earned her the opportunity of performing with the likes of Gorrilaz, Errol Brown (Hot Chocolate) and Heather Small.

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    In 2007, Ione moved to London to further her career and was soon invited to join a European and American Tour as backing vocalist to singer Adam Green. The success of the tour proved a catalyst for her career and Ione moved to the U.S. to fulfill her dream of studying at the Musical Theatre School at the New York Film Academy.

    “I think to train at NYFA, in New York, where musical theatre was born, has been extremely useful,” said Ione. “The focus was always on the acting and the story, and singing and dancing were an extension of that. I was also taught, at NYFA, not to limit myself; it was always inspiring that the teachers were on Broadway, taught, then would do other projects. I don’t have to choose between all the things I love.”

    After finishing NYFA and moving back to the UK, Ione toured as a soloist in the ”Hacienda Classics,” an experience which involved re-working dance classics with a 70 piece orchestra. She is now a lead in the West End musical ”Thriller Live,” which celebrates the music of Michael Jackson. The highly successful stage production has become the 15th longest running musical in the West End.

    As an artist who certainly doesn’t want to limit herself, Ione has continued to write her own songs, which gave her the impetus to showcase them as a singer in her own right.

    “The music industry is great,” says Ione. “Anybody can ‘release’ music, but in the same breath that means so many more people have music out there, so I would say the promotion of music as an artist, the staying on top of it, is most difficult for me.”

    In 2013, Ione released her debut EP “Fighting Fear,” which gave a nod to her musical theatre background in the haunting ballad “My Love.”

    Her first single “Back in the Day,” released in 2014, is an eclectic mix of soul and pop music with electronic sounds and is a blend of everything she loves in music. The song was heavily supported by BBC INTRODUCING and was aired by Tom Robinson Mixtape on BBC Radio 6. It was also chosen by songwriter Mark Hadfield, who has written for NEYO and Iggy Azalea, to be played on Huw Stephens’ show on BBC Radio 1.

    “Growing up around powerful and knowledgeable women gave me the landscape to share these life experiences in my work,” says Ione.

    Ione is also curently recording new material which is set to be released Spring 2017.

    June 12, 2017 • Musical Theatre, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 1114

  • NYFA Musical Theatre Alumna Cast in Asian Tour of “Sister Act”

    sophie KimNew York Film Academy Musical Theatre alumna Sophie Kim So-hyang has been cast in the US production of the hit Broadway musical “Sister Act,” making her the first Korean actress to have been cast in the American production of the musical. She will play the part of Sister Mary Robert, a quiet and timid nun who becomes inspired by the main character Delores to eventually break out of her shell. The show is a musical adaptation of the hit 1992 comedy film of the same name starring Whoopi Goldberg.

    “My Korean agent told me that there will an audition for ‘Sister Act’ in the Asian tour and that I should try to get in,” said Kim. “At first, I didn’t think too much about it because there are no roles for Asians in the play. But since it was an Asian tour, my agent told me that there would be a slight possibility of getting the part. So, I auditioned, got several callbacks, and finally got it. I was so excited!”

    Born and raised in Korea’s theatre district, Kim and her mother went to many shows as a child. “My parents were really supportive and always encouraged me to be an actress,” she recalls. “I was the kind of girl who loved to sing and dance.”

    While in Korea, Kim performed in many shows such as “Rent,” “Aida,” “Mamma Mia,” “Dreamgirls,” “Fame,” “West Side Story,” “Evita,” and “Wedding Singer.”

    sophie kim

    After attending and graduating from NYFA’s Musical Theatre Conservatory, Kim became the first person to join the AEA (Actors Equity Association) as a theatre actress from Korea. She played ‘Gigi’ from Miss Saigon (Paramount Theatre) ‘Tupim’ from ‘The King and I’ (Harbor Lights Theatre). Kim also appeared in the show of “Oliver,” “Spool Girl,” “6 Month Club,” and “Portrait of Father.”
    “Everything I’m doing now I learned from NYFA,” said Kim. “I learned history, preparing for auditions, ballet, vocal, stage combat, jazz, tap, Meisner, makeup, improv, and so much more. I would never be able to get a job if I didn’t go this school.”

    This Friday, April 28th, Kim will perform in the EnoB Benefit Concert at Saint Peter’s Church in Manhattan. The Benefit Concert is a semi-annual fundraising event hosted by EnoB, a non-profit music outreach organization that serves hospitalized and disabled children and youth and senior citizens through the joy and the healing power of music. It’s an opportunity for EnoB to raise funds to sustain the critical services for people in need and celebrate its work among friends and family.

    The Asian tour of “Sister Act” will begin in Singapore from May 9-28.

    April 26, 2017 • Musical Theatre, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2135

  • NYFA Alumnus Jaspal Binning’s “Ovum” Available on Digital and VOD

    Beginning today, you’ll be able to watch New York Film Academy Musical Theatre alumnus, Jaspal Binning‘s newest independent feature, “Ovum,” on Digital (iTunes), DVD and Video-on-Demand (VOD). Binning both stars and is executive producer in this dark, comedic, yet uniquely poignant story about the mysterious world of egg donation, which is loosely based on the true-life experience of writer/star Sonja O’Hara.

    Ovum

    In addition to Binning and O’Hara, the film stars Hassan Johnson (“The Wire”), Katie Morrison (“Donnie”), Jaspal Binning (“Brown Nation”) and Rutanya Alda (“The Deer Hunter”). It is directed by Matt Ott, with Dan McBride as editor and director of photography. The film is produced by Vincent Petrosini, Anna Lauren Farrell and Sonja O’Hara. Jeff Forbes, Jack Turner, Kris Frank, and Elyssa Lyn Rabinowitz.

    “The idea for Ovum came to me when I was flipping through the pages of Backstage,” said writer and star, Sonja O’Hara. “Next to casting notices for student films and Off-Off-Broadway plays, I noticed a picture of a group of beautiful, glowing young women and an ad that read: Do something meaningful. Help a woman in need. $8,000 dollars. I remember thinking, ‘here they are marketing a dangerous and experimental vanity procedure to fledgling actresses who are more often than not desperate and financially impaired young women.’ Ultimately I discovered that the in vitro fertilization process can be potentially more affordable than the sometimes exorbitant adoption fees in New York State. The whole issue wasn’t black and white and I felt compelled to explore the questionable moral gray area of financial compensation in exchange for human life. Could an audience relate to a self-serving female character who sells her eggs?”

    This is not the first collaboration with Binning and O’Hara. The two won Best Director prize at the New York Television Festival and Best Pilot of the Festival at ITV Fest for “Doomsday.”

    Since graduating from the Musical Theatre program, Binning has also appeared in Aaron Sorkin’s HBO series “The Newsroom,” and he plays the lead in the Netflix’s original series, “Brown Nation.”

     

    April 11, 2017 • Musical Theatre, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2119