By Mark Guerra,
Theatre and Film Director
In lieu of a musical theatre production this fall, students are working on a socially-distant, filmed musical revue. Students have selected solos, duets and group numbers that they have been working on throughout the semester. Some numbers will be filmed outside, some in front of a green screen and there is even one number that will be animated by Junior, Luke Williams. While this is not an ideal situation for our performers, this has given them the opportunity to perform any songs they wish. Most actors/singers have dream roles they would like to play someday and this year, they get to play all of them.
In 2016, while on Lakehill’s Performing Arts Trip to New York City, students and chaperones attended a performance of The Phantom of the Opera at the Majestic Theater. I happened to be friends with the wife of the actor who played “Raoul”, Jeremy Hays, and was lucky enough to get a meet & greet for a few students and myself. The students and I were allowed in through the stage door where Mr. Hays gave us a backstage tour. We were beyond thrilled to get this opportunity and it really shaped the Broadway experience for the lucky students who were with me.
Fast forward to 2020. Due to the pandemic, all theaters on Broadway have gone dark until at least January 3rd. Some say it will be even longer than that. There are more than 51,000 members of the Actor’s Equity Association, the union for stage actors and stage managers, who are currently out of work. That number is a small drop in the bucket of the unemployed multitudes of artists, stage technicians, house managers and ushers, marketers, costumers and the list goes on and on.
While this has been devastating for unemployed artists and it has created a situation where a NYC Performing Arts trip will not be possible for Lakehill students, Jeremy Hays and his family have temporarily relocated to the Dallas area and that has given Mr. Herron and me the opportunity to bring Broadway to Lakehill.
Over the past week, Lakehill students were fortunate to have two 3-hour master lasses with Mr. Hays. Each student/group got an opportunity to perform their pieces for him and then received acting and vocal coaching to enhance their performance. To say I was impressed with what Mr. Hays was able to achieve with the students would be a gross understatement. Not only does he come to us with a vast experience in acting and singing that he was able to impart on the students, but he has a magical way of showing them how to use their breath and their bodies to fully realize the character and the story they are trying to tell. I saw students who were hesitant and almost shy at the beginning of their mini-session grow within 20 to 30 minutes of work to a full-out confident performance that more than once brought tears to my eyes. In addition to his vast breadth of knowledge of Broadway shows, Mr. Hays used a mixture of traditional performance techniques mixed with a whimsical array of physical exercises that drew brilliance from our students and led them to a true place of storytelling. This was such a powerful experience for all involved.
I would like to thank the PFC and our administration for seeing the benefit of a master class with Mr. Hays and I think it will be apparent in the students' performances.
While there is not a dedicated performance date, Lakehill students and families can look forward to a "virtual performance" at the end of the semester. Stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks.