Musical Theatre
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  • New York Film Academy Alum is Cosette in Cameron Mackintosh’s Les Miserables

    If music is the universal language, than New York Film Academy (NYFA) Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre grad Laís Lenci is becoming a universal performer. From Brazil to New York to Mexico City, the triple-threat singer/dancer/actress is now performing in triple languages. In March, Lais will star as Cosette while also performing in the ensemble for Cameron Mackintosh’s Spanish-language production of international smash-hit Les Miserables, in Mexico City.

    We caught up with the busy performer to hear about her experience working with one of theatre’s most renowned producers in one of the world’s favorite musicals. We’re sure you’ll be as impressed as we are: Lais has worked with Cameron Mackintosh not once, but twice — and in two languages, neither of which is her mother tongue!

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what brought you to the New York Film Academy?

    Laís: My name is Laís Lenci, I’m 24 years old and I’m a Brazilian actress, singer, and dancer. I decided to live in New York to study musical theatre, specifically, because I felt that something was missing in my background as an artist. I wanted to improve and learn things that in Brazil just couldn’t be taught.

    A friend of mine saw a NYFA’s audition advertisement and said, “You should try it!” The same week, I scheduled my audition — and received the greatest news that I would be studying at NYFA the next year! That was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had in my whole life.

    NYFA: Why Musical Theatre? What inspires you most as a performer?

    Laís: Well, I started dancing when I was three years old and I always enjoyed being on stage. At the age of nine I started taking acting classes and the singing came a bit later.

    When I saw the Disney production of Beauty and the Beast in Brazil I was still a kid, but I was certain that I wanted to become a musical theatre performer. I think that dancing, the singing, and acting become more powerful together. I feel that they can really connect to the audience and touch their souls in a very special way. That’s really inspiring to me.

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments from your time studying with us?

    Laís: I have many! But if I can point out one, it should be my last performance at our graduation showcase. When I finished my last note, I felt that I was finally ready to share my art with the world. And that was a very special moment to me.

    NYFA: What surprised you the most during your training? Was there anything you hadn’t expected to learn or do?

    Laís: I just didn’t know that I was capable of learning so much in only one year. I felt that I grew up as a person and as an artist, 10 years in one.

    I hadn’t expected to do such great and tough scenes during Meisner Classes. I had no idea that there was so much inside of me, emotionally speaking, and that I was going to be able to express all of that during my scenes. It proved me that, with the correct training, I could become a great actress.

    NYFA: You’re gearing up for a March premier of Les Misérables in Mexico City with Cameron Mackintosh, one of the most famous theatrical producers in the world. Can you tell us a bit about how this opportunity came about for you?

    Laís: Yes I am, and that’s very exciting! Two years ago I auditioned in Brazil for Cameron Machintosh’s Les Misérables. After a very exhausting six months of auditions and waiting, I had the great answer that I’d be a part of the cast.

    We did a one-year run in Brazil. By the end of the year I got a call from the producers, asking me to send in an audition tape for their next production of Les Miserables around the world. I sent it, and a month later they called me back to tell me that I got cast again, but this time I would be doing the show in Mexico City, singing in Spanish — which is not my mother language. A brand new experience!

    NYFA: How are rehearsals going?

    Laís: Rehearsals are going really well! It’s very interesting to do the same show but with a whole new team of directors, new cast, new language, new country. Many things have changed in my track as well and it’s very challenging. It’s also an exhausting period, as every musical’s rehearsals are. It’s the moment when we just can’t waste our energy and time with anything else but the show. We need to be 100% committed to the piece!

    NYFA: Cosette is a very vocally challenging role. For our students, do you have any tips and advice on how to prepare and sustain a tough vocal performance over a run with many, many shows?

    Laís: Cosette is a hard one, because there are a few specific high notes that you have to be fully vocally healthy to do perfectly. And I’m also a member of the ensemble, doing eight shows per week. My challenge is to sing all the ensemble songs (the poor, the lovely ladies) that are all very belted and powerful, and still be ready and not vocally tired when I go on as Cosette — who is the only legit female singing role in the whole show.

    My advice is to rest as much as you can when you’re not doing the show. Take care of your voice and your body’s health. Take voice lessons even when you are in a run. It’s really important to always be working with a vocal professional that you trust.

    And be kind to your instrument. Don’t push. Don’t force your vocal chords when you are not feeling okay. We need to know our limits, and know how far we can go, to be able to sing for three hours and still be healthy for a whole week of work.

    NYFA: How has working with Cameron Mackintosh helped you grow as a performer?

    Laís: What really impresses me about Cameron is that he’s the greatest Musical Theatre producer in the world, he has a huge team working with him, and still, he’s fully involved with all the shows he’s opening around the world. He always comes a few days before opening night to make sure that everything will be just perfect. He’s also a very humble man and a real gentleman.

    It’s such an honor that I’ve been cast twice by Cameron himself. His success is a response to the love that he puts into his work and his shows.

    That’s what I want to achieve in life. I think that greatness only comes when we are fully committed to our work and when we truly love what we do.

    NYFA: You’ve traveled from Brazil to New York, and now to Mexico City as a performer. As an international student and artist, what has been your greatest challenge? What advice would you give to your fellow international performers?

    Laís: I do love challenges, and I’m very moved by them. I think that the biggest challenge is to be away from my family and friends. Sometimes you want your mother’s hug and you just can’t have it. But that’s also a part of our profession. We go where we have work.

    My advice is to be brave and embrace the challenges — they make us grow, they make us better people. Stick to your character and your personal ethic. Stay strong to your beliefs and never give up on your dreams! They do come true for those who work hard and have love and gratitude in their hearts.

    NYFA: Is there anything I missed that you’d like to speak on?

    Laís: I just want to say that I’m so thankful for everything that NYFA has offered me as an artist and as a person. I will never forget everything I lived there, and that I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t taken the decision of moving to NYC to study at NYFA.

    Thank you for trusting my talent and for changing me for good! I miss every second of my experience with you and wish all the success in the world to all the students! I’m pretty sure they are all in the best hands of NYC!

     

  • Watch the Latest Movie Musical Trailers From New York Film Academy

    Since 2011, the New York Film Academy (NYFA) has been leading the movie musical renaissance, with its 2-Year Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre creating fully-produced original movie musicals as a part of its curriculum. Each NYFA-produced film consists of original music and stories that feature collaborations between NYFA students, faculty, and Broadway professionals, including John Wesley Shipp, Tony winner James Monroe Iglehart (“Landed“) two-time Tony nominee Charlotte d’Amboise, and most recently, Okieriete Onaodowan of “Hamilton” and “The Great Comet.”

    “After touring film festivals internationally and garnering numerous awards, these films have received recognition in The Huffington Post, Variety and other notable media outlets,” says filmmaker Sean Robinson, who produces, edits and oversees the movie musical productions at NYFA. 

    Watch the latest movie musical trailers below, featuring the 2017 NYFA Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre students. 

    “PLUS ONE” (dir: T.J. Mannix)

    PLUS ONE – trailer from SEAN ROBINSON on Vimeo.

    “FOOD LIKE LOVE” (dir: Johanna Pinzler)

    FOOD LIKE LOVE – trailer from SEAN ROBINSON on Vimeo.

    “readyMA MATER” (dir: Nathan Brewer)

    ALMA MATER – trailer from SEAN ROBINSON on Vimeo.

    “Alma Mater” director Nathan Brewer is currently in post production on his third movie musical, entitled “Hold Your Peace.”

    Upcoming movie musicals include “KAYA: Taste Of Paradise,” directed by Paul Warner, written by Jerome A. Parker, and with music and lyrics by Anna K Jacobs. This ‘70’s disco-era film has already ignited interest from Playbill and Broadwayworld.

    “KAYA,” co-starring “Hamilton” alum Okieriete Onaodowan, provides NYFA’s students with a direct pipeline to working industry professionals, such as costume designer David Withrow, choreographer Michelle Potterf, hair and makeup artist Makayla Benedict, music director Anna Ebbesen, and Nyfa’s own Till Neumann as director of photography. 

    Still from NYFA movie musical “Kaya”

    “You can expect a trailer for ‘Kaya’ this spring” says Robinson. “This film not only showcases exceptional music, storytelling, and directionbut it also celebrates a significant socio-political era in pursuit of civil rights. The gift of song should never be wasted and NYFA is providing an avenue for these students’ voices to be heard.”

    Still from NYFA movie musical “Kaya”

    The New York Film Academy Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre’s highlight reel can be watched here.

    For more information, release dates and upcoming screenings visit nyfa.edu.

  • “Mindhunter” Screening with Guest Speaker Happy Anderson at New York Film Academy

    David Fincher’s critically-acclaimed Netflix series “Mindhunter” has been described by Slant Magazine as “addictive and resonant,” and features the work of two New York Film Academy (NYFA) instructors.

    In the wake of David Berkowitz (aka “Son of Sam”), Charles Manson and others, a new team within the FBI was formed to psychologically analyze the minds of killers. “Mindhunters” focuses on the early days of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) as its members struggle to understand the minds of serial killers, a term which had not yet been coined. The series stars New York Film Academy Musical Theatre Master Class lecturer Jonathan Groff, while veteran actor and NYFA instructor Happy Anderson is featured in two episodes of Season 1 in the chilling role of imprisoned killer Jerry Brudos.

    Jonathan Groff and Happy Anderson in a still from “Mindhunters,” via IMDB.

    This week, Anderson will return to NYFA’s New York City campus as a special guest in the New York Film Academy’s Guest Speaker Series, to share insights with students and discuss his career — which has included roles on acclaimed shows such “The Knick,” “Boardwalk Empire,” and “The Deuce.” He will also be featured in “Bright” alongside Will Smith, which will be released December 22nd, 2017. Episode 7 of “Mindhunter,” in which Anderson guest stars, will be screened for students prior to a Q&A. NYFA Chair of Acting in New York City Peter Stone will be moderating the Q&A.

    “Mindhunter” has recently been renewed by Netflix for a second season which was announced in a tweet by the show’s official account:

    Watch the trailer for season one below:

  • NYFA Acting for Film Alumna Elena Wang Takes “Allegiance” From Broadway to LA

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) alumna Elena Wang is seeing her name in Broadway lights. Wang is no stranger to the stage. She has performed at London’s Royal Albert Hall with Daniel Dae Kim in “The King and I.” She worked alongside Tori Kelly in “Oz” and has also worked with Shaquille O’Neal through NYFA and Taylor Swift through Sony. Having performed in Australia, Singapore, and England Wang will make her LA stage debut in “Allegiance,” a new musical inspired by the true story of writer George Takei’s time spent in an internment camp on American soil.

    NYFA: When did you realize you wanted to be an actress?

    Wang: I was born in Singapore but I was raised in Australia. I was blessed to have attended a school (St. Hilda’s Anglican School for Girls) that’s very strong in the arts.  When I was 12, they put on the production of “The Wizard of Oz.” I was cast as Dorothy.  I realize now how big of a leap they took to cast a little Asian girl for that role, but it was also an eye-opening experience for me. Acting and singing was something I really loved and it was a thrill to bring a character to life regardless of my race. That process was the very first spark of understanding that this could be something I could do for the rest of my life.

    NYFA: What was your first acting gig?

    Wang: I had to move back to Singapore for my family after high school. As luck would have it, I was able to get into a theater program I had had my eye on. During my graduation show of “Once on this Island,” where I played Asaka, a leading theatre company discovered me. Wild Rice is known for their large-scale production of “Beauty World.” They needed a leading lady and they entrusted me with the role. It was the role that got me ELLE’s ‘Breakout star of the year award’ and opened several doors for me. I was incredibly blessed that it was my first.

    NYFA: What brought you to NYFA?

    Wang: I grew up loving film. A year after my big break in Singapore, I landed a role in “The King and I” that was to be staged at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall in London starring Daniel Dae Kim (“Lost,” “Hawaii Five-O”). After performing for 5000 people every night, I realized that film was still something I wanted to try. So I took the leap, left London, and started fresh in Los Angeles at NYFA. I read that NYFA was hands-on and more practical-based, which was something I wanted.

    NYFA: Do you have a favorite class or moment from your history at NYFA?

    Wang: Singing has been a huge part of my career. I am an actor first and foremost. I would have to say my favorite class was Meisner class. We really got to dig deep. The class allowed us to be in front of the camera and experience what it was really like to be on set. In the two years that I attended NYFA, there were plenty of similar opportunities for which I am grateful.

    NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that helped you most in your career?

    Wang: That’s a big question because we covered so many things. I would have to say learning how to be in an audition room, how to cold read, how to break scripts down and how to do it in a short amount of time. They were able to teach me what it is like in the “real world,” so even if it was daunting post-graduation, I still felt confident and prepared.

    NYFA: What was the audition process for “Allegiance” like?

    Wang: I didn’t have to audition for the cast that will be coming to LA in 2018. I made my Broadway debut in 2015 with “Allegiance.” However, for the Broadway audition, it was intimidating, to say the least. I stumbled upon the open call auditions via a friend whom I haven’t seen in years. This was just two years after graduating from NYFA. At the time, I was mainly focused on my VISA applications to be able to stay and continue working.  

    Professionally, I’d already performed in music videos, commercials and a pilot. But, I had not sung for four years. I had to wait six hours among hundreds of other hopeful actors because I was not Equity. It felt alien to include singing with my acting audition, but I guess something clicked that day. I got through the first three rounds of auditions, which required me to sing and dance for the panel.  

    They then gave me two days to learn some material for the lead role. Lea Salonga had set dates off for other commitments, and they needed someone to take over when she was away for those dates. The rest of the cast flew into LA from New York. There is a video online that shows the last round of the audition process, “Trek to Broadway – Episode 2 – ‘All We Need is the Girl.'” It is George Takei’s documentary on their road to Broadway with Allegiance. I’m lucky that I get to look back on the moment they offered me the position. Till this day it still feels like a dream, but now I get to say that it’s my life.

    NYFA: Have you had an opportunity to meet George Takei? What was that like?

    Wang: I love George and we have known each other for two years now. He was so wonderful, and nominated me for the Paul Green Award 2016 for the most promising young actor. I received the award in front of artistic directors and founders of theaters across the nation. George won the Person of the Year Award in 2016.  I have also played the role of Kei several times on Broadway and acted alongside him every day and night across 2015/2016.

    It has been nothing but an absolute dream. He is the grandfather I never had and the most loving and sincere person I have ever known. If I were to say something to him, now, it would be “I love you very much.” Five days after I return from Singapore I will be doing a press/promo tour in Hawaii and Japan with George and our producer/writer Lorenzo Thione. It also coincides with my birthday and I can’t think of anyone else better to spend it with!

    NYFA: What, if anything, does this play mean to you on a personal level?

    Wang: On a broad level, this show is about how Japanese Americans were captured and placed in internment camps after Pearl Harbor. As long as you looked like the enemy, you were considered the enemy. It is also loosely based on George Takei’s life, as he was interned as a child.  

    This story is important for all to see. Generalization of race is still an ongoing issue today.  Having grown up in western countries, being the minority has always been a part of my life. I absolutely relate to the themes within the show of family and endurance.  

    The character Kei whom I’ll be playing in LA in 2018 finds herself through turmoil and stands up for what she believes. Together with her family and her community, they find strength in faith and love. So much of this within my own life has been true. Through my travels, I’ve had to find a deep inner belief that I do belong, regardless of my race. I intend to fight for my dreams. Breaking convention and showing the world that I belong in this industry has been an ongoing theme in my career so I am so happy to be able to continue to find myself within this show.

    NYFA: Tell us a little about the character you play.

    Wang: I believe through our troubles and failure, we find ourselves on a level we never knew before. [My character] Kei Kimura had to grow up without a mother. She drowns in her responsibilities, which includes looking after her younger brother, Sammy. But after facing turmoil, she finally finds her vulnerability, falls in love, and gains the strength to fight for her rights. She becomes a new person and a renewed daughter and sister.

    NYFA: What has the rehearsal process for “Allegiance” been like?

    Wang: For the Broadway show, it was an entirely new experience. I had never been to New York City. The moment I moved, it was press events and rehearsals for both the lead and my feature role as Nan Goto. Lea Salonga was not available until the second week.  The show had been in the works for eight years prior but it was all new to me.

    After four days of rehearsals, taking on a double track immediately felt like boot camp.  The rest was amazing. During previews, we would make changes in the day and perform it to a paying crowd that night. It was hard work but also a dream come true.

    NYFA: What’s up next for you?

    Wang: There are lots of exciting new projects coming up within the Broadway community. We just had the world premiere of “Bastard Jones” Off-Broadway, and due to amazing reviews, I am looking forward to the next exciting phase of the show. It is the one show that the writers Marc Acito (“Allegiance”) and Amy Engelhardt (“The Bobs”) entrusted me to play what was originally an English comedic ingénue. They wanted the casting to represent “real” America. I love being a part of “colorblind” casting.

    We also just went through the first industry showing of “Tiananmen.” It follows the journey of Xirui (whom I play), a young college girl who leads the hunger strike during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. I adore this show so I am excited about its next steps.  

    I am enjoying the flow of my Broadway dreams but I am still very much in love with film. Any support, however, NYFA can give (even this blog) is the support I am grateful of.

    The New York Film Academy would like to congratulate Wang on all of her success. Be sure to check out “Allegiance” when it comes to the East West Players beginning February 22. Tickets are available here.

  • From “Carousel” to China: The World of NYFA Musical Theatre Alumna Ilda Mason

    NYFA Musical Theatre alumna Ilda Mason is no stranger to the hustle and bustle of life as a working actress in New York City. Since graduating from NYFA, she has performed in not one but two professional productions of “West Side Story” and toured the country with “Cinderella.”

    Now, as she gears up for her next adventure — performing as Pilar in a tour of “Legally Blonde” in China! — Ilda took some time to catch up with the NYFA community to share her thoughts on success after school and believing in yourself, no matter what.

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what brought you to NYFA?   

    IM: I was born and raised in Panamá City, Panamá. I studied ballet on and off for many years because I always found myself coming back to it despite of all my other extracurricular activities I did in school, like musical theatre.

    I auditioned for my first professional musical in 2008. It was “Beauty and the Beast,” and we performed in the biggest theatre in the country. I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life, but as a plan B, I studied Structural Architecture. So I have a degree in Architecture!

    I knew I wanted to come to the United States to study Musical Theatre and it seemed like fate when I saw NYFA at a student’s stand in the very same building where that huge, first musical took place. I knew instantly that NYFA was it because it mixed Musical Theatre and Acting for Film.

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments from your time studying with us?      

    IM: I loved my first NYFA Musical, “Spring Awakening.” Such an incredible show to be part of! It was my first audition process in New York, and to be cast in it was out of this world. Everything about it was exciting, new and powerful. And my favorite class project was the Final for Performance Lab, in which we had full creative freedom to do whatever we wanted and create a medley of songs and musicals to tell a new story. It was my favorite because I had the opportunity to see how my classmates shined so bright.

    The team I was a part of was amazing! Terra made the most incredible medley of rock songs and musical theatre hits that told the story of a rock band going to space, and I got the role of the astronaut! We used Christmas lights against the dance classroom’s mirror to create the illusion of being in space and … it was just perfect. To this day, my favorite class assignment.

    NYFA: Why musical theatre? What inspires you about this kind of storytelling?            

    IM: Musical Theatre brings together my love for acting, singing, and dancing. There is something magical about being on stage, telling a story with so many challenging elements. It’s live, always. You have to be on your A game all the time, whether it is trying to get the job or then keeping your mind, body and soul to 100 percent because your body is your instrument and you need to be ready to do a show eight times a week. It’s inspiring to me because it is special, it is demanding and it is rewarding. To dance my heart out every night, to sing a gorgeous score and to tell a beautiful story for a living must be the best job in the universe. I stare in awe whenever I see a Broadway show, or incredible acting on film. I want to do that, I want to be there. That’s why I moved countries.

    NYFA: While at NYFA, you choreographed the Musical Theatre Department’s production of “Carousel.” Can you tell us about that experience, and how it has shaped what you do today?     

    IM: I was chosen by Chad Austin to be his associate choreographer for this show, and it was one of the most gratifying experiences I’ve had. To see a show from concept to end required a lot of hard work and we were a team that was committed. Getting to work so close to Chad as director/choreographer, gave me a look into all it takes to create something special. Being able to help choreograph and teach to our cast made me grow so much. I taught me about leadership, ownership and commitment. I needed to know every single move, step and position because the cast was counting on me. I think this was the biggest preparation to be a dance captain on Broadway one day soon.

    NYFA: You performed in two separate professional productions of “West Side Story.” What was it like to approach the same show in two different iterations?     

    IM: My first “West Side Story” will always hold a dear place in my heart. That production in Signature Theatre was flawless in every single way. It was so special to do such an iconic show that tells the story of Latino immigrants just like me, surrounded by such inspiring actors. We did a very immersive, intimate production in which only 300 people were all around us while the Jets and Sharks ran amongst them during the prologue.

    The second time I was part of the cast in Paper Mill Playhouse and that on its own was already mind-blowing. We rehearsed at the New 42nd St. Studios, and I was once again surrounded by massive Broadway stars, but the story was the same. Same beautiful message, stunning score and the best dancing there can be. The best part was seeing how different directors and choreographers bring the same show to life.

    NYFA: You recently performed in the national tour of “Cinderella.” For our students, how did you adjust and sustain your work for the tour conditions and schedule? Was there anything that surprised you or challenged you along the way?         

    IM: Being on tour is incredibly challenging and demanding. I learned and grew exponentially during those 10 months on the road. I learned that you must go in being 100 percent in every possible way, because the nature of touring will take a toll on you. I learned about making a lot of money and saving a lot of money for my future; I learned about the importance of rest. My body needed rest because we never truly had a day off while on tour since our “off” days where travel days. I learned about not falling into the claws of drama. Drama is meant to happen when you live in such a small bubble, and it will drain you mentally and spiritually.

    I learned how to be more like my dad and stay calm, collected and in a way diplomatic because these people become your family. You don’t want to fight on the road. I learned about the importance of keeping myself healthy and injury-free. So many people had to leave the tour because they got hurt and couldn’t perform anymore. I learned how to cook on the road! By the end of tour, I had a mini kitchen with me, equipped with a mini electric skillet, mini rice cooker, cutting board, spices, cutlery — you name it. It gave me the comfort of eating the food that I loved and missed and the peace of mind that I always had something to eat even when we were in the middle of nowhere, and saved so much money because of it.

    It’s challenging to be away from your loved ones, to miss out on things, to be surrounded by the same people every single day, but that was also something beautiful because you appreciate your long distance relationships with friends and loved ones; because you appreciate your alone time, and sharing time; because touring is a whole new ball game and doing a show about kindness and dancing a beautiful Ball every night is pretty spectacular.

    Processed with Snapseed.

    NYFA: What is next for you? Can you tell us about any upcoming projects that excite you, or any new avenues you hope to explore soon?       

    IM: I’m so excited because next month I will be going to China to perform as Pilar in “Legally Blonde: the Musical”! We will be doing a short tour through Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Beijing, and I couldn’t be more thrilled about this Chinese adventure!

    NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all useful in preparing for what you are doing today?         

    IM: Absolutely. I was so prepared for that first audition season. I was my strongest in every way and ready to tackle any dance call, had a full repertoire of songs and enough confidence in who I am that I was ready to start the job of auditioning and having a day job at the same time. With time I grew to learn more about what was my style, what songs show me best at the actual audition time and what to wear to show who I really am and who I can be. I had incredible teachers at NYFA and I’m thankful for all the pieces of gold they gave me as guidance for this difficult journey though the musical theatre/film industry.

    NYFA: Any parting thoughts for our readers?       

    IM: Musical Theatre is hard work and perseverance to its core. It’s about not giving up and showing up to those auditions even though you are tired, haven’t been seen for Equity calls or even if you are scared. I learned a huge lesson from a close friend of mine. My tour roommate, an immigrant from Malaysia who was on an O-1 visa just like me and was also non-Equity, booked the Broadway revival of “Miss Saigon” and made her dreams come true.

    After that I realized that there is no audition too big. You want to be on Broadway, right? So you have to go to that Broadway call! She unknowingly taught me that you never know if you never try, and that if you feel you are right for something you have to go for it.

    Funny story, that’s how I landed this “Legally Blonde” tour! I applied to get an appointment and didn’t get one. The day of the audition I looked in Audition Update and found the location of the singers call. I marched there determined to be seen and, because they were running ahead of schedule, they were so nice to let me sing for them.

    Long story short: I crashed the audition and got the role. We need to believe in ourselves first and always.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Ilda Mason for sharing a part of her story with our community.

    November 9, 2017 • Academic Programs, Musical Theatre, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 953

  • NYFA Musical Theatre Alumna Kodi Milburn Spreads Her Wings

    For all students, the transition from art school to the professional world is a journey of transformation often wrought with surprises both good and bad, but it takes particular skill and dedication to turn such life experiences into a work of art.

    With her original work “Chrysalis,” NYFA Musical Theatre alumna Kodi Milburn morphed the challenges she found in the entertainment industry into an artistically satisfying and empowered performance piece. We had a chance to catch up with Kodi to hear about her collaborative creative process and thriving in life after NYFA.

    Photo by Sean Ben-Svi

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to NYFA?

    KM: I grew up in Nebraska with my single mother. She is both a hippie and a musician, qualities that shaped me into who I am now. I’ve always been into music and theater.

    My first show was as a baby in “Fiddler in the Roof,” followed by “Peter Pan.” My mom was Peter and I was a Tiger Lilly dancer. Time went on, and I knew I wanted to pursue art further. It’s kind of the same old story: a small town girl from the Midwest moves to the city to pursue a dream.

    I chose NYFA because it was a more down to earth and artistic environment than other schools. I needed that freedom to work on my art. I also noticed the star-studded list of instructors, some of which had directly inspired me to become a performer (Deidre Goodwin). How cool is it to learn dance from a woman you used to watch on TV?

    NYFA: Why musical theatre? And, what has inspired your work lately?

    KM: I have since branched out into different genres, but the core of my training is in musical theater. I think that as a musical theater performer you have to be a triple threat. Therefore, I feel prepared to attack any genres head on. Lately the work of my peers, Terra Warman, Caleb Settje, Zoey Michaels, and Makayla Benedict, has inspired me to put up local theater and produce more of my own work!

    NYFA: What surprised you most about your time studying with us? Do you have a favorite NYFA moment?

    KM: I was surprised at how close I got with my peers and instructors. You’re really going through the trenches together, and I work with those same people on nearly every show I do outside of NYFA. They quickly became family to me.

    My favorite NYFA moment was being selected to sing for the Jonathan Groff master class. You had to be nominated by your teachers to be selected. That was a validating and humbling experience, to be chosen by the people I held in such high regard.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about your experience filming NYFA movie musical “Seeking Alice,” and seeing it go on to win awards like Best Musical at the Nova Fest?

    KM: Filming “Seeking Alice” was a hoot, but we were up all night and filming outside in January. You do it for the art though! Funny enough that was not the first time I had played Tweedle Dum, and I got to revive the character alongside one of my dearest friends, Jonina Bjort. The crew and creative team for the film were innovative and an absolute joy to work with in such hard-core conditions. I mean, I got to eat ice cream, refine my MUA and Hair tech skills, and belt Bobby Cronin’s original music — of course it was amazing.

    As you can imagine, we were all thrilled to see that the film was loved as much by the professionals at the Nova Fest as it was by all of us involved! Truly the icing on the cake

    NYFA: For our current Musical Theatre students, what did you find most challenging in transitioning to work outside of the program environment, and do you have any advice for navigating that transition?

    KM: I found that the balance between working on art and becoming a responsible adult was the hardest transition for me. Here’s the thing: That transition is hard for everyone. The good news is the instructors at NYFA have the tools to help you into the real world. I’m sure you’ve heard it from them but my advice is to follow these four rules.

    1) Be professional. (Meaning, show up early and show up prepared).

    2) Take yourself seriously and take care of yourself. (Get up and go to that 5 a.m. audition and invest in your own business. Get a survival job! You have to pay your rent to stay here).

    3) Be a good person. (You will work with the same people over and over again, do not burn bridges!)

    4) Be true to yourself. (There is no right way to be successful in this industry, so if you end up doing something that isn’t exactly what you planned, that’s not a fail, it’s part of a path.)

    NYFA: How did your original project “Chrysalis” come about? Can you tell us about that creative process?

    KM: I started writing “Chrysalis” after I graduated. My friends and I were auditioning and it seemed that we couldn’t book anything because we were too thick or too dark skinned or not blonde enough, not because we weren’t talented. So I wrote a show for those people and me to perform artistically satisfying pieces without feeling like we needed to change something about us in order to do so.

    The creative process was a lot of work. I began writing music and then the script. Next I gathered my team (which included NYFA alumni) and began rehearsals. I then pitched my show to a millennial, all-female, producing team called The Creators Collective. They picked up the show and we began fundraising.

    We received free space from CC and 100 Bogart, and most of our funding from a group funding campaign and a live fundraiser in my hometown of Rushville, Nebraska. The show went up on Aug. 5, 2017! We are now recording a cast album and applying for grants for a 2018 run of the show.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about any upcoming projects you are working on?

    KM: Currently I am continuing my work on “Chrysalis,” appearing in Tandem Children’s Theater Company as a female Harry Potter, collaborating with Caleb Settje on his new musical, “aKing,” partnering with my producers and AirBnB for live AirBnB experiences, taking promotional photos for SHIFT dance collective, and working with Makayla Benedict and Zoey Michaels on a song set for live performances. My Facebook is updated with my current/future projects.

    NYFA: Anything I missed that you’d like to share?

    KM: I am a promotional portrait photographer with reasonable rates for fresh graduates and students. You can contact me if you would like to set up a session.

    November 6, 2017 • Academic Programs, Musical Theatre, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 914

  • The Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre at the New York Film Academy Sets Precedent in the Fight Against HIV/AIDS

    Cast of NYFA's "Merrily We Roll Along"

    NYFA’s “Merrily We Roll Along”


    NYFA’s Musical Theatre production of “Merrily We Roll Along” was a huge success in more ways than one. After each performance, NYFA students and cast members collected money in the signature red buckets from Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the nonprofit that’s been raising funds for people living with HIV and other life-threatening illnesses for nearly thirty years.

    It has become a proud tradition for Broadway shows to address their audiences directly for this incredibly worthwhile cause. Since its inception, Broadway Cares has raised over $285 million—money that has been awarded as grants to social service organizations in all 50 states.

    It is not uncommon to see our Broadway faculty with the red buckets on the Broadway stage raising money for Broadway Cares.  And now our students are passing on this legacy.

    Cast of NYFA's "Merrily We Roll Along"

    NYFA’s “Merrily We Roll Along”

    With the cast and crew of “Merrily We Roll Along” supporting this fundraising effort, the New York Film Academy became the very first conservatory to join Broadway with the red bucket appeal. In just one weekend of performances from our 100-seat theatre, our students and community were able to raise $1,050 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS!

    Needless to say, we are very proud of the Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre program for their fantastic effort and we are thrilled to be aligned with the great work of Broadway Cares. We will continue these efforts with the red buckets during our main stage productions and proudly stand as the leading conservatory in the fight to help provide lifesaving medication, healthy meals, and emergency assistance to those who need them most.

    NYFA’s “Merrily We Roll Along”
    Director:  Robert W. Schneider (Assistant Director to filmmaker Lonny Price on the acclaimed “Merrily We Roll Along” documentary “Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened.”)
    Musical Director: Kevin David Thomas (2009 Broadway revival of “A Little Night Music.”)

    October 16, 2017 • Community Highlights, Musical Theatre • Views: 1074

  • NYFA Musical Theatre Alumna Terra Warman Creates Original Musical “Mister B. Gone”

    NYFA Musical Theatre alumna Terra Warman isn’t afraid of anything — not even demons.

    Carving out a unique path in the musical theatre industry, the multi-talented artist has just put the finishing touches on  her original musical “Mister B. Gone,” adapted from the book of the same name by Clive Barker, a dark tale that tackles freedom, hell, and all the forces in between.

    We had a chance to interview Terra via email to learn about her process, what makes this musical one-of-a-kind, and what’s next.

    From the August reading of “Mister B. Gone” – Jakabok (Terra Warman) and Quitoon (Eduardo Perez-Torres)

     

    NYFA: First can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to NYFA?
    TW: I desperately needed to escape my home town of Cincinnati. After a major career shift from  international politics to … I had no idea … NYFA reached out in that very effective way that they do.
    I’ve been in music my whole life and both of my parents are artists so considering a school like this made sense. It was interesting to me that on top of a musical theater education, the second year final was a musical film. I decided to audition, they slapped me with a scholarship, and it was off to New York for me.

    From the August reading of “Mister B. Gone” – The Lovers, She and He (Kenny Malloy and Jacob Henry)

    NYFA: Why musical theatre?

    TW: Straight theater didn’t excite me enough, music by itself needed an anchor in storyline, and from the age of 13-16, most of the music I wrote was basically a diary entry anyway so, why the heck not musical theater?

    NYFA: Do you have a favorite NYFA moment from your time studying with us?

    TW: One of my favorite NYFA things was my second year performance lab final. The assignment was to make a five minute jukebox musical with three songs. We wrote the 20 minute epic “Space Oddity” about a rock band that wins a lottery to go to space, crash lands on an alien planet, and has to escape. At one point we’ve got “Space Oddity,” “Come Sail Away,” and “Wicked” all layered on top of each other. My lab partners and I got swept away — we had extra rehearsals, did lighting ques, costume changes…

    It was the first time something I had created had ever come together like that instead of being some failed and unrealized pipe dream in my head. That’s the dragon I’m chasing.

    From the August reading of “Mister B. Gone” – NYFA alumni Charles Englesjerd plays a demon hunter, a madman, and Heinrich Herzt

    NYFA: Can you tell us about your work developing “Mister B. Gone,” how the project came about, any exciting discoveries in your work?

    TW:  OH I CAN. I wrote the first song while still at NYFA, because I liked the language of the book. I loved this hateful main character who comes out the gate ordering you to burn the book and spends the whole story telling this horrifying and sad tale where nothing goes right, everything is unrealized, and the reader is complicit in all of it. It was different in structure from everything we were studying in class, and the words read like music. This was my private rebellion against classical musical theater that everyone was insisting I would never be right for. The writing of Clive Barker’s “Mister B. Gone” was one of pure accident and an immeasurable amount of dedication and faith.

    The discoveries I have made can be simmered into this: You cannot do it alone. (And Hell is always in A minor.)

    Listen: “Caroline” from “Mister B. Gone”

    NYFA: For you, what was your process in converting a book into a musical?

    TW: In February of this year I met this guy and as a pretense for hanging out with him I say “Yo guy, wanna…hang out and sing some song I wrote about a demon?” I taught him the song and he writes me this email of 20 questions about character motivation, and where the song comes in this show that I had only vaguely conceived of. I answered these questions as if I was really writing this musical.

    Then I booked  “In the Works,” a low stakes showcase for new music at the Duplex (Thanks Bobby Cronin) and thought, well, why not write one more song?

    The guy introduces me to playwright Rachel Chung (who is also from Cincinnati, but we didn’t know each other), and suddenly she and I are meeting three times a week, having our friends read scenes, and plotting what the stage might look like. A dear friend insisted that, as a going away present, she wanted to see an exposition of the work. We could have done a concert or a reading … and we pretended we would. But this monster had us, and we were gonna feed it the world. What happened next resulted in one of the most intense theatrical experiences of my life.

    I wrote music and lyrics in the day, we had rehearsals at night with our cast, then Rachel and I had production meetings long into the night. Everyone either had a full time job or was a Med student at Columbia. Bye sleep.

    In one month (June) we fully wrote and produced the first act, launched an incredibly successful Indiegogo campaign, and staged said act in Rachel’s Washington Heights apartment. We took a week to recover then, finish/revise/recast/and rehearse the full show over the next month (July). We had fundraisers, photoshoots, impromptu singalongs. Sometimes a song wasn’t written when it was slated to be staged so we’d stage something else, or role play the idea of a scene before writing it. For the full production I took on the lead role of Jakabok Botch, and probably will continue to for all time because he just gets me. Rachel moved to Scotland after the last show, and now we continue to work as a trans-Atlantic team.

    From the August reading of “Mister B. Gone” – Caroline (Aili Klein) and Jakabok (Terra Warman)

     

    NYFA: Any advice for fellow NYFA students who are interested in acquiring the rights to a story and developing an original musical, as you are doing?

    TW: YES! If you are adapting, find out who has the adaptation rights. We got really lucky because Clive Barker owns the rights to his own work and sold them to us for a dollar.

    NYFA: What is your favorite aspect of creating an original musical?

    TW: When the actors ask me questions about the meaning of the music and lyrics. It really touches me that someone else is thinking critically about my work, because that’s all I do. Then you get that perfect moment when it’s on it’s feet, with the band, sounding just the way you imagined and you look around at what you made and this very intense feeling of pride and fear wells up inside you and you have to excuse yourself to joy-cry in the bathroom.

    The other thing: The world you create is yours. How you present gender, sexuality, race, and age is your right and responsibility. In our show, though the characters have a gender, representation on stage of that gender is fluid and abstract. I insist on having actors of color. I want non-binary and fluid people to come out and feel they have an opportunity in my work. I think women are just as capable as playing dangerous and threatening characters as men. And because I wrote it, I can have it this way.

    From the August reading of “Mister B. Gone” – Kenny Malloy

     

    NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all useful in preparing for the work you are doing now?

    TW: Absolutely. There is no one way to do this, and at NYFA every one of my teachers had done it differently. They really pushed me to take ownership of the career that I wanted, and that’s no easy task considering I didn’t know what it looked like. I just didn’t want the conventional. If I was struggling with the way the industry ran, or my role in it, they handed me the tools to do something about it.

    NYFA: Can you tell us about any other projects you are developing or working on? What’s next for you?

    TW: I just got a fellowship through Town Stages to develop my song cycle “Havoc! A Song Cycle for Six Women Who Give a F*ck,” which was produced earlier this year and raised over $6000 for charities helping to end violence against women and girls.

    “Mister B. Gone” has a concert reading coming up at The Tank on October 21-22. After that we plan to submit to festivals and an off-Broadway run. The NYMF and Edinburg Fringe for sure.

    Rachel and I have a couple of things on the docket. A Hildegard of Bingen rock opera, “Juile D’Aubingy,” a version of 1776 in space with all women…

    My band Terra and the Dactyls continues to gig around the city, and be the core pit band in my shows.

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Terra for taking the time to share some of her story with our community.

    October 10, 2017 • Academic Programs, Musical Theatre, Student and Alumni Spotlights • Views: 2257

  • 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: 1337

  • 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.