A recent prime example is “Streetwrite,” written and directed by Blanche Baker, an Emmy Award winning actress and Senior Faculty member of the New York Film Academy, and shot by Piero Basso, an award-winning Director of Photography. The film was fully funded by NYFA, with an international cast of talented Musical Theatre students working alongside NYFA’s faculty and staff of professional artists.
This Feb. 14, 2017, “Streetwrite” was introduced at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Bonnie Sacerdote Lecture Hall. The introduction included a screening of the trailer, followed by a 20-minute performance work by Artists Fighting Fascism: Rebecca Goyette, Brian Andrew Whiteley and Kenya (Robinson).
Opening remarks were given by International Institute for Conservation (IIC) Council Member, Amber Kerr and introductions by Moderator, Rebecca Rushfield. IIC is an independent international organization supported by individual and institutional members. It serves as a forum for communication among professionals with responsibility for the preservation of cultural heritage. It advances knowledge, practice and standards for the conservation of historic and artistic works through its publications and conferences. It promotes professional excellence and public awareness through its awards and scholarships.
“We were thrilled that the New York Film Academy and Blanche Baker allowed the International Institute for Conservation to open its Feb. 14, 2017 colloquium, held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with a showing of the trailer for the NYFA Musical Theater film ‘Streetwrite,’ said Rebecca Rushfield, IIC Conference Organizer. “With an explosion of sound, movement, and color, “Streetwrite” set the context for the discussion that followed, demonstrating how art is created as an expression of protest or outrage.”
Political graffiti has a long history dating back to the walls of Ancient Rome. It represents an alternative means of expression that gives voice to the issues and concerns of the common people. This tradition of free expression forms the basis of “Streetwrite,” a movie musical that asks the question, “How can speech be free if only those who pay can speak?”
Using street art as a focal point, the film examines the various ways people struggle to express themselves in situations where free speech is curtailed or suppressed. It also explores how certain kinds of expression can be repressive to individuals.
“Streetwrite’ will have its public world-premiere at The Cutting Room (44 East 32nd Street, NYC 10016) on Sunday, March 12th from 2pm-4pm. It will also have its East Coast Premiere at The Queens World Film Festival on Sunday, Mar. 19 in the Zukor Theatre at Kaufman Astoria Studios. The film has also been accepted to screen at Cinémonde, a private film series at the Roger Smith Hotel in NYC.
In addition to live musical productions at theaters in New York City, the New York Film Academy Musical Theatre Program produces movie musicals as part of the second year in the program. Students play roles written for them and sing songs specifically composed for them, all within a professional model that results in a state-of-the-art movie musical, which is submitted to film festivals across the country. Past productions have gone on to win awards, including “Start-Up.Com,” which won a Laurel of Excellence Award at the Tampa Bay Arts & Education Network.
“The New York Film Academy Musical Theatre Department is taking the lead in training young talent not only for the stage but also for careers in the film and television industry,” says NYFA Musical Theatre Chair, Mark Olsen. “A highlight of this experience is when students go to a professional studio and work closely with the engineer and the film’s music director to record their final vocal tracks.”
The recording session, which recently took place at MonaLisa studios in New York City, is very unique to students as they get the chance to have original material tailored and developed personally to them — i.e. characters, music, etc. The students also have the opportunity to work with renown composers on the material and record in an actual recording studio as part of our music theatre program. No other program can provide this level of professional support.
The next movie musical, “Alma Mater,” is being directed by NYFA Musical Theatre faculty member, Nathan Brewer, Music Direction by Anna Ebbesen, screenplay by Emily Kaczmarek, with Music and Lyrics by Zoe Sarnak.
It is a story of two rival roommates in the year 1993 at Beecher College, a fictional and exclusive all-girls school in the Hudson Valley. One roommate is preparing for an important fundraising event by organizing a group called “Beecher College Women of Substance.” The other roommate is organizing a group of her own for the same fundraiser, except this group is centered on the recent rebellious advance of the punk rock “Riot Girrrrrls” movement. Both groups awaken to and express their feminist points of view in ways that polarize them into separate and competing camps.
As they rehearse and prepare for the big event, they overlook members of the computer club who are discovering this new thing called the Internet.
They create songs, they write manifestos, they stake out separate “headquarters” and emerge to define themselves fiercely, but in completely opposite forms. Finally, after a serious arm wrestling match, members of their respective groups experience a moment of revelation where their combined efforts produce amazing results. The two musical styles and points of view come together in a triumphant song of solidarity. Both groups come to realize that they are actually two sides of the same Susan B. Anthony coin.
“I am so blessed to be a part of this wonderful program learning from working industry professionals,” said NYFA MusicalTheatre student, Brielle Carmichael. “There is nothing better than being surrounded by people who share the same passion for their art form as you do.”
New York Film Academy Musical Theatre alumnus Roy Khoury came to the Academy to pursue his childhood dream of performing on Broadway. However, Khoury took it one step further by bringing Broadway to his home country of Lebanon.
Last year, he created, starred and directed his own musical concert “One Night on Broadway” at the Casino Du Liban in Lebanon. The musical received an award of appreciation in the “Murex D’Or” 2015. Khoury also had the opportunity to showcase “One Night on Broadway” in the “Zouk Mikael International Festival.”
The show is a collection of the most beloved Broadway musicals which are converted into a chain of tableaux that focus on the most fascinating features of the Broadway culture.
“In our country there isn’t much of a known local musical theatre / Broadway scene,” said Khoury. “I have always dreamed of directing my own musical, as well as starring in it, so I threw the idea over to producers and they loved and invested in it. And it was a huge success!”
Khoury and his team were able to perform the musical at international festivals, private events, and concerts.
“The whole process of being the director and performing was a challenge for me, and I guess I nailed it,” said Khoury. “Thanks to NYFA and the awesome experience that I had in NYC. NYFA is the place where I became a musical theatre performer and director. I’ve worked a lot on myself in other schools and I’ve practiced intensively in different showcases and musicals, but it all comes back to NYFA and the most amazing teacher I met there.”
Due to the huge success of “One Night on Broadway,” a producer from Dubai contacted Khoury to be the performing arts and stage director of the popular TV talent show, “Arab Casting.” The show hired Khoury to be an artistic director, acting coach and choreographer.
Khoury says he’s now brainstorming for another show, as a variety of producers are interested in investing in his next big project.
His advice to students and recent graduates: “Be patient, positive, and embrace every single word or class or project at NYFA because it gives you a lot and it’s a brilliant domain. My mentor have always talked to us about one’s discipline and attitude towards others and towards yourself in order to merge into this field. And don’t stop practicing and working on your talent and technique. Everything makes a difference. Finally, take risks and do what you love. You’ll make it if you love it.”
After being in her high school performance of “Grease,” New York Film Academy Musical Theatre alumna Ilda Mason knew she wanted a career in musical theatre. Since graduating from NYFA, Mason has performed in two productions of “West Side Story”: one at Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA, and the second one at Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ. Mason played the role of Francisca in one, Estella in the other, and understudied Rosalia in both.
“Doing ‘WSS’ was incredibly close to my heart because it’s not only a classic masterpiece in every way possible, but it also gives me a sense of pride in my Latin American culture: to speak Spanish, to let my Latin flare explode, and to dance with all the I have,” says Mason.
She’s currently rehearsing for the “Cinderella” national tour, which she describes as ten exhilarating months of adventure across the US and Canada while telling the story of Rodger’s & Hammerstein’s “Cinderella.”
“It’s a fast paced learning experience where you have to give 100% all of the time and put a show together in two weeks,” she says. “I’m an ensemble member and love every second of it! It’s all about everyone being a company; it’s about images, formations, blending harmonies, and telling this beautiful story. It’s a special feeling to be part of a team like this.”
In addition to her performances on stage, Mason has worked as a choreographer on NYFA’s Musical Theatre performances. “I have come across many incredible and inspiring fellow students that have made me wish I could do what they do so effortlessly and vice versa,” she says. “But there is so much more to this. We all need to improve our dancing and our singing in different levels. Competing in the professional world is a delicate mix between the will power to go to those early calls everyday hoping one day they cast you; the discipline to take care of your instrument (meaning your entire body inside and out) while constantly going to classes to perfect your art; and a great deal of timing. Timing is everything because not only must you be ready for when the opportunity is presented, but you also need to have a level of maturity to build a career. Most of us will even need the time and previous experience to apply for a visa that will allow us to try to work in the U.S. I believe that when these characteristics of resilience and passion are present (and mixed with the unstoppable desire to conquer that musical theatre dream), NYFA’s students will always have what it takes.
New York Film Academy Acting Department Los Angeles campus is very proud of the Student Directed Play Series, which was completed at the end of the semester in July. Five plays, one original poetry/movement piece, and a musical were staged this summer.
The season started off with Marcus by Tarell Alvin McCraney directed by Page de la Harpe, Summer ’15 MFA Acting for Film. Marcus completed the Brother’s Size Trilogy by Mr. McCraney, which includes In the Red and Brown Water and A Brother’s Size, also directed by Page in the previous two semesters.
The second production was Hortensia & The Museum of Dreams by Nilo Cruz, directed by Morgan Aiken, Fall ’15 BFA 3A Acting of Film. Hortensia marks the second play done at NYFA by Latino writer Nilo Cruz, as a production of Ana & The Tropics was done last semester. Morgan has been heavily involved with Student Directed Plays since their inception two years ago, directing and acting in several productions.
The third piece was a poetry/movement piece conceived and written by Ria Patel, Fall ’14 BFA 2B, and co-directed by Federico Mallet Flores, Fall ’14 MFA alumnus, entitled If Light Never Comes. This production explored the complex dynamics of a relationship when one ends and another begins through dance. This was Ria’s first piece she’s written. “I grew from this experience by immersing myself with a small and wonderful cast,” said Patel. “I learnt there are many aspects to putting up a production. Also, as an actor, I feel that I have grown. By helping my actors I was able to understand my own characters better and how to work on building a character too.”
The fourth play was O.C.D., O.C.D by Laurant Baffie, adapted and directed by Gonzalo Maiztegui, Summer ’15 AFA Acting for Film. An unconventional comedy that explored the challenges of O.C.D. through humor. “This play helped me deal with my own mental disorder,” said Maiztegui.
The fifth play was Everything You Touch by Sheila Callaghan, directed by Camilia Mejia Duque, Fall ’15 MFA Acting for Film. Set in the 1970’s and present day, this play explored the themes of women’s bodies, image, and society.
The sixth play was the British comedy Nan by Catherine Tate, directed by Romeo Visca, Summer ’15 MFA Acting for Film. Of the experience Visca said, “I learned so much not only from the production process — which taught me how important key elements are when staging a play — but also the casting, the rehearsals, the preparation. But, most of all, it showed me how honest and open you have to be when working with a group of artists, and how many challenges we face in order to make the actors work as a group.”
The final production was a musical, Circle of Life, an adaption of The Lion King, adapted and directed by Simmie Sangian, Spring ’15 BFA Acting for Film. This production incorporated African body art and Brazilian Capoeria dance. This was such an amazing production that played to packed houses and an additional performance was added.
All of these productions were quite the ambitious undertakings and NYFA applauds all of the student directors’ hard work on these very successful productions. We are continuously impressed by the passion and talent they bring to their work.
Each year, the New York Film Academy produces movie musicals as the culmination to its 2-Year Musical Theatre Conservatory. These films consist of entirely original material (story and music) and are produced by industry professionals who come onboard and create a story and musical platform that is tailored around the 2-Year students featured in the film. This year’s film, Start-Up.Com, was written by NYFA Screenwriting Chair Melanie Oram and NYFA Musical Theatre Chair Mark Olsen, who also directed the film. Additionally, NYFA alumnus Sean Robinson was the producer, NYFA Cinematography Instructor Piero Basso was the Director of Photography, and NYFA Musical Theatre Instructor Bobby Cronin wrote the original music, which is a seminal part to the movie musical apparatus.
In the film, a small but inventive start-up company named Big Apple Orchard develops a program using facial recognition software that they hope can find missing children and aide in the fight against human trafficking.
Given the talent and hard work that went into the production, it came as no surprise when a Laurel of Excellence Award was presented to Start-Up.Com. The accolade came from the Tampa Bay Arts & Education Network, which will be broadcasting the film on-air August 6th from 9pm-Midnight on Brighthouse Network 635 and Frontier FiOs 32 to an audience of 1.3 million viewers in the Tampa Bay area.
“The accolade was awarded to everyone at NYFA involved in making the film — students and crew alike,” said producer, Sean Robinson. “It takes a village to make a film of this caliber and everyone’s role is an integral part in the process and should be equally celebrated. The students are fortunate to have a team of veteran filmmakers spearheading this level of exposure for them in the professional arena.”
The team is already making plans for their next movie musical, which will focus on “freedom of expression.” Blanche Baker, a senior instructor in the Acting and Musical Theatre Programs, is directing and Robinson will be producing once again. The new movie musical, which has social and political undertones and features Musical Theatre’s 2-Year Summer 2015 students, puts an emphasis on examining graffiti as an art, as opposed to vandalism.
After coming on the scene as a semi-finalist in Season 9 of American Idol, the multi-talented performer Todrick Hall has quickly built a following to become a household name in the world of musical theatre. From his flash mob for Ariana Grande to his Beyoncé themed flash mob performed in the middle of a Target store, Hall’s Youtube channel has grown to over 2 million subscribers.
Hall is now taking his talents on tour in his upcoming show, Straight Outta Oz. The tour will run the entire summer at cities all across the country. New York Film Academy Musical Theatre students and alumni shouldn’t be surprised when they see a familiar face in the cast, as recent graduate Kylan Ross will be playing “The Wizard.”
Fortunately for us, we had a chance to chat with the recent Musical Theatre graduate before he heads off on tour this summer.
Kylan Ross in a NYFA Musical Performance
Congratulations on being cast as ‘The Wizard’ in Todrick Hall’sStraight Outta Oz! When was the moment you knew you wanted to pursue musical theatre?
I guess there were many different moments in my life that led up to me wanting to pursue musical theatre. Before I can remember, I loved singing pop music. I remember my mom would always be playing either Celine Dion or Michael Bolton songs, or singing random show tunes in the house, so I was raised with music all my life.
What really opened my eyes to musical theatre was the movie musical adaptations of the musicals Rent and Chicago. I remember being younger and watching those movies on repeat, over and over again, to the point where I could recite the whole movies from start to finish.
My first big theatre experience was when I went on a high school trip to London when I was 14 and our teachers brought us to see Wicked. From the moment the overture began to play I was in awe. I stood up at the end of the song ‘Defying Gravity’ and began to leave the theatre, until my teachers stopped me and told me that there was another act. I couldn’t believe how music, singing and dancing could tell such a story and I knew from that moment that this was something that I wanted to do. When I returned home I joined a local musical society called S.O.N.G and with them my passion and love for musical theatre grew with every show we put on.
Why did you decide to study at NYFA?
When I decided to study musical theatre I was actually in my final year of college studying Forensic Science and Biology. I knew I wanted to finish my degree but I also knew that there was really only one thing I wanted to do, and that was to perform, so I began to research schools. After looking through lots of programs I came across NYFA and from reading what classes they offered and seeing who some of their staff members were, I was sold. NYFA’s 2-Year Conservatory Program not only offers musical theatre training but on-camera training too, which no other program I researched offered. Other classes like Pop/Rock and Movie Musical were also a huge bonus to an already impressive program. I knew NYFA was the place for me.
Kylan Ross at NYFA performance
How did you land the role of ‘The Wizard?’
I was looking up auditions on backstage.com when I came across the auditions for Straight Outta Oz. I have been a huge Todrick Hall fan, so when I read the breakdown I knew that this was something I had to audition for. It was one of the first auditions I did after graduating from NYFA, so I was still getting used to the daily audition routine while trying to keep the audition nerves at bay. The first day of auditions at Pearl studios was the singers’ call and I sang “The Show Must Go On” by Queen. I came back the following day to the dance call where we did a commercial/hip-hop routine followed by another singing call where I sang “Alive” by Sia. A few weeks later I received a call from Todrick Hall offering me the role of ‘The Wizard.’
What was your reaction when you found out?
I was actually on a break from a restaurant job I was working at when I got the call from Todrick. I was in complete shock, so I did what most people do in a time of shock and I called my mother. We spent about five minutes just shouting back and forth at each other with excitement on the phone. I then called my boyfriend Cullen, another NYFA alum, and told him the good news. Unfortunately for me, I had to go back and work the dinner shift at my job, but, needless to say, I was smiling from ear to ear that night.
Would you say your training and experience at NYFA is useful in terms of being prepared for this role?
I can honestly say that my training and experience at NYFA played, and will continue to play, a huge role in my audition process, as well as preparing for a role and performing. I have learned so many valuable skills and knowledge from the best in the business and I will be forever grateful for that. I would especially like to thank the dance staff at NYFA and in particular Chad Austin, Michelle Potterf and Deidre Goodwin, who I was lucky enough to have from the beginning to the end of my NYFA training.
I never thought I would ever be able to go to a dance audition, but working with these people really improved my confidence, skill and training in dance and now I go to as many dance calls as I can. All of the staff at NYFA are the most supportive, caring and driven people I have ever met and I am so grateful to have learned from and to have worked with such talented people who genuinely want to best for all their students.
When will we be able to see you perform as ‘The Wizard?’
Straight Outta Oz will be touring the country all summer and we will be having a New York show on August 4th in The Highline Ballroom. For tickets and more information about show locations and venues visit todrickhall.com
New York Film Academy South Beach Instructor Susie K. Taylor founded The Movement Club as an outreach organization of students whose purpose is to spread light through the “healing art of acting.” Late last month, The Movement Club put on an all-female performance called “Freedom is Beauty!! #F.I.B. at Olympia Theater in Miami, Florida.
“The New York Film Academy South Beach is excited to be a part of the Celebration of Women’s Month at the Olympia Theater in Downtown Miami,” said NYFA South Beach Director, Elli Ventouras. “Under the guidance of our inspirational Movement Instructor Susie K. Taylor, the female performers of our Movement Club will perform an Interpreted Dance. Susie has really motivated our students to reach their full potential!”
“In the Lobby Lounge…ETC!” is Olympia Theater’s very own homage to classic Vaudeville and variety shows. Anything from sketch comedy to alternative entertainment, burlesque and improv. Produced by the Front Yard Theatre Collective, this month’s “ETC!” featured an epic collaboration of all-female, Miami based performers, celebrating Women’s History Month.
“When I founded the Front Yard Theatre Collective, I never imagined we would find a home in the historic Olympia Theater,” said Gabriela Fernandez from The Olympia Theater. ‘Thanks to “In the lobby lounge…ETC!’ we can maintain our primary goal of offering free quality entertainment for the benefit of our community.”
NYFA’s group performed Pick A Song, a game where a lucky audience member offers up his or her favorite song and the F.I.B creates a couture movement piece for that specific song.
The experience was wonderful and Susie K. Taylor was “beyond thrilled with the students” as they joyfully applied their class work to their performance.
Congrats to The Movement Club on putting on another successful performance. We look forward to the next show!
The New York Film Academy Musical Theatre Program was honored to welcome Tony-nominated actor, Jonathan Groff, to a Master Class Lecture. Currently starring as King George III in the new Broadway musical Hamilton at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, Groff has appeared in the Broadway rock musical Spring Awakening, the critically acclaimed revival of Hair, as well as two Craig Lucas plays, Prayer for My Enemy and The Singing Forest. He made his West End debut in the revival of the play Deathtrap opposite Simon Russell Beale.
Jonathan Groff, star of Broadway’s “Hamilton”
As for the world of film, Groff starred in the first-ever screen adaptation of author David Sedaris’s work, C.O.G., in which he portrayed a character based on Sedaris himself, and as the voice of Kristoff in the Disney animated feature, Frozen. On television, Groff portrayed the recurring role of Jesse St. James in the Fox series Glee, and from 2014 to 2015, he starred as Patrick Murray in the HBO series Looking.
The event opened with an introduction where Groff spoke a bit about himself and his journey into the business. Hailing from Lancaster, PA and working a lot at the local Fulton Opera House, Groff decided to take a job on the non-union tour of Sound of Music. From there, he moved to New York City and waited tables for a while until his first big break into Broadway.
The class developed into a workshop in which Groff coached six of our Musical Theatre students, and was totally impressed by their singing and acting abilities. He worked with each of them to find a different and more personal approach to each of their songs.
“It was an honor to have such a well-rounded and admired actor spend his morning with our musical theatre department,” said NYFA Musical Theatre Creative Director, Kristy Cates. “He was patient and kind and gave incredible direction and advice. It’s extremely valuable for our students to see that someone who is so incredibly successful can still be humble and kind. He provided inspiration to our students…inspiration that will live with them for a very long time.”
Groff ended the class with a question and answer session where he gave the sound advice to not compare yourself to others, to find a supportive group of friends in this crazy business and to continue to find new ways to be inspired.
“I was so thrilled to find that the students at NYFA are as fearless as they are talented,” said Groff. “It was an honor and inspiration to work with them.”
As you tell from the photos, it was a wonderfully inspirational experience for our musical theatre students and all involved!
Founded by New York Film Academy acting alumnus Corey Scott Rutledge, The Shorts Show team has been doing consistently funny sketch comedy in New York for five years now and have been featured everywhere from The Huffington Post to Funny or Die.
Last year, the group began doing live scripted comedy at NYC’s The PIT, selling out almost every show. Their most recent show, Tourist Trap, was co-written by NYFA acting graduate Brooks Russell and includes the cast of NYFA grads Jae LaRoya and Dirk Otis, as well as NYFA Instructor Grant Lancaster. In fact, even the technical director is Luis Alercone, a NYFA filmmaking graduate.
Tourist Trap came about in an effort to make a New York-centric show,” said co-writer Brooks Russell. “We all live in the city and we all share the common love/hate relationship with the city— so we wanted to make a show that delved in to that.”
The team began throwing around ideas for a few of the sketches and then searched for a backbone to them all together. That’s when they stumbled upon On the Town, an old but fairly popular musical that just recently had a revival run on Broadway. The show is about three sailors who spend one night in NYC and go on ‘wild and crazy’ adventures, then meet up to share their adventure together.
“We started thinking what if you took that story but had the sailors just go through all of the obstacles that today’s New Yorker often faces: subway delays, catcalling, hipster-artisanal propaganda, the homeless, pigeons, Naked Cowboys, and so on,” said Russell. “We use the sailors as a vehicle to travel through this very weird, dark, and (hopefully) hilarious version of NYC that explores all of those experiences that really are unique to this city, and the musical element helps it keep an absurd, light-hearted tone in an otherwise bleak setting. Mostly because Dirk has the voice of an angel.”
Be sure to check out Tourist Trap at the PIT on 123 E. 24th St. on Friday, December 4th at 9:30pm. For tickets and times, please visit thepit-nyc.com/event/tourist-trap.