musical theatre schools

Q&A with Actress, Composer, and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Alum Xiren Wang

Canadian-born Xiren Wang is quite comfortable wearing many hats in the entertainment business–she is an actress as well as a composer, and has found success doing both. Wang first attended the 4-Week Musical Theatre workshop at New York Film Academy (NYFA) before pivoting to the 1-Year Acting for Film conservatory at our New York campus.

Since then, she has found work both in front and behind the camera, especially when it comes to scoring films and as well performing live. Her biggest project to date is scoring The Eyes, which aired on Showtime. New York Film Academy spoke with alum Xiren Wang about her eclectic work and how she first ended up at NYFA:

New York Film Academy (NYFA): The Eyes was released nationwide and had a run on Showtime. You scored and appeared in the film. Tell us more about this project and your experience working on it.

Xiren Wang (XW): After graduating from NYFA, I started taking classes at One on One, where I met Robbie Bryan, who directed the film. It was the first class that was back and running, because it was immediately after Hurricane Sandy, so I was one of the two people who actually showed up – and sometimes, showing up is that important. I met him as an actor, and invited him to the shows and concerts I performed in, and later on, when he needed a composer for the feature film, he thought the tone of The Eyes was a good match. The Eyes is a psychological thriller. Cerebral themes and dark emotions are definitely my genre of music. I write mostly for romance, drama, and yoga, all very different tones, but knowing your forte helps you define your sound, and film needs that specificity. Even though every trained composer, in theory, should be able to write for anything, doing something well is another level. Knowing your own sound helps carve out your sound world, and just like how there’s no actor who really can take every role, there’s no composer that is good for every general story. 

Xiren Wang

Because The Eyes was mostly filmed in one room, the sound world needed to be rich and multidimensional to keep the story moving forward. I blended classical sounds and electronic soundscapes to give each character another layer of identity, to speak to their backstories, and to expose a bit of what’s going on in their heads. I like to study the script and characters, and really get deep into the subtext and the headspace of what each character is holding back from the audience. 

Working on the film also afforded me the opportunity to learn about foley, and I was fortunate to have worked with the team at Skywalker Ranch for this. Because we had such a small team, I learned on the job what foley editing was about, and I’m glad to say that after the post-production process, I can handle any work that’s under the sound and music departments – usually consisting of a dozen or even hundreds of people, depending on the scale of the production. I’ve definitely started paying extra attention to the credits, just to see how the soundworld is sculpted for each film. I want to take what I’ve heard and then break it down into how it’s made, sort of like reverse-engineering, and then find ways to recreate something that sounds like the expensive output, but with a more resourceful approach, because most movies don’t allocate much budget or team to the music and sound departments. 

The reality of Hollywood orchestras recording for Hollywood films is not the reality we live in today, and a lot of production teams want skeleton crews and one-(wo)man powerhouses to take care of “everything”. Unless the director is keen on music, they often don’t know what creating a score really entails – composing is just one step of the journey, which then goes to recording, editing, mixing, matching to picture, etc. It’s a full suite of work, for many people, and having gotten my sound design start at NYFA really helped me understand this world, so that when I was hired as a composer, I could double as the sound designer as well. Understanding foley and other audio elements of the film is also crucial, and important lessons I learned from working on The Eyes

I’m fortunate to have worked with director Robbie Bryan, who trusted me enough to have this be my first feature film score. The soundtrack is also available to stream and buy on most digital retailers, but definitely get the whole experience on Showtime.

Xiren Wang

NYFA: You also music directed and performed live concerts at venues ranging from Arlene’s Grocery to Carnegie Hall, in which you also performed original music. Is your approach to composing music for your concerts different from the one you have for composing original film scores? How?

XW: Definitely. Music for film and music for picture is driven by story and frame. Music for live concerts is standalone music, driven by the pulse of the music itself, removed from the frames that anchor what it should be about. When I’m scoring a film, everything has to serve the story, and I believe a good film score should carry you further along and deeper into the story. A good film score makes you sink into more of your feelings and more of the story, it shouldn’t distract you with sounds that take you out of the story. It’s like a piece of fabric, tailored to the script and to each frame of what’s going on visually. 

Film music isn’t standalone music, it has to serve the story, and whatever doesn’t, is cut, like so much visual footage, as well. Composing for live concerts is where the musicians are the rockstars, and the performance itself is the story, so it’s a completely different mindset and landscape. Using the fabric analogy again, this time without a “body” of work to adhere to, the fabric can form its own shape and dynamics. 

I’m fortunate to be able to switch back and forth, because an actor-composer brings an extra set of eyes to the film, I feel. And being and actor-musician, I’m able to play with style, lighting, and the overall design of the music in a way that is storytelling, so this hybrid definitely heightens the production value, as it creates a multi-layered and multi-sensory experience. After all, whether we are actors or musicians, we are delivering an experience, and we want to make our work memorable.

Xiren Wang

NYFA: What brought you to NYFA?

XW: It was a talent scholarship to the Musical Theatre program, and then an extended talent scholarship for the Acting for Film Program. But there was definitely a distance between learning about NYFA and receiving the scholarships. 

I first came to New York when I was still in high school (2005!) at the time–I competed as a junior actress at IMTA (boosted as the talent convention where Katie Holmes and Ashton Kutcher got their start), and one of the girls in our group received a scholarship to NYFA, which for her was a huge deal, and for me, that meant more than the callbacks I got from the various modeling agencies in both LA and NYC. It was more valuable because it offered a journey, a journey of becoming something more, and of self-actualization. 

In 2010, I went to IMTA with one goal in mind, and that’s to get a scholarship from NYFA. As fortune would have it, one of the callbacks I received was from NYFA, and Steven Chinni, whose offer really changed my life, helped me make the transition to move to New York. One of the lines he said during the callback, I’ll never forget, was  “as an actor, you can be whoever you want.” And the possibilities of living a full and rich life, that line offered, meant the world to me. 

By August, that dream became a reality, and I did a record amount of student films while in the program. Working with the cinematography class also afforded me friends who not only gave me reel material, but helped me cut my first reels, some clips which remain in my material today! When I was in the Acting program, I was also taking composition classes at Juilliard, and I saw a NYFA filmmaker’s poster on the bulletin board asking for original music scores. So, I made a lot of posters saying that I could score your film, and put them all over NYFA, and I ended up scoring a lot of student films, and my first sound design job also came from that, and it was something NYFA instructor Paul Warner had produced. 

Xiren Wang

NYFA: What was the most valuable takeaway from your time at NYFA both artistically and personally?

XW: The education I received at NYFA made me a better human being. It introduced me to the entire spectrum of human emotions and taught me what empathy is. I learned about human behaviour, and about darker emotions, and confronting them in a safe place was something so rare – it doesn’t happen outside of school. It gave me access to emotions I never knew existed or knew what to call them. It taught me how to speak clearly, so that my voice lands. It taught me what subtext is, and what pathology is, and life is richer when you understand these layers.

NYFA: What advice do you have for aspiring actors and composers?

XW: First of all, this is not an easy life! If you’re going after fame and celebrity, then it won’t take long to realize that the craft of both acting and composition is really hard work, on so many levels. I’m fortunate to still count myself in the business, but I’ve done a lot of work to get here, juggling multiple careers as an actor, musician, fitness model, composer, sound designer, VO artist, and radio host/producer. You’re constantly competing with people better looking than you, and surviving in the industry requires a lot of inner work, work that we have to do every day, long after we’ve graduated. Because keeping our tools sharp is just one part of the puzzle, having a strong mental game is so necessary. 

Lastly, this is a piece of advice that was given to me, and I finally started to apply it: to create your own content. Find your voice, know what you’re about, and start creating your own work, because most people are waiting for work, and waiting is not a way to live. It’s most disempowering. So figure out what fuels you, and be proactive about life and career, because this really is a marathon, not a sprint. Art comes from life, and in every stage of life, there is story. It’s easier now than ever to create content, but not everyone who has a Canon5D is a great photographer! Continue training, always be learning, and learn about business and look at this as an entrepreneur.

New York Film Academy thanks actress, composer, and NYFA alum Xiren Wang for taking the time to speak with us and wishes her success as her career continues to grow!

Q&A with Jagged Little Pill and Christmas Carol Producer and New York Film Academy (NYFA) Musical Theatre Alum Chase Thomas

Chase Thomas was only ten minutes to places for a performance of Disneyland’s Fantasmic! when he received a call asking him to become a producer on Broadway’s upcoming A Christmas Carol. 

It was a phone call that would change the life of Thomas, who attended the 2-Year Musical Theatre program at New York Film Academy (NYFA) in Fall 2015, but it wasn’t out of the blue. Through years of hard work, networking, and dedication, Thomas had earned the job offer.

Chase Thomas

New York Film Academy recently spoke with Chase Thomas about his journey into musical theatre, the value of hard work, and the importance of always being genuine and nice to everyone you meet.

New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from, and what brought you to New York Film Academy?

Chase Thomas (CT): Hello! My name is Chase Thomas and I am originally from Laguna Beach, California. I will be making my Broadway producing debut with Jagged Little Pill and A Christmas Carol. I am also the founder of Carmine Theatrical Entertainment LLC, a group of Broadway investors located in Southern California.

I chose New York Film Academy because I was looking for a program that would not only polish my previous training but help me build connections within the entertainment industry. While at NYFA, most of my teachers were working professionals in the television, film, and/or Broadway with incredible resumes. As a student, I was taught many skills that would build me into a proactive business person and a better performer in the industry. 

After leaving New York Film Academy, not only was I a more polished performer, but I left inspired to create my own path in the entertainment  industry.This inspiration led me to become a performer at The Walt Disney Company and to produce two shows on Broadway, both at the same time.

NYFA: What attracted you to musical theatre?

CT: When I was younger I would run around the house singing, and making up songs about everything around me. My parents, noticing I had talent, enrolled me into a theatre school when I was six (The Center Stage Studio). From there on I was hooked! My young self was so intrigued with the idea of acting, singing, and dancing at the same time! 

At just twelve years old, I was given the chance to produce my own shows at The Center Stage Studio. The thrill of producing at my theatre school is what gave me the bug to want to be a producer. The experiences I had at The Center Stage Studio lit the fire of my passion for the entertainment industry, and I have been pursuing it ever since.

NYFA: How did you get involved with Jagged Little Pill?

CT: As I decided to take a different career path than my peers, I got a Bachelor of Science in Business as well as completed a two-year internship at Warner Brothers under the mentorship of Andrew Lazar (American Sniper, Get Smart, 10 Things I Hate About You). During the last months of my internship, Yael Silver (NYFA Alumni/producing partner), reached out to me asking if I would be interested in working with her on Jagged Little Pill. I will never forget that phone call as it was a day that my life changed forever.

NYFA: Can you tell us about A Christmas Carol?

CT: All I can say is that it is wickedly STUNNING! Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and The Cursed Child) and Matthew Warchus’s (Matilda) adaptation of A Christmas Carol is unlike any holiday show I have seen. Get ready, it is going to be the new holiday staple in New York City for many years to come.

NYFA: How did you get involved with A Christmas Carol?

CT: When it was just ten minutes to “places” before I had to go on stage for Fantasmic! at Disneyland, I got an offer from one of the lead producers asking if I would like to be a producer on A Christmas Carol. I immediately said yes and ran on stage to my spot. After the show ended and my adrenaline stopped I questioned, “How is this real life?” But then I quickly reminded myself of all the hard work that I put in that has gotten me to where I am today. It has all made me understand the value of hard work, and has inspired me to continue to work hard for what I want. Putting goals to my dreams has helped me get to where I am.

NYFA: What challenges have you faced producing A Christmas Carol? What has been most rewarding?

CT: There are going to be many ups and downs while working in the entertainment industry. Instead of looking at the lows as a “negative,” I look at them as lessons that will make me a better producer moving forward. “By seeking and blundering we learn,” says Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on Jagged Little Pill and A Christmas Carol, or your work in general?

CT: I have learned that it is so important to be nice to everyone, and to be genuine. The industry, in fact, is very small. You never know who is going to give you your big break. It could be the classmate you are sitting next to or the person you walked by on the subway. You never know!

NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?

CT: Enjoy the ride because it is a marathon, not a sprint. This means it’s important to train well and practice good habits early on. Remember to always work hard and never give up, no matter how challenging it may seem. The ones who succeed are the ones who do not fall back but push forward, even when it seems impossible.

New York Film Academy thanks Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre at NYFA alum Chase Thomas for taking the time to speak with us and share his experiences and advice with our students!

Q&A with New York Film Academy (NYFA) Musical Theatre Alum Stasi Berezovskaya

Stasi Berezovskaya knew she wanted to study at the Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre at New York Film Academy (PCMT at NYFA) from the moment she stepped inside the building after traveling to New York City from her hometown of Moscow. Now a PCMT at NYFA alum, she started her own creative production agency, SB Productions, which has afforded her the opportunity to combine her love of fashion, performance, and art. New York Film Academy spoke with Stasi about her time at NYFA, where her passion stems from, and what it takes to create your own company:

Stasi Berezovskaya

New York Film Academy (NYFA): Can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from, and what brought you to New York Film Academy?

Stasi Berezovskaya (SB): My name is Stasi Berezovskaya. I came to New York City from Moscow to improve my skills in Musical Theatre and pursue my career as a performer. I already had an education as a Musical Theatre Artist at GITIS University in Moscow, and I was choosing between a few schools at the time I traveled to NYC to study. However, I fell in love with NYFA as soon as I entered the building. It was all about the people who work there, because they make the atmosphere magical. From the Admissions office and the incredible teachers, to the President of the Academy, Michael Young, and Vice Presidents David Klein and James Miller, everybody made it feel like they were family that you could turn to starting from the first day. They all shared their amazing skills, but most importantly, they shared their hearts.

NYFA: Why did you decide to focus on fashion? 

SB: As far as fashion concerns, I guess it has always been in me, I was just previously too busy or too scared to accept it and pursue it professionally. My mom is a stylist and I grew up around all of the beautiful clothes, collections, and models. I remember a picture of myself that my great grandmother used to show me–I was three years old, standing in her heels that were probably eight sizes too big for me, and around my neck hung incredible pearls that made me feel like a princess. I suppose fashion is in my genes, because all of the women in my family used to create beautiful pieces to wear and the passion was evidently passed on from generation to generation.

Stasi Berezovskaya

NYFA: Can you tell us about your agency and what the process was like getting it off the ground? 

SB: After two years at the Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre at NYFA, while I was auditioning in New York City, I started working as an assistant for Russian designer MONOSUIT and met an amazing family of independent designers called Flying Solo. Meeting such talented people and seeing their hard work throughout the long process, including how they use their talents and skills to make something different and absolutely stunning, I realized that we are all artists. We, as actors and performers, have the voice and the platform to say what others can’t, as do designers. Designers’ collections are inspired by the same events that happen in the world every day and the same struggles we face in musicals and performances, they just talk about it in a different way. 

Given this, I thought to bring these two special worlds together, and opened a creative company called SB Production Agency. My team and I create and produce content for designers such as look books, campaign shoots, and fashion videos. Beyond this, the most important element of what I do is combine the two worlds and show designers’ collections through dance and performance, telling a story led by unique music.

Stasi Berezovskaya

My company has only just started its journey, but it has already been a great experience. I love to combine various types of art in order to allow people to see the bigger picture and see the different angles of artists’ work. 

For example, I recently had the honor of working with the amazing painter Tigran Tsitoghdzyan. He was hosting an art show in Fremin Gallery, which allowed us to use their space and helped us bring our idea to life. Tigran’s series of paintings are very unique, as they depict women who appear to be confident and beautiful, but in reality they are struggling to show who they really are. Given this, we came up with the idea of inviting dancer Abigail Kelvas and choreographer Dolly Sfeir to process the paintings and guess what the women within them actually feel. We put together a video and finalized the film in just two days, thanks to our wonderful creative team. Women on set included NYFA alum Luciana Baldovino, who is a talented director and a filmmaker in my company, and current NYFA student Beth Ribeiro, who served as a DP. Also on set to assist was NYFA Chair of Cinematography Piero Basso. Small clips of the video we produced became a part of Tigran’s interview on Armenian TV and I believe this is only the beginning for this project and more to come. We have so many more wonderful projects ahead!

NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?

SB: This has been a wonderful journey since my graduation and I am so grateful for NYFA. I met so many amazing and talented people that became co-workers, friends, and family to me. I believe that we are all here for a reason. We are from different countries and cities, speaking different languages, but the language of art is the only one that everyone can understand. I believe we all met for a greater purpose to make this world a better place. NYFA is a place to start building these kinds of relationships, believe in art’s power, and move forward together.

Stasi Berezovskaya

New York Film Academy thanks PCMT alum Stasi Berezovskaya and wishes her the best of luck on her journey with SB Production Agency!

6 Essential Books on Musical Theatre

While books have seemingly taken a backseat to everything from YouTube videos to audiobooks, they are still an invaluable resource to supplement your musical theatre education, especially when it comes to the history of the stage and the biggest names behind the biggest works.

Musical Theatre

Here are some must-read books for musical theatre performers–both informative and a great way to pass the time when you’re resting your voice. 

Broadway Babies: The People Who Made the American Musical 
by Ethan Mordden

Recounting the development of the American musical comedy genre, this history is as entertaining as the song-and-dance productions it describes. The book features musical legends including Florenz Ziegfeld, Harold Prince, Bert Lahr, Gwen Verdon, Angela Lansbury, Victor Herbert, Liza Minnelli, and Stephen Sondheim, and explores shows with staying power like Anything Goes, Show Boat, Oklahoma!, Follies, and Chicago, to offer a rich account of a beloved but often overlooked American staple.

Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops
by Ken Mandelbaum

This book explores the various how’s and why’s that led to dozens of Broadway musicals that seemed like surefire hits to flop hard at the box office. Mandlebaum is both objective and generous though, finding the positives where he can in shows whose failures could have simply been a product of bad luck and timing. Published in 1992, the book doesn’t describe the infamous Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, but after reading it, you may have an idea of why even Marvel failed on Broadway.

The Vocal Athlete
by Wendy D. Leborgne and Marci Rosenberg

Musical theatre can push the human voice to its limits, and The Vocal Athlete is written specifically to help performers meet the high demands for a sustainable career on stage, providing ideal tools and exercises to help preserve vocal wellness. When it comes to taking care your most important asset, you’ll want all the help you can.

How Sondheim Found His Sound
by Steve Swayne

This highly-praised book is a biography of one of Broadway’s biggest icons–Stephen Sondheim, the composer and lyricist behind works like Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, Follies, and Sunday in the Park with George. Knowing Sondheim’s work and what makes the artist tick is key to understanding the very nature of Broadway, and Swayne’s book is a perfect way into his world and understanding how one of the greats came to be.

The Complete Phantom of the Opera
by George Perry

The Phantom of the Opera has cemented its place in Broadway history as an iconic musical, but its roots go much farther than Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 masterpiece. This definitive account of The Phantom of the Opera recounts the history of the work from its historical origins to Gaston Leroux’s classic novel that inspired Webber’s version, as well as the story’s other incarnations in between. All of this is supplemented with beautiful photography that include images from the production itself.

Up in the Cheap Seats: A Historical Memoir of Broadway
by Ron Fassler

Up in the Cheap Seats is a truly original take on Broadway, looking at it as a fan from the ground up, or rather in Fassler’s case, from the cheap seats down. By imbuing the history of Broadway and hundreds of its productions from the personal point-of-view of an actor in his youth, along with the dozens of people he met along the way backstage, the book gives a memorable but relatable and unique take on the musical theatre scene from a heartfelt place of true love.

6 Reasons to See ‘Beetlejuice: The Musical’ 

While a lot of movies seem ripe for adapting to Broadway–like Frozen, Kinky Boots, and Once–many people were surprised when it was announced Tim Burton’s 1988 dark afterlife comedy Beetlejuice would be turned into a big-budget musical.

Though it may have been a surprise, it was certainly the right choice as Beetlejuice: The Musical has become a hit with critics and audiences alike, racking up an impressive eight Tony nominations earlier this Spring.

Beetlejuice Musical


If you haven’t already, here’s six reasons to check out
Beetlejuice: The Musical:

The creepy story

Fans of the film are well aware of the story, but it’s not one you’d normally see on Broadway:

A lonely teenage girl befriends the ghosts of a married couple after her family moves into their home. Scott Brown and Anthony King are well deserving of their Tony nominations for Best Book of a Musical.

It’s devilish fun

Director Alex Timbers (Peter and the Starcatcher, Moulin Rouge) takes a leap with this spectacular show that never takes a break from its silly energy and slapstick physical comedy. Capturing the manic energy of Michael Keaton’s original performance and Tim Burton’s direction is no small feat, so it’s no wonder the show has been Tony nominated for Best Musical.

There are visual effects, projections, and puppetry

Awarded for Best Makeup at the Oscars 1989, this visionary show lives up to the original film’s Hollywood special effects. Tony nominations for Best Lighting Design, Sound Design and Scenic Design should tell you that you’ll be in for a treat when seeing the various magical moments offered by this blockbuster musical.

Costumes straight from the film

A six-time Tony nominee for Best Costume Design, William Ivey Long obtains two more nods this year for his brilliant work in Beetlejuice and Tootsie. Original film director Tim Burton built his career on the stunning warped visuals from his own imagination, and Long’s wardrobe work both evokes the unique style while offering something new to a live theatre audience.

It is wickedly cast

Tony nominee and Broadway veteran Alex Brightman (School of Rock, Wicked, Matilda the Musical) is the perfect choice for the fast-talking wild card ghoul, Beetlejuice. After all, it’s not his first time in a Tim Burton adaptation–in 2013 he also performed in the musical adaptation of Big Fish. The stellar cast of Beetlejuice is rounded out by Anne Caruso (Blackbird), Kerry Butler (Les Miserables, Mean Girls) as Barbara, and Rob McClure (Avenue Q, Something Rotten) as Adam.

New and familiar tunes

A musical isn’t worth seeing if the music isn’t great, and the numbers offered by Beetlejuice are fantastic. In addition to new, diverse rock- and pop-based tunes written for the show (Beetlejuice also earned a Tony nomination for Best Original Score), the play also features two classics from the original film–the “Banana Boat Song (Day O)” and Harry Belafonte’s “Jump in the Line.” So if you haven’t already, now’s the time for you to jump in the line for tickets to see Beetlejuice: The Musical!

8 Broadway Shows You Need To See in 2019

Whether you’re a tourist in town or a long-time resident of New York City, it’s always a great time to see a show on Broadway, Off Broadway, or even Off Off Broadway. The choices are vast, diverse, and there’s something for everyone:

Here are just some of the shows to see with friends and family!

Phantom of the Opera. A masterpiece from the French novel of the same name written by Gaston Leroux and published in 1910, the longest-running musical in history is a must-see, and a must-see it again! Every detail is sharp, specific, and a delight to observe while memorably scored with lyrical and rock opera songs. The Tony Award-winner for Best Musical in 1988 was written by Broadway legend Andrew Lloyd Webber (Cats, Jesus Christ Superstar) and if there’s one to see one when your family comes to town, this may be the one!

Chicago. The second longest running musical in the history of Broadway, this satire on the criminal justice led by two fierce women truly knows how to showcase its choreography. Another classic to discover or re-discover, each and every song will be stuck in your head after leaving the theatre, and dancing in Times Square won’t surprise anyone. The show was adapted into a film directed by Rob Marshall and won the Best Picture Oscar in 2003; the show itself won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical in 1997.

Frozen. Frozen is adapted from the 2013 smash hit Disney animated film, which itself was adapted from the Hans Christian Andersen tale The Snow Queen. Disney Theatrical Productions knows what to do to make audiences feel the magic of the story and sing along to its catchy numbers. Director Michael Grandage and choreographer Rob Ashford had already collaborated on Broadway for Evita, and were a perfect team to make alive this tale of sisterhood with superb technical effects, new songs, and the ones we already know so well.

Wicked. The untold story about the witches of Oz, this creative, witty sweet, and fun comedy is for the whole family. One of the most expensive shows to produce on Broadway due to its makeup and scenic effects, Wicked never gets old and puts some of the finest singers in musical theatre on center stage. Indeed, this show helped make household names out of its stars Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel, who won the Tony Award for her role as Elphaba.

School of Rock. The 2003 film of the same name, directed by Richard Linklater and starring Jack Black, was a smash hit when it came out, so it was only a matter of time before producers brought its dynamic, rock ‘n’ roll vibes to Broadway. The show stars a strong cast of talented children headlined by a charismatic lead, and is passionate, touching, and just a whole lot of fun.

Jersey Boys. Inspired by the lives of the celebrated doo wop group Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, this lively show mixes comedy and drama with classic golden oldies. First starting on Broadway before moving Off Broadway, Jersey Boys was adapted into a film by Clint Eastwood in 2014.

Kinky Boots. Adapted from a British movie from 2005, this fresh and energetic show is an LGBTQIA+ story with an uplifting story, vivid colors, and strong characters and includes songs from activist-singer Cyndi Lauper and lyrics by Harvey Fierstein (Hairspray, Mrs. Doubtfire). Kinky Boots is closing on April 7, so now may be your last chance to see it on Broadway for a long time!

Stomp. Stomp is a British creation from the city of Brighton founded in 1991 that toured the world and has been performed Off Broadway since 1994. With no dialogue, this percussion celebration is a journey through unique sounds: matchboxes, zippo lighters, push brooms, and garbage cans to name a few. Each number is precise, musically innovative, and a heck of a good time.

The Difference Between Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off Broadway

Many consider New York City to be the Cultural Capital of the World — there are countless things to do for both tourists and native New Yorkers alike. But nearly everyone visiting the Big Apple makes sure they catch a show. While Broadway is obviously the flashiest of the options out there, there are also Off-Broadway and even Off-Off-Broadway productions. But what do these labels mean exactly?

The answer is surprisingly simple. What gives a show its designation as Broadway, Off-Broadway, or Off-Off-Broadway isn’t its production value or budget, or a measure of its success. It’s actually mostly related to a show’s seating capacity!

Broadway

Off-Off-Broadway

Off-Off-Broadway theatres have 99 seats or less, so are obviously smaller venues than their more well known cousins. There are around 120 Off-Off-Broadway theaters in New York City at any given time, with many located in the city’s more artistic neighborhoods, like the West Village.

Often these shows will have cheaper ticket prices, and closer access to the actors after a performance. Because it’s easier to take financial chances with smaller productions, Off-Off-Broadway shows are also more likely to be avant-garde or experimental than more mainstream venues. They can be more traditional plays and musicals however, and give theatre-goers a healthy amount of options throughout the year.

An example of an Off-Off-Broadway production is Benten Kozo, directed by Jim Simpson, an Obie award-winning production that ran for over six months.

Some Off-Off-Broadway theatres:
HERE Arts Center, The Kraine Theater, La MaMa E.T.C.


Off-Broadway

Off-Broadway theatres can be significantly larger than on Off-Off-Broadway, and can hold up to to 499 seats. With fantastic original stories, musical revivals, and even performance art shows, many shows that begin on Off-Broadway can jump to Broadway if successful enough and warrants larger audience capacity — a famous example being historical musical, Hamilton.

Well-known stage performers can also be prominent in the Off-Broadway scene, not just limiting themselves to larger Broadway shows. Many performers tend to go back to the intimacy of a smaller theatre where an audience can be engaged more intimately with a production and its cast. There are roughly 85 Off-Broadway theatres in Manhattan.

Stomp is an enormously popular production that began in the United Kingdom and has been running in the East Village’s Orpheum Theatre for years, and is a unique example of the varied types of shows you can catch on Off-Broadway.

Some Off-Broadway theatres:
Cherry Lane Theatre, SoHo Playhouse, Minetta Lane Theatre

Theatre Ballet
Broadway

Broadway shows have the strictest guidelines to earn their moniker. In addition to having 500 seats or greater, they must be located in the Theatre District (around Times Square in Midtown, Manhattan) as well as in venues certified by The Broadway League, the trade association for the Broadway industry.

Because of their prime locations, Broadway shows have a greater chance to attract tourists and other theatre-goers, and as such, have long since been known to have much larger budgets and production values than other musicals and stage shows in New York City. Similarly, they can also attract larger stars, as well as adaptations of famous films and other works whose rights may be expensive to procure.

Examples of famous Broadway shows are nearly countless, with The Phantom of the Opera being the longest running show on Broadway to date.

Some Broadway theatres:
Gershwin Theatre, Winter Garden Theatre, Ambassador Theatre

7 Books Every Actor Needs To Read

acting books books reading

Some actors are born great, some actors achieve greatness, and some actors have greatness thrust upon them. No matter which of the three categories you fall into, reading books about acting is an excellent way to nurture your abilities. Importantly, acting books can help with a myriad of skills including acting technique, auditioning, and self-marketing, all things that are important to any actor. Here are the top five books that every actor should read.

1. An Actor Prepares By Constantin Stanislavski

This is the oldest book on the list and the first of the three acting books written by Mr. Stanislavski. In these pages, Stanislavski takes the reader on a trip through his system by following the experiences of a group of actors as they learn with their teacher. The result is an in-depth theory of acting that includes exercises and techniques meant to encourage imaginative and true performances. There is not a book on this list or an actor in the world who is not directly influenced by the teachings of An Actor Prepares.

2. Audition By Michael Shurtleff

One irony of acting is that before you can act, you have to audition. This book by Michael Shurtleff addresses the art of auditioning from the perspective of an experienced casting director. The book is simple and informative and uses a 12-step guide with corresponding questions to help actors prep for auditions and callbacks. Some favorite techniques that emerge are “playing opposites,” “finding humor and love,” and “the moment before.”

3. Respect for Acting By Uta Hagen

Legendary actress Uta Hagen wrote a book that been a lifesaver for both theatre and film thespians. Along with practical advice like how to combat stage fright and how to avoid complacency when playing the same role for too long, Hagen also distills the core of acting into nine specific questions. You’ll have to read the book to see all nine and truly learn how to investigate them, but perhaps the most important question Hagen tells actors to ask when it comes to their characters is “Who am I?”

4. Acting as a Business By Brian O’Neil

After you book a role and become a working actor, the best thing you can do is promote yourself. This book is written by a former talent agent and walks aspiring actors through the process of self-marketing as well as finding an agent to represent you. O’Neil writes updates to his book every few years and the most recent edition includes tips for how to use the internet as a tool and also details recent trends in the entertainment industry.

5. Sanford Meisner on Acting By Sanford Meisner

Sanford Meisner is considered by many to be the best acting teacher ever and his technique is up there with the Method as the most practiced technique among actors. Regardless of the technique you prefer, this book offers insights and exercises as the reader follows a group of actors studying under Meisner. His famous quote pretty much encapsulates the tone of his writing: “Acting is behaving truthfully under imaginary circumstances”

6. Improvisation for the Theatre By Viola Spolin

Improvisation has become a core tenet for modern acting (and the modern comedy scene) and can find its roots in the innovative theatre work developed by actress Viola Spolin. The acting exercises she called “Theatre Games” later became the basis for modern improvisation in acting, and Spolin explains the process in her seminal book, Improvisation for the Theatre. Learn how to act in the moment without a safety net with Spolin’s lessons as well as exercises she lays out in the book.

7. The Intent to Live By Larry Moss

“I call this book The Intent to Live because great actors don’t seem to be acting, they seem to be actually living,” Larry Moss said. He is a highly-regarded acting teacher of recent times, having instructed hundreds including Hillary Swank, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Justin Timberlake. He is a sort of contemporary master of acting instruction, like Stanislavski and Meisner in their times, making his book especially vital to the modern actor. He stresses preparation and script work and offers insights into developing characters and tackling difficult roles.

Acting is a skill that can be learned through education. For the actor that is interested in achieving greatness, any of the above titles is an ideal place to start. Once an actor masters their technique on camera and in auditions and realizes the power of marketing, greatness will eventually be thrust upon them.