Zooming in on Theatre Master Classes
The Fall 2020 semester had its challenges for PLU students and faculty alike. However, one of the bright spots to lift our spirits has been learning virtually from guest artists who graciously shared their wisdom and knowledge with Theatre and Dance students over the course of the semester. With the power of the internet and the now-essential Zoom videoconferencing software, Theatre majors and minors were able to have intimate interactions with a variety of professionals nationwide.
The Fall 2020 cohort of guests lecturers featured:
- Bryce Pinkham, actor (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder)
- Cherie B. Tay, Broadway stage manager and music assistant (Hadestown, Amélie)
- Dana Wilson, choreographer and dancer (In the Heights film, La La Land)
- Laura Osnes, Tony Award-nominated musical theatre actor (Grease, South Pacific, Bonnie and Clyde)
- Santino Jimenez, television actor and improvisor (Superstore, Upright Citizens Brigade, The Second City)
The theatre and dance students were excited to have these unique opportunities to uplift their fall semester. The guest lectures were a time when students could explore and dream about life outside of the temporary little video boxes we have lived in this year.
Student Quotes About Master Classes
Hearing that Laura Osnes was coming to give a masterclass was one of the highlights of my senior year so far. Laura Osnes has always been someone I looked up to in both the roles she has originated on Broadway as well as her Broadway Princess Party series. Having access to an artist like this makes me confident in my PLU Musical Theatre degree and inspires me for my own future in the arts.
—Morgan Roberts ’21, BFA Musical Theatre
I was somewhat starstruck by virtually interacting with Dana Wilson. She talked a lot about the technical aspects of camera work relating to dance films and dancing for the camera. I used the information I gained from the master class and applied it to my classwork, especially the dance film final project for Composition and Choreography. It helped me think about how to both choreograph and dance for a camera and how this is different than dancing on a stage.
—Brooke Nelson ’23, Dance minor
Though the circumstances of the year are not what any of us would have chosen, I feel really lucky that the Theatre department provided opportunities for interaction with working theatre artists. I specifically loved Bryce Pinkham’s masterclass. I felt so lucky to be able to work a monologue with a successful professional in the field. I learned so much about auditioning and my favorite piece of advice was to use your monologue to achieve your objective. Bryce noted that watching the journey of tactics and then achieving what you want is a super exciting audition.
—Cassie Paulson ’21, BFA Acting/Directing
A common thread among all the visiting guest artists was so simple that I only recognized its true importance once it had become a pattern. The master classes with Laura Osnes, Santino Jimenez, and Bryce Pinkham particularly emphasized the importance of being yourself. This advice can mean 12 different things to 12 different people, and yet it is such a universal concept for actors… who are making a living pretending to be someone else.
Interacting with these guest artists made me feel supported as a student, and gave me hope during an otherwise scary time for the arts. It made me more confident in my decision to continue with an online year at PLU.
The biggest lesson I absorbed was from Dana Wilson’s master class. She suggested spiking out the frame of the camera so you would know how much space you as the actor or dancer have when auditioning or rehearsing. [Note: In performing arts, “spiking” refers to using small pieces of durable colored tape to mark important placements, usually on the floor.] Dana was so energetic and kindhearted and I felt great in her presence. I wish I could meet her in person and give her a proper thank you for leading the class.
—Mathæus Andersen ’21, BFA in Acting/Directing, Dance minor
I’m so grateful that we have a department that values learning from theatre professionals! Interacting with them was always a joy: they were so down to earth and honestly, it was really comforting to meet successful people that are also genuinely kind and passionate individuals.
Participating in these master classes made me feel far more connected to the world of theatre outside an educational environment. It put voices, character, and personality to artists whose work I greatly respect. Speaking with such highly successful performers made them seem more human, which made me feel more empowered and validated that I could be successful in my career too.
In a year that feels like students have given up so much, these classes with guests artists are something gained.