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  • Tony Winner Jeff Marx Visits New York Film Academy

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    Jeff Marx

    Avenue Q’s Jeff Marx

    Tony Award-winning composer and lyricist Jeff Marx visited the New York Film Academy at our New York City Theatre in late February, much to the delight of our Musical Theatre students.

    Marx is best known for Avenue Q, the innovative musical starring both human and puppet characters that instantly earned critical acclaim and won over audiences across the country. It went on to win three Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It is currently running Off-Broadway and has toured the country and been produced in both the West End and Las Vegas.

    Before writing Avenue Q, Marx passed the New York State Bar exam, planning to be a lawyer. He met partner Robert Lopez shortly after at the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop, writing a spec Muppet film as a pre-cursor to their collaboration on Avenue Q. Since winning his Tony, Marx has gone on to write for the musical episode of NBC’s Scrubs, as well as songs for Bear in the Big Blue House and The Book of Pooh. He also co-wrote the theme song for Logo TV’s Rick & Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in All the World.

    Speaking with the students of NYFA’s Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre, Marx highlighted his indirect path to Broadway stardom, mentioning that he didn’t even start writing until he was 28 years old. “The greatest thing that I can wish for you,” Marx told the audience of aspiring Broadway stars, “is hunger.” He also shared anecdotes about the making of Avenue Q.

    Jeff Marx visits NYFA

    Highlights from the @newyorkfilmacademy Instagram story featuring Jeff Marx’s visit to NYFA #PCMT

    In addition to inspiring students with his story, he also brought a special and well-received guest — puppet and star of Avenue Q, Nicky. Avenue Q’s cast of puppet characters included both rod puppets and live-hands, the latter of which are often operated simultaneously by two puppeteers. Nicky is a live-hands puppet, and students were delighted to see him in action on stage with Marx.

    Nicky wasn’t all Marx brought with him on his visit to NYFA. In addition to Nicky, he brought along his Tony Award, Broadway’s highest honor. Musical Theatre students were thrilled when Marx allowed them to hold it and pass it around — an inspiring moment for those learning at NYFA and hoping to win one of their own in the not-too-distant future.

    By the time the students had to say goodbye to Marx and Nicky, they had learned and laughed, and were extremely grateful for the generous time, energy, and inspiring words Marx brought with him to the New York Film Academy.

    Interested in joining the magical and puppet-filled world of musical theatre? Check out the programs of New York Film Academy’s Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre.

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    March 2, 2018 • Guest Speakers, Musical Theatre • Views: 2249

  • New York Film Academy Master Class With Lyle Kessler Wraps With Impressive Performances

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    NYFA Master Class with Lyle Kessler

    NYFA Master Class with Lyle Kessler

    This December, students from the New York Film Academy’s Acting for Film 2-Year Conservatory performed scenes written and directed by renowned actor/playwright Lyle Kessler. The performances were the culmination of an 8-Week Master Class taught by Kessler, who has been an icon in the world of theatre for several decades.

    Kessler studied acting under industry legend Lee Strasberg and has been a longtime member of the famed Actor’s Studio. Kessler had the opportunity to play Strasberg in the 2001 biopic “James Dean.”

    Kessler is best known as a playwright though, with numerous works that have helped shape the modern era of American theatre. For Peter Allen Stone, New York Film Academy’s Chair of Acting for Film, Kessler was a vital part of his education. “I used to dig through his plays in my college library looking for monologues and scenes many years ago,” remarked Stone, “so it was something special for me to get to know him and come full circle.”

    Scene from "The Display Man"

    Scene from “The Display Man”

    The best known work written by Kessler is “Orphans,” which first debuted in 1983 at Chicago’s world-renowned Steppenwolf Theatre and was originally directed by Gary Sinise. It was later adapted into a feature film starring Matthew Modine and Albert Finney, and has been performed on Broadway as recently as 2013 with Alec Baldwin and Ben Foster.

    After running the playwriting division of the Actor’s Studio in Los Angeles for many years, Kessler is still active and working with the Actor’s Studio in New York City. The NYFA students attending Kessler’s Master Class were able to visit the Actor’s Studio as part of their course. Student Elizabeth Hopland reflected that “going to the Actor’s Studio was a highlight of my acting career so far, thanks to Lyle.”

    The NYFA students who were privileged to work with Kessler started in Fall 2016, and began their 2nd Year training in the summer of 2017. Each session of the 8-week Master Class focused on a specific aspect of the craft, like the inner anger of a particular character. The acting students worked on scenes from new works written by Kessler, who directed and worked closely with them throughout the course.

    Scene from "Prisoner"

    Scene from “Prisoner”

    The scenes were two-person dialogues, with the acting students performing multiple roles and plays. One of Kessler’s new works included “Prisoner,” about a privileged woman tied up during a burglary, who poked and prodded her captor while trying to learn more about him. Other new works included “The Display Man” and “The Great Divide,” the latter concerning two brothers dealing with a woman claiming to be pregnant with the older brother’s child.

    The final session of the Master Class included performances of the scenes for a small audience, including New York Film Academy president Michael Young. The final scenes of the evening were from another of Kessler’s new works—“Temptation”—about inappropriate sexual behavior between a psychiatrist and his patient, a story and theme that is especially relevant in today’s current Hollywood climate.

    Kessler Directing "Prisoner"

    Kessler Directing “Prisoner”

    One of the performers, student Agnes Hedwall Schmidt, remarked “What I liked most about working with Lyle was the way he made the work a collaboration. We give him our view of the text and the character, he gives his, and together we create a scene that is so much fun to act in, and allows me to keep growing and learning as an actor.” Schmidt added, “I had so much fun working with Lyle!”

    The appreciation was mutual—the performances ended with Kessler thanking the students for their strong, courageous work, and the students overwhelmingly thanking Kessler for his invaluable training and direction. Of the students, Kessler said he was “very impressed by the work and talent of the group of actors at NYFA who acted in my plays. They kept growing in their roles. A real commitment.”

    The Acting for Film students couldn’t ask for a better compliment from an artist of Kessler’s stature. The New York Film Academy thanks Lyle Kessler for giving our students a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study and learn from one of the theatre world’s greats.

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    December 22, 2017 • Acting, Guest Speakers • Views: 2268

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

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    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.”)

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    October 16, 2017 • Community Highlights, Musical Theatre • Views: 1290

  • Guest Lecture Series with Film Critic Peter Rainer

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    Film Critic and historian Peter Rainer continues his guest lecture series with a thoughtful exploration of the film “Blue Sky” starring Jessica Lange and Tommy Lee Jones and directed by Tony Richardson (“A Taste of Honey” and “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner”). “Blue Sky” was shot between 1990 and 1991 but was not released until 1993. It was Richardson’s last film. In fact, he did not live long enough to see it released.

    Lange won her second Oscar for her role as the Bipolar, hyper-sexualized wife of an army nuclear inspector. In her acceptance speech, Lange said, “This is such an honor, especially for a film that seemed to have no future.”

    peter Rainer

    Rainer began the evening’s conversation with a reading of his initial review published in the Los Angeles Times from his book “Rainer on Film.” This review was sent to Oscar voters along with the VHS of the film for Ms. Lange’s nomination run. Rainer divulged that Lange herself said that if it hadn’t been for his essay she wouldn’t have won her second Oscar.

    “Jessica Lange’s acting in ‘Blue Sky’ leaves you awestruck. It is a great performance. Because the film is just now being released, it is yet another foundling from the pre-bankrupt Orion picture era —its appearance is like a gift,” Rainer began. “It’s an especially welcome gift because Lange hasn’t been acting much in the movies lately. You have to wonder how it is that Lange could give such a performance. It’s even better than her Francis in ‘Francis’ or her Patsy Klein in the ‘Sweet Dreams’ and keeps away from the camera for so long. The lack of roles for women is no excuse. Lange is the kind of actress artists write parts for.”

    From here the floor was open to students to discuss what they liked, what they didn’t understand, where they were moved, and how they might have addressed these performances. The most prevailing subject of conversation was the lead actress.

    Lange has also played deranged southern belle, Blanche DuBois on Broadway. Her character in “Blue Sky,” Carly Marshall inhabits touches of Blanche but also Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot. During the open discussion, one student wondered aloud, “What is the relevance of Blanche. Why does she keep coming back over and over again in American cinema?”

    Rainer gave a brief background on the character of Blanche and then said, “I think there are certain archetypes that repeat and the southern belle is one of them. The poles are Scarlett O’Hara in ‘Gone With the Wind’ and Blanche from ‘A Street Car Named Desire.’ It relates to the fragility and the strength of women in the context of a very male dominated society. Putting it in a southern context exaggerates that paradigm. In the South, you are expected to be prim and ladylike and sip Mint Julep, if you are a white woman.”

    peter Rainer

    Speaking to the enduring legacy of the role, Rainer continued, “Also, the role is just that damn good. Tennessee Williams wrote one of the greatest roles of all time. It’s natural for dramatist and actors to try to play that out and try to recapture the magic. In the case of ‘Blue Sky,’ she’s not just DuBois she’s very much trying to capture the stars of that time — Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe. The very first shot of the film is her leafing through star magazines.”

    Another student chimed in that they didn’t think a film with a woman over 40 — acting sexy and leading a character driven film — could hope for funding in today’s film world.

    “It’s kind of depressing to think about the number of great films that couldn’t get made today,” Rainer said. “This film got made because Jessica Lange at that time was big box office. Orion was one of the few film companies at this time willing to take risks. A film like ‘Blue Sky’ would do much better on television than film nowadays.”

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Peter Rainer for his continued support and informative lecture series. If you’d like to read more of Rainer’s reviews pick up his book “Rainer on Film” or his page on Rotten Tomatoes.

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    May 16, 2017 • Guest Speakers • Views: 2087

  • NYFA Instructor James Lecesne to Premiere “The Mother of Invention”

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    mother of inventionAbingdon Theatre Company presents the world premiere of “The Mother of Invention,” a new play by New York Film Academy Documentary Story instructor James Lecesne, who is an Academy Award, Drama Desk Award and Outer Critics Circle Award-winner. Ranked by the NY Times as “among of the most talented solo performers of his (or any) generation,” Lecesne has shared the screen with Robert Downey Jr., Ian McKellan, Claire Danes, Holly Hunter, the Sex in the City cast, Anne Bancroft, and many others. He has also shared the stage with Angela Lansbury, James Earl Jones, and many others.

    Performances are set to begin January 28, prior to an official press opening on February 9, at The Abingdon’s Theatre (312 West 36th Street). Artistic Director Tony Speciale, who also directed “The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey” is set to direct.

    When Dottie Nerber’s son and daughter arrive to pack up the contents of their mother’s Florida home, their conflicting memories of her collide. As the siblings unpack family secrets, they must separate fact from fiction and are forced to question the narratives of their own lives. James Lecesne’s new full-length play is an unflinching and comedic look at how one family deals with the effects of Alzheimer’s. It asks why we tell the stories we do about the people we love, and how we live with those stories after they’ve been debunked.

    Concetta Tomei, best known for her roles on TV’s “China Beach” and “Providence” and on stage in “The Elephant Man” (opposite David Bowie) and Sarah Ruhl’s “The Clean House,” leads the cast as Dottie Nerber.

    Joining Ms. Tomei are James Davis (Broadway revival of “The House of Blue Leaves,” Soho Rep’s “We Are Proud to Present…”), Dan Domingues (INTAR’s “Locusts Have No Kings,” The Civilian’s “The Great Immensity” at The Public), Angela Reed (Broadway’s “The Country Girl” and “The Rainmaker,” and national tours of “War Horse” and “Spring Awakenin”g), Isabella Russo (Broadway’s “School of Rock”), and Dale Soules (“Orange is the New Black,” Broadway’s “Hands on a Hard Body” and “Grey Gardens”).

    The creative team includes Jo Winiarski (Scenic Design), Daisy Long (Lighting Design), Paul Marlow (Costume Design), Christian Frederickson (Sound Design), and Jerry Marsini (Props Design). Deidre Works is Production Stage Manager.

    “The Mother of Invention” runs January 28-February 26: Tuesdays-Saturdays at 7:30PM; plus matinees Saturdays at 2:30PM and Sundays at 2:00PM (with the following exceptions, no matinees January 28-29) at Abingdon Theatre Company’s June Havoc Theatre (312 West 36th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues).

    For tickets, visit abingdontheatre.org or call 212-352-3101.

    Use code Mother35 for $35 discount tickets during previews* (Jan 28 – Feb 8).

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    January 26, 2017 • Community Highlights, Documentary Filmmaking, Faculty Highlights • Views: 2760

  • Meet the Director and Choreographers Behind NYFA’s ‘Carousel’

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    carousel

    Chad Austin and Ilda Mason are the creative force behind the NYFA Musical Theatre Program’s production of the great Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Carousel. Musical Theatre Program Chair, Mark Olsen, stopped Chad in the midst of his busy schedule to ask a few questions about their collaborative process.

    Chad, when did you and Ilda Mason begin working on Carousel?

    Ilda began working with me early in the summer to develop the vocabulary of dance for our production of Carousel. We spent about two months in the studio developing the steps that would later become major production numbers.

    You two have teamed up before. How did the collaboration begin?

    Ilda’s dancing in my class and in all of her dance classes was very strong and she seemed to have a natural sensitivity to choreography. Our collaboration began when I brought her on to be my dance captain for the NYFA productions of Spring Awakening and The Wedding Singer.

    And it was in the next production that the two of you more fully teamed up to create choreography?

    Yes, I was asked to choreograph NYFA’s third musical, Chessand she served with great enthusiasm and success as my Associate Choreographer. When the time came for me to gather my team, it was a no-brainer to have her once again as my Associate Choreographer.

    It must be nice to have an associate who understands your process.

    Working with someone over a period of time you begin to speak the same language. I’m happy to say that by this fourth show together, Ilda was basically finishing my sentences.

    I understand that Ilda is now moving forward into the profession?

    Yes! Ilda, like many of our students, needed to be sponsored in order to stay in the country. I was thrilled to offer my name as a professional to be her Artist Sponsor. Halfway through the rehearsal process of Carousel, she got the call that she would be staying in the country where she can follow her dreams. She left us a week before opening to start rehearsal for Washington DC’s Signature Theaters Production of West Side Story. This is one of the most reputable regional theaters in the country and I’m truly thrilled to have any part of the amazing journey she has ahead of her!

    I know you are proud of her as are we all!

    Ilda is a true product of all the amazing faculty members who work so hard every day to inspire and train the young artists that come to our program.

    Be sure to check out one of our performances of Carousel this upcoming Friday, November 20th through Sunday, November 22nd at the American Theater of Actors in Manhattan. For tickets, please CLICK HERE.

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    November 11, 2015 • Musical Theatre, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 4693

  • NYFA Musical Theatre to Perform ‘Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel’

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    carouselContinuing on the success of its last three musical productions, the New York Film Academy Musical Theatre Program is gearing up for its for fourth stage performance, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, which will take place from November 20-22nd at the American Theatre of Actors in New York City. Based on Ferenc Molnar’s play Liliom, as adapted by Benjamin F. Glazerthe play centers on a Maine coastal village toward the end of the 19th century. The lead male is a swaggering, carefree carnival barker, Billy Bigelow, who captivates and marries the naive millworker, Julie Jordan. Billy loses his job just as he learns that Julie is pregnant and, desperately intent upon providing a decent life for his family, he is coerced into being an accomplice to a robbery. Caught in the act and facing the certainty of prison, he takes his own life and is sent ‘up there.’ Billy is allowed to return to earth for one day fifteen years later, and he encounters the daughter he never knew. She is a lonely, friendless teenager, her father’s reputation as a thief and bully having haunted her throughout her young life. How Billy instills in both the child and her mother a sense of hope and dignity is a dramatic testimony to the power of love. It’s easy to understand why, of all the shows they created, Carousel was Rodgers & Hammerstein’s personal favorite.

    “Carousel has always played a part in my life as a performer,” said director and choreographer, Chad Austin, who is an instructor at the New York Film Academy. “I have danced the role of ‘carnival boy’ in multiple productions. I knew we had the talent to tackle this massive musical, and I felt it was a great time to produce a Golden Age Musical!”

    Chad Austin with NYFA's Carousel cast

    Chad Austin with NYFA’s Carousel cast

    The NYFA cast has worked diligently these past few months going through the rehearsal process because for most of them this show is a huge stretch, both as dancers and actors. Some consider Carousel one of the best books of a musical—that alone tells you how much they have been digging into the character work in order to tell the story.

    Taking on both director and choreographer was a thrill and challenge,” added Austin. “Luckily, I was able to create most of the choreography months before with my amazing associate choreographer, Ilda Mason [NYFA Musical Theatre alumna]. While creating the concept of the show I had the freedom to make choices that might otherwise not have happened if I wasn’t wearing both hats. I think by opening night the audience will be blown away by the level of talent we have at NYFA.”

    Austin believes the performance will not only introduce a classic to our students, but also provide a story that will resonate with today’s modern audience.

    “The struggle with Carousel and other musicals from its era is that audiences sometimes feel disconnected from the material. When you strip down the themes of Carousel and tell the story it is simple and touches people of all ages. I hoped to turn an epic musical into a intimate one.”

    NYFA students, employees, and alumni may purchase up to two $10 tickets with Jordan Dragutsky in room 420 at NYFA Battery Place.

    All other general admission tickets are available at NYFACarousel.brownpapertickets.com.

    CAROUSEL
    Music by Richard Rodgers
    Book & Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
    Based on Ferenc Molnar’s play “Liliom”
    As Adapted by Benjamin F. Glazer
    Original Dances by Agnes de Mille
    Directed & Choreographed by Chad Austin
    Music Direction by Joshua Zecher-Ross and Anna Ebbesen
    Production Stage Manager: Jhanae Bonnick
    Associate Choreographer: Ilda Mason
    Associate Director: Beatriz Cavalieri
    Produced by Kristy Cates, Mark Olsen, and Jordan Neil Dragutsky
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  • Bruce Willis Making Broadway Debut in Misery Adaptation

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    Bruce WillisContinuing the adaptation trend of bringing big movies to Broadway, Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures has announced plans to bring Stephen King’s famous book and film, Misery, to Broadway this fall, with Bruce Willis making his Broadway debut.

    The play is an adaptation of Stephen King’s popular novel, which was turned into a successful film in 1990 for which Kathy Bates won an Oscar for her turn as Annie Wilkes.

    King’s novel chronicles the travails of romance novelist Paul Sheldon who is imprisoned by his number one fan, Wilkes, following a car accident when she learns that he intends to kill off her favorite character from his books. Wilkes will be played by theatre veteran Elizabeth Marvel who recently had a major role in the third season of Netflix‘s House of Cards playing the character of Heather Dunbar.

    Will Frears, who directed Omnium Gatherum, has been hired to direct the play when it makes its limited run later this year.

    While this will be Willis’ official Broadway debut, he was Ed Harris’ understudy in the off-Broadway production of Sam Shepard’s Fool for Love in 1983. For students enrolling in our Two-Year Musical Theatre Conservatory, this will certainly be a staging worth checking out.

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    March 5, 2015 • Entertainment News • Views: 3428

  • NYFA’s Sara Antkowiak Stars in ‘Pretty Babies’

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    pretty babiesLast week was the World Premiere of the new Anthony Raymond play, Pretty Babies, which stars New York Film Academy Musical Theatre Instructor Sara Antkowiak (Tales of Hoffmann/Metropolitan Opera).

    The ensemble cast, directed by Raymond and produced by the critically acclaimed Elsinore County Theater Company, is led by Stacey Roca who had a recurring role as Rachel on the UK series The Office with Ricky Gervais.

    Pretty Babies is a story about using the taboo and forbidden as weapons in a no-holds-barred scheme of manipulation. The play revolves around Jason and his sister Randi — two lives steeped in sex, drugs, and grifting.

    Already off to a roaring start, Pretty Babies will continue its performances from now until March 21st at the newly renovated 13th St Rep Theater in New York City.

    If you’re interested in checking out this wonderful play, and supporting your fellow NYFA teacher, visit here for tickets!

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    March 2, 2015 • Community Highlights, Musical Theatre • Views: 3736

  • Musical Theatre Kicks off 2014 with a Bang

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    Jeff Sullivan Musical Theatre

    photo by Chase Heilman

    It is a crisp chilly day in New York and things are definitely heating up within the Musical Theatre Program. We completed a very well attended and expertly presented first semester showcase for our current September group. It was presented a block away from Lincoln Center at the beautiful Marjorie S. Deane theatre.

    The second year students, currently in their 4th and last semester, wrapped a very intense and successful seven-day shoot of their original movie musical. Script and lyrics by yours truly and the music provided by the hugely talented Bobby Cronin, we have what looks to be both a touching and hilarious movie on our hands. We have entered the editing process and will see a rough-cut screening during their final graduation. They will, of course, all receive the final copy when the fine edit is completed.

    Other classes are working diligently as well, pursuing their dance, acting, and singing training in an environment of other artists who are focused on musical theatre and also want to learn about film and television acting.

    While many of our alumni are gaining traction out in the greater marketplaces of both the United States and abroad, we are excited and proud to announce that recent graduate, Jeff Sullivan, won a 2013 BroadwayWorld New Jersey Award for “Best Actor in a Professional Musical” for his portrayal of Tony Brockhurst in a production of The Boy Friend at Surflight Theatre. This will no doubt be a big boost for his aspirations and a nice reflection of the efforts and investment made through his training in the New York Film Academy’s Musical Theatre Program.

    -Mark Olsen, Chair of NYFA Musical Theatre Program

    Jeff Sullivan NYFA

    photo by Chase Heilman

     

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    January 30, 2014 • Musical Theatre, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 3526