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  • Musical Theatre Master Class in Brazil

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    Rio is the third largest market for Musical Theatre, behind New York and London. After witnessing the talent on hand, we know why. The New York Film Academy had a wonderful time in Brazil, auditioning actors and meeting future Brazilian filmmakers. “I was amazed at the level of talent and enthusiasm that I found in Brazil,” said Director of Acting Admissions, Roger Del Pozo. ”Everyone was passionate and ready to advance to the next level.” In addition to his work at NYFA, Roger has been a casting director for over a decade, having casted many television commercials, as well as films, plays, voice-overs, video games, music videos and industrials for top casting companies and advertising agencies in New York City. This is Roger’s third trip so far to Brazil and based on the enthusiasm it will not be his last. “There are so many students I’m anxious to see enroll here in New York City.”

    “The United States, specifically New York and Los Angeles, is still the epicenter of the entertainment business. If you are looking to do film and theatre at the highest level, you have to try it in the U.S. Also, the level of faculty in NYC and LA is unsurpassed. All of our teachers are working professionally and that makes such a difference in terms of training and opportunity.” In fact, joining us along the journey was Broadway actress, Kristy Cates. Kristy taught an exclusive Musical Theatre Workshop at the prestigious CAL Casa das Artes de Laranjeiras in Rio. She is best known for her role of Elphaba in the Broadway, Chicago, and National Tour of Wicked. She holds the honor of being only the third person to perform the role on Broadway. Prior to playing the role full time, she was in the Original Broadway cast as the understudy to TONY winner, Idina Menzel and can be heard singing several solo lines on the cast recording. “Because I’ve gotten to work with several Brazillians in my time at NYFA, I was expecting very exuberant and welcoming students,” said Kristy. “I was certainly not disappointed!”

    Kristy auditioned twelve students who were completely prepared to get into the work. On hand was an audience of approximately 75 observers who actively watched, asked questions, and even participated in the vocal warm up. Together with the group, Kristy explored vocal technique and creating a sound that is not only unique to each individual, but is commercially viable and healthy. She then went on to storytelling within their musical selections, discussing how their individual interpretation of each song is what truly sets them apart from all others. At the end of the class, the group was treated to a performance by Alessandra Maestrini, a well known Brazillian artist and an extremely gracious human being. As a special encore, Kristy sang one of her popular tunes from Wicked, “Defying Gravity.”

    We’d like to thank our hosts at CAL who were so accommodating and we hope to return soon! If people are interested in meeting with representatives at the New York Film Academy, send an e-mail with your information to brazil@nyfa.edu.

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    October 3, 2012 • Acting, Musical Theatre • Views: 4266

  • The Collaborative Process of Storytelling

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    Meet Peter Allen Stone, an actor and teacher at the New York Film Academy who helped create the successful play Unnatural Acts. Receiving 3 Drama Desk Nominations including “Best Play”, it played to sold out houses at Classic Stage Company in New York City and its run was extended three times due to popular demand. Based on a true story about Harvard University in the 1920’s, five academic deans set out to eradicate the homosexual population at the school. The play exposes the inquisition of students and the struggles young men faced as sexual minorities. A native of San Joaquin Valley in California, Peter Stone decided to become an actor at age four after seeing a production of Annie. At age 18, he obtained management and had a small role in a television show called Saved by the Bell: The New Class. After taking coursework at California State University in Long Beach, his professors who were also veterans on Broadway encouraged him to pursue it fully. As he says, “[They] really taught me that acting was about ‘doing’ and not just saying lines.”

    What has been your experience working with the Plastic Theatre Company? 

    Working on Unnatural Acts has been the most fulfilling time in my life. We worked on the play for a period of time with no money or guarantees. This story is one that came from the heart. We knew this story needed to be told. There were three suicides. I feel honored to be a part of it, and blessed that the ghosts of these students are finally having their stories told. Working as a collective was interesting and challenging at times. However, the group that was assembled knew that the play was bigger than any one of us. We debated, argued, and challenged each other–but always for the sake of the play. We started with the source material from Harvard. We had over 450 pages of handwritten material written by the Deans from their interrogations of the students. As a group, we went through it all and tried to connect the dots while honoring the truth. Some of the writing was barely legible and difficult to read. I felt like an archaeologist discovering a secret world.

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    June 20, 2012 • Acting, Community Highlights • Views: 4555

  • The Art of Impact with James Lecesne

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    James Lecesne is an Academy award winning filmmaker, teacher, and philanthropist. It’s been an exciting time for James with a Tony nomination for The Best Man and soon after that receiving the role of Dick Jensen opposite James Earl Jones and Angela Lansbury. However, we especially commend James on the release of his book The Letter Q, a passion project conceived to inspire the youth of America and to raise proceeds for The Trevor Project which he had founded in 1998. We had a chance to speak with James about his inspiration for the book and his teaching at the New York Film Academy. He also shared key insights into the craft of storytelling and how the industry landscape has changed for LGBTQ artists. Don’t forget to get connected with Mr. Lecesne on Twitter and learn about his impact in the arts.

    What was the inspiration for The Letter Q? You’ve already contributed so much to LGBTQ youth, and this book seems to be a continuation of your work with the Trevor Project. 

    Two years ago Dan Savage launched the phenomenally successful It Gets Better Project as a way of spreading the word to young LGBT and Questioning young people that the Trevor Project is there for them 24/7. As the only nationwide suicide prevention and crisis intervention helpline for LGBTQ youth, our organization receives over 30,000 calls a year. Not all of them are rescue calls, but each call establishes a life-to-life connection with a young person who is asking important questions. We provide an ear to listen and the encouragement to be who you are. The idea for the The Letter Q came from Sarah Moon, my co-editor. When she was a teenager, she was lucky enough to be surrounded by adults who shared their stories and their wisdom with her – sometimes in the form of letters, and as she says, “It didn’t seem quite fair to me that I should have been the only teenager to get wonderful letters to carry around.” Soon after coming up with the idea, Sarah approached me about not only writing a letter to my younger self, but also donating a portion of the royalties from the sale of the book to the Trevor Project. Together we compiled a wish-list of authors and began to write to them, ask them, stalk them. The book seemed to fit so perfectly with my own desire around that time to provide young people with tools to help them get through their difficult years. We had been exploring ways to help young people “make it better” right now. And the minute Sarah proposed the idea for the book, I knew we were on our way.

    Has your teaching at NYFA helped inspire your work in some way? Reading the bio on your website, teaching plays a strong role in your career. What are the most important lessons you impart to your students who aspire to make it in film and theatre industries? Have students ever surprised you with their insights in the art and craft of telling stories?

    Teaching is a way to not only give back some of what I’ve learned, but also a way for me to continue learning about story. Storytelling, in any form, is hard work; it requires honesty, courage, craft and above all determination. But it can also be a mysterious and mystical experience, a means to enlarge and enlighten not only the storyteller, but the audience as well. For each of us, it happens differently, the idea comes in the form of a hunch, a worry, an inkling a fear, or sometimes as a fully formed brainstorm; but however it happens it always arises out of something that we happen to believe. We might not be able to articulate what it is exactly, but something in us knows, something in us feels for a truth that we need to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt.

    James as featured in the New Yorker.

    Stories are the blueprints of our passions told in code, the urge of something within our selves that is itching for resolve, the reliable and readable map of our beliefs. Leif Finkel, a professor of bioengineering at UPenn, once wrote: “Our cortex makes up stories about the world and softly hums them to us to keep us from getting scared at night.” I’m no professor of bioengineering, but I heartily agree. Of course, a good story does more than that. Stories hum not only for ourselves, but for our audience as well; their song transforms the muddled and often conflicted experiences of living in this troubled world into something valuable and enduring for us all; they are the means by which we can pass our wisdom along to future generations. The results are always surprising, or at least they should be.

    What are your thoughts on representation in the media regarding the struggles that independent filmmakers face as sexual minorities? How do you see the industry landscape for LGBTQ artists? Has it changed at all since you started as a young artist compared to the present day?

    When I was a teenager, the world was a very different place. I grew up without ever hearing the word homosexual spoken, I didn’t know a single gay person, there were no role models to whom I could look for encouragement or guidance. One of the great accomplishments of the LGBTQ community is this idea that we are not just here for ourselves. We have a responsibility to pass along our history and our pride to the next generation. Young people who are struggling and coming up in the world should not have to figure this out by themselves. Of course, there is still a ways to go in terms of achieving equality. Look to places like Uganda, South Africa, Russia, and Iran. Or right here at home to see what happens to certain people when they express themselves fully. But as Kate Millet, the revolutionary feminist recently pointed out —- gays and lesbians have achieved so much in a matter of mere decades, while women have been struggling for centuries to change things. To hear the President of the United States declare that the love of gays and lesbians is equal to that of their fellow (heterosexual) citizens, is certainly proof to me that the world is changing. More change is possible — and needed.  And I believe that by encouraging people to tell their stories, teaching them how to do it in the most exciting and engaging way, it will make for a better world.

    James with Daniel Radcliffe for The Trevor Project.

    To learn more about the Documentary Filmmaking program at the New York Film Academy, click here.

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    June 11, 2012 • Community Highlights, Documentary Filmmaking • Views: 4783

  • Casting Advice From a Pro

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    Casting director Nancy Nayor recently visited students at New York Film Academy following a screening of The Grudge. She began her casting career off-Broadway at Manhattan Theatre Club before moving to Los Angeles to become President of Feature Film Casting for Universal Studios, and working on films for Steven Spielberg, Oliver Stone, Spike Lee, Ron Howard, and John Hughes. “The first year was kind of a shock, to have that position at 24,” she laughed. She spent 14 years there before opening her own freelance casting company. Since then, she has cast movies including Road Trip, The Whole Nine Yards, Exorcism of Emily Rose, When a Stranger Calls, and Scream 4.

    Nayor spoke about the love of her job, saying, “It’s great because you’re around actors all the time, and you get to think like an actor, and you get to read with the actors, and you’re in the arena of filmmaking or theater, and it’s just fantastic.”

    Following a brief interview, Nayor answered questions from students, offering lots of helpful advice. “You need to have footage of yourself and you have to be able to email links,” she said. “It’s great to make your own reel. Tape your own scenes or monologues. You don’t need to spend a lot of money. I just want to see talent. If you’re constantly taping yourself, and the camera becomes your friend, then when you’re in the audition room you’re not automatically nervous. It helps you go into an audition room and be relaxed.”

    Do you have other helpful tips or advice for auditions? Share them with us on Facebook and Twitter!

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    June 1, 2012 • Guest Speakers • Views: 5269