When COVID-19 forced St. Lawrence College to move its students and classes off-campus, faculty had to adapt their curriculum and lesson plans quickly for alternate delivery. For the lucky students the Music Theatre — Performance program on the Brockville campus, this delivery includes the opportunity to ask Broadway stars about their experiences in theatre.
“As we have been trying to come up with new ways to keep our students motivated and educated in our time of physical distancing, I started doing a ‘Broadway Friday Chat’ with the students,” said Ian Simpson, an instructor in the program. “Using Zoom I have been able to bring in colleagues and professionals from Broadway shows to talk about their experiences in theatre and answer questions from the students.”
So far, the students have had sessions with Sean Allan Krill who joined the class via Zoom from New York City. Sean stars as Steve Healy in Jagged Little Pill, the new Broadway Musical that features the music of Canadian music superstar, Alanis Morissette. Also Zooming in was Toronto actress, Astrid Van Wieren, who stars as Beulah in the Broadway production of Come From Away. “Both artists were generous with their time and commented to me afterwards what a wonderful group of students we have in our program,” Ian said. Students also spoke to Canadian star Chilina Kennedy who starred on Broadway as Mary in Jesus Christ Superstar, and as Carole King in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.
“To hear professional experiences and life stories is where I learn the most. You learn so much just from listening to someone’s story and hearing their triumphs and mistakes. They taught so much in such a short amount of time just by sharing themselves with us,” said student Sabrina Merks. “I am beyond excited to make my way into the working theatre world to begin my journey. I hope more students get to experience this in the future.”
In another Broadway connection, actor Laura Benanti put out a call on Twitter for video clips of cancelled shows due to COVID-19, and first-year SLC Music Theatre student Christina Licatalosi, along with fellow student, Ricardo De La Torre Ley, answered.
“I shared a clip of Ricardo and I singing “All I Ask of You” in rehearsals for New Faces,” Christina said. “Amazingly, Laura saw the clip and shared it!” The video was also retweeted by Emmy Rossum, Debra Messing, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and supported by Lin Manuel Miranda. The clip was also featured in, Broadway World, PBS Newshour (49:17), and Advocate Magazine, with just shy of 100 thousand views. Another clip Christina shared was featured in Andrew Lloyd Webber Twitter compilation for “Any Dream Will Do,” from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
“This fun story demonstrates the passion and perseverance of young artists studying at SLC. Digital literacy is an essential skill and our students are innovating to share their work via social media,” said instructor, Patrick Burwell. “The cancellation of performances is heartbreaking, so recognition from industry leaders on social media is a bright light in a challenging time.”