theatre

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

What Life as a Swing, Understudy, or Standby is Like

In theatre, we have what we call: a swing, an understudy and a standby. Three distinct, respected functions. There can a handful of these actors in the same shows for the lead roles, depending on the budget and the roles’ physical demand. Knowing that Broadway shows run eight times a week, it is very important that someone will be able to rock that stage no matter what.

In major Broadway productions, you can usually find performers hired to learn the track (the choreography and lines of a particular role) and ready to jump in at any point during the show if needed.

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A swing wears at least two hats. They can “swing” between two parts in the same show. Lots of ensemble members right now on Broadway are swings to one of the lead roles and perform an ensemble track on a regular basis. Some are ensemble members and can be noted as swing to one of the major lead parts.

An understudy learns the track for when the primary performer is absent. Usually, if the said name is famous, another big name can be called as an understudy for that specific replacement. They are then aware in advance when they will perform.

A standby, literally, is always ready to go on at any time. For example, in the first act, you may applaud one lead but applaud a different performer for the same role in the second act. If a standby isn’t there for such an occasion, the production can ask a swing. A standby has to be backstage at all time, warmed up, made up, and costume-ready so that the show can move on smoothly if the original actor cannot perform their role.

Backstage

It is important to know that after the previews, all shows are “frozen,” which means that the blocking and choreography are locked. Therefore, each performer who learn each track must be very thorough and respect the writer, director and creator’s visions, not deviating from what has been locked.

Each of these jobs are crucial to the theatre industry — just as crucial as the primary leads and no swing, understudy, or standby is less talented whatsoever. Many will go through months of long auditions and are cast on the same criteria as the leads.

The beauty of a company is that initially, everyone knows the track of one another. There are of course official swings, understudies, and standbys though. The quality on stage is delivered to its best no matter who performs.

Who Are We Rooting For at the 2017 Tony Ceremony?

The 2017 Tony Award Season is going to be a blast.

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While “A Doll’s House Part 2” imagines a sequel to the famous Ibsen play, “Groundhog Day,” based on a film of the same name, is a romantic comedy about a man stuck in a time loop. Meanwhile, “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812,” a musical based on Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” is leading the show with 12 nominations.

So who are your expected winners? Below are our predictions in the top categories for this year’s Tony Awards.

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1.  Best Play: Our guess is that it’s going to be “Sweat,” which is based on the Pulitzer-prize winning play by Lynn Nottage and takes a cold hard look at working-class America. However, “Oslo” may be a close contender for this award.

2. Best Musical: We’re torn between two choices — “Come From Away” and “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812,” but we’re willing to place a bet on the former.

3. Best Revival of a Play: Set in a gypsy-cab station, we think “Jitney” was one heck of an amazing ride and we’re hoping it will bag this year’s Tony.

4. Best Revival of a Musical: We think it’s going to be a close call between “Hello, Dolly!” and “Falsettos” but we’re slightly biased towards “Falsettos.” 

5. Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play: We think Kevin Kline did an amazing job as Garry Essendine in “Present Laughter.” 

6. Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play: As much as we love Cate Blanchett, we have a feeling it’s going to be Laurie Metcalf for her fantastic role in “A Doll’s House, Part 2” as Nora Helmer.

7. Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical: For this, our heart simply goes out to Josh Groban from “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.”

8. Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical: Both Christine Ebersole and Patti LuPone stole our hearts with their mesmerizing performances in “War Paint,” so we’re hoping it might be a draw, though we suspect Bette Midler from “Hello, Dolly!” is going to be stiff competition.

9. Best Direction of a Play: We think it’s a tough choice between Sam Gold (“A Doll’s House, Part 2”)  and Ruben Santiago-Hudson (“Jitney”).

10. Best Direction of a Musical: We’re rooting for Christopher Ashley for all the little ways he made “Come from Away” such a captivating experience.

11. Best Book of a Musical: In our opinion, the award for the best librettist should go to Steven Levenson for “Dear Evan Hansen.” 

12. Best Original Score Written For Theatre: We really hope its Dave Malloy’s heart-wrenching score for “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.” 

Do you agree or disagree with the above predictions?

In fact, we will be live-streaming during the Tony Awards ceremony, so follow us for live updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and see how many of our predictions came true!

How to Reach for Acting Roles That Are Right for You

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Actors actually have a great deal of agency when it comes to how they set goals, choose auditions, and decide whether or not to commit to projects. If you’re a burgeoning professional actor, it may feel confusing to decide which direction to go in terms of how your pursue your work opportunities or commit your time.

One way of making auditions easier on yourself is to spend some time before you even submit for auditions in deciding what kind of acting roles you feel would be the right fit, and why. Think beyond your dream role to the kinds of productions you’d like to be a part of, the kinds of teams you’d like to work with, and the kinds of scripts that set you on fire. Once you have this mental picture, it may feel easier to make decisions about how to invest your time and energy when pursuing work as an actor.

To help you focus your time and energy, we’ve compiled some questions to ask yourself about your professional goals. While often the primary challenge is simply to book work, sometimes actors find themselves overwhelmed with audition submissions, or in the dilemma of choosing between jobs, or wondering whether they should turn down a role. Some actors even find themselves in the enviable position of having one or more projects to consider.

Whatever your dilemma, the following can help you sort through your goals when it comes to your acting roles.

Which roles make the most of you and which roles can you make the most of?

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One of the most important things to understand as an actor is the unique set of traits you bring to the table. , which can have a direct effect on your marketability. While these traits  may not always reflect your full goals and your full range as a performer, knowing a bit about type can help you focus your job search and understand the most effective ways to present yourself to casting directors, agents, and producers. An exploration of your comedy chops or something as simple as “type” can be powerful tool when used with expertise, precision, and strategy.

Think of Goldie Hawn working with the “dumb blonde” trope to build an incredibly rich career, eventually using her success to break barriers and create her own work. Do you make a good dumb jock or are you more of a funny best friend? Are you comfortable as the hot blonde or are you a perfect fit for the role of nerdy guy or girl? Know your strengths, know your industry, and play to those strengths.

The good news is that with experience, you’ll eventually have more range to play various types. To learn more about finding your type, see our piece on how to find your type as an actor.

Is the role exciting to you?

When starting off, you’ll probably be willing to take on any acting gig that’s right for you just to get experience under your belt. However, one way of keeping yourself motivated as an actor is by joining projects that you actually think you’ll love.

If comedy is your thing, look for acting roles in this category that allow you to demonstrate your passion for making people laugh. Find a role you’re so enthused about that you can’t stop talking about the film or play when talking to others.

How is the pay?

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Money can be an ugly word when your love of acting alone is the reason you chose this career path. But as many struggling professionals will tell you, being an actor comes with its own set of economic challenges. Not everyone out there is making millions per movie.

The best thing you can do is figure out a budget for your life as an actor. There’s nothing wrong with rejecting a role if the pay means you’ll starve to death and miss paying rent. With good planning, you can figure out a budget so you know which roles will work for your plan and which will leave you stressing.

Is the script any good?

Like we’ve mentioned, it can be tempting jumping into any role just for the cash or experience. But if the project ends up panned for reasons outside of your acting skills, it can be a devastating blow.

One way to avoid this is by learning how to study a script in order to determine if the film or play is going to be a stinker. Actors reject roles all the time after analyzing the script and deciding it isn’t the right choice for their time and effort.

Is the role something you want to be known for?

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Being typecast can be a nightmare for some people, but only if you’re repeatedly getting offered acting roles that you’re not happy with. If your dream is to be a leading man or lady, it can be a bummer always playing a supporting character. If you already find yourself in this position, here are several tips to help you recover.

Is it an acting role you’ll learn from?

The fact is, most of the best actors and actresses of our time went to some form of acting school. It’s there that you’re given the tools and resources needed to decide if you really have what it takes to act for a living. Seeking out specialized training, such a the Acting for Film programs at NYFA, can also help you stand out from the crowd when hunting for a role, especially if you invest in advanced training to further sharpen your skills.

But just like any college degree or program, school is not the same as the real world. Only by being involved in real world projects  can you get a taste of what acting is truly about. We suggest targeting roles that will contribute to your growth as an actor. This can include working with experienced actors and directors, or it can simply be a project that’s unique and will force you to try new things.

What are your professional goals as an actor? What kind of acting roles do you aspire to? Let us know in the comments below!

Actors: When to Voice an Opinion

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Actors are arguably one of the most important visible elements in the theater or on screen. As a primary collaborator in the art of visual storytelling, the question of when and how to assert an opinion or suggestion is vital to the work of the actor and can make the difference between being seen as an asset or a liability by the production team.  

Depending on who you’re working with, collaboration and can be joyous and inspired or nearly impossible, and it’s always very important to find the most professional and respectful way to voice any opinion. Whether you’re struggling to communicate with a director or you’re in an environment that welcomes input, there’s a right way and a wrong way to assert yourself on set or in rehearsal.

The following are a few simple tips to consider the next time you want to share a thought or two with the production team. Finding the proper etiquette can work wonders in creating a positive working environment and resolving conflict.

Show, Don’t Tell

Most actor input is made via acting choices. Stella Adler famously said, “The talent is in the choice,” so if you have a suggestion about your role, try to incorporate that into your performance as early as the audition process to give the production team a sense of your individual take on the character or role. In addition, ask yourself whether you need permission to go with a choice since, in most cases, the most efficient way to communicate with a director is to show them what you’re thinking. Explanations can often be time consuming and murky. Just do it. If they hate the choice, they’ll let you know.

Make Sure You’re Informed

 

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The first step to being a strong collaborator is investing in the big picture. Actors who not only understand their role but the overall plot, theme, style, and atmosphere of a project are respected and valuable collaborators. Jay Roach, the director for “Dinner With Schmucks,” says of Steve Carrell, “Most actors give you two or three usable takes out of 10, but with Steve eight out of ten are great, each in a different way, each playing off decisions he made in an earlier scene or is going to make later. He has the extremely rare ability to run the entire movie in his head. And it’s probably a better movie than the one I’m going to make.”

 

As an actor, your responsibility is to analyze the script so you completely understand the character and how its creators want to see them performed. Writers and directors are counting on you to be an expert on your character and the function of that character in the overall story. You’ll find your ideas and opinions are received with more weight when you can demonstrate a full understanding of the script, including what the character truly represents in relation to the entire project.

It’s All in the Timing

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Being able to discuss common ground with your fellow creators shows them that you’ve not only formed a strong foundation for the character, but also that you respect everyone’s time and work and have the project’s best interests at heart — but sometimes it’s just not the right time to make a suggestion.

If the production is running behind on time, tempers are high, another actor just made a suggestion, or the shooting or rehearsal sequence is complicated, your idea may not be welcome no matter how solid your analysis has been. Before contributing, pause and make sure your input will be constructive and useful. A good rule of thumb is: does it need to be said, do I need to say it, and do I need to say it right now. Knowing when to stay silent or waiting for a better opportunity or idea is as important as making the right suggestion.

Pay Attention to the Approach

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There’s nothing worse than developing the reputation of being difficult on set or in a rehearsal room, so it’s extremely important to take the temperature of your collaborators and working environment and your place inside of that. Leads or stars are often also producers on a project and their position allows for a higher level of input than a day player or extra.

Before voicing your opinion, think carefully — especially if you know your idea may overstep your authority with a fellow actor, crew member, etc. Sharing a good idea can sometimes prove very beneficial to the entire production, but don’t earn a reputation as an actor who slows production or “thinks out loud” to the detriment of those around them.

And always, always make sure to play the positive. There’s a big difference between saying, “I have an idea I’d like to try with this line,” and, “This line is terrible and needs to be changed.” To maintain a healthy relationship with your fellow actors and crew, be sure to express your opinion in a way that’s sensitive to their point of view.

Weight the Risk vs Benefit

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With all this in mind, you don’t want to run the risk of always withholding your ideas out of fear of reprisal. If you’ve got a solid, well-timed idea that will work in the production’s favor, the risk you take may be well worth it in the end.  Many productions value and encourage brave actors and actresses who are willing to speak up and share ideas and input. And sometimes, when the actor ditches the script and goes with their gut feeling like Harrison Ford did when his Han Solo responded to Princess Leia’s “I love you” with “I know,” the moment becomes iconic and enters film history.

Have you had a positive experience in voicing an opinion on set or on stage? Let us know in the comments below!

7 Books Every Actor Needs To Read

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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.