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To Mask or Not To Mask

As the founder of a private institution where ALL my staff is vaccinated and we are mandating that every child who can be show proof of vaccination, I am flooded with parents asking me “NOT” to mask their children. Kids above the age of 12 who are vaccinated want to sing and dance without masks. I assumed everyone in NYC whose children take my dance and musical theater classes would want masks on other children, so no younger or older vulnerable people get sick, but this is not the case.

Parents have called and written pleading with me saying:

  1. My child has been masked for a year and a half and can no longer dance with a mask
  2. My teenager is breaking out and wants to meet boys
  3. What was the point of getting vaccinated with all other vaccinated people if you are making them mask?
  4. If you make them mask we want refunds
  5. Audrey, “Be Bold” a parent said – what does that even mean these days? 

Getting through last year was hard enough with 3 quarters of our students gone, but our strict mandates got us through the year without ONE case. 

What does an owner do, when there is no one really guiding the way?

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How We Brought Back In-Person Performing Safely (For Kids)

How has Applause safely reentered the world of performing arts for kids?

The most important thing to Applause for re-entry was  #studentsafety and staff as well as #community. Kids miss seeing their friends more than anything as well as doing what #children love (performing)!

We’ve mapped out space with 8-12 feet between each student. We taped out squares with 3 feet on each side and put a decal in the middle which is numbered . This way there is no question for anyone where a child’s space is!

Each child is given a number and a mapped out path to get to their space. As a child enters our space there is a distanced crew to take temp., dispense hand gel, & each child receives a fresh mask & face shield weekly.

Children must wear mask & put on face shield on top of the mask when it is time to sing.

Classrooms are fully sanitized between each class.

Any kind of snack or drink is distributed outside during break time when students go outside where spots are labeled as well.

We’ve opened safely for all students as well as our staff. Children and parents have thanked us profoundly in countless emails for figuring out how to do this where children can connect.

We offered outdoor distanced dance and musical theater classes as well as virtual classes.

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How To Keep Theater Alive For Yourself

Most of us are asking ourselves what we should be doing during the time of Covid-19, and my answer to you is TRAIN! 

There has never been a better time to put your acting and singing chops to work. Most actors, directors and musical directors are out of work right now, which is the perfect opportunity for you to seek their help and work with the best of the best. This down time in showbiz means that you can get individual attention and work on those bad habits you have been meaning to break. This is the time to do the training and research you swore you would get to when you weren’t so busy.

5 Ways to Continue Training 

  1. Do the Deeper Acting Work

You have more time than ever to really dive in and study your favorite scene or monologue. If you choose a scene, pick a partner who you admire and really dig into the text. Find the beats. Play around with different objectives. Accept challenges. Push yourself. 

  1. Do a Virtual Play

Get together with your friends and try diving into characters you have never played before. Try a new “type” and think outside of the box. This close-up & personal work will help widen your range! No one wants to be typecast.

  1. Add 2 New Songs to your “Book”

You can never have a shortage of songs that are in your key and cut just the way you like it. Working with a singing coach (virtually or in-person) is going to put you ahead of the game for when things start back up. You want to emerge a stronger vocalist than you were going into this! Click here for private lessons.

  1. Work on your “Mix”

Your mix – that crossover part between your chest voice and your head voice! Who doesn’t need help with that? Working on that mix will benefit you in every way possible. There is no downside here. 

  1. Nail the Cold Reading

Work your cold readings. Readout loud every single day. Pick up anything – the newspaper, a children’s book, an article on the internet, a cookbook, adult fiction, non-fiction. Get used to seeing words and reading them aloud without tripping over them. Look up as you read. Try different voices. Get your point across. Let someone listen to see if you can be understood. Your cold-read gets you to the next room at the audition, so this part is crucial.

There is a lot to keep you busy. Many of us are not feeling motivated right now, but since this is what you love, take some time to make yourself feel good. Watch great theater. You’d be surprised at how much is online. Here are a few links that we love.

This is about investing in you. You Got This!

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Top 5 Tips for a Great Audition

Pre-audition jitters are normal and numerous. We worry that we won’t be liked, we won’t do a good job and, ultimately, we won’t land the part. Here are a few confidence-boosting tips to quiet your nerves and at the same time improve your chances of success:

  1. That’s My Part! Casting directors’ sole purpose is finding the perfect person for the part. They are praying that the next person who comes into the room will be “that” person. If they find you then the process is over, and they can go home and relax. So, casting directors are rooting for you! Walk in that room knowing that you are the person they are looking for!
  2. Play the Part – Make It Your Own If a casting director sees the same audition over and over and over again, they will never cast you. They are looking for someone who stands out, someone who is bold and who makes INTERESTING choices – not the same as everyone else. However, you still need to keep the correct intentions in mind. A casting director still wants to see you know what the scene calls for. So don’t be afraid to make an interesting choice. Break up the monotony of the day. Casting directors will love you for it.
  3. Ace Your Intro When you introduce yourself, say your name with flair. Work on this beforehand. Announce your name in a way that will make everyone remember you. Your audition begins the moment you enter the room, so saying your name in a memorable manner will leave a lasting impression and make you stand out in the minds of the people watching. Run it by your friends and teachers to get it just right. Get comfortable with it. Go for it.
  4. Revel in the Moment Get in the mindset that you are acting, not auditioning. For two to five minutes of your life you get to star in the part you have always wanted. Recite that five-minute monologue from Hamlet as if it’s your dream role. Sing a song from Dear Evan Hanson as if you are headlining on Broadway. Take those five minutes and imagine yourself playing the part and enjoy it. It’s your five minutes, you might as well live the dream. That will come across really well. Now if you have moved on and you’re reading a scene or singing a song from the piece they are casting – imagine you have been given the role. It’s yours (see Tip 1). So, attack the piece like you have already been cast. For five minutes you have booked the role, so read or sing it like it’s yours.
  5. Leave ‘em Laughing Find the comedy in your life and jot it on your resume under special skills. For example, if you have a humorous hobby or funny part-time job put it down. Put down you are an incredible accordion player, if you have that skill. Put down you break dance while reciting haikus, if that’s your thing. Put it down if you sing Broadway music to babies. In most cases people will likely ask you about it if they see it on your resume. This gives the casting directors something to talk to you about, gives you a reason to talk and gives the “room” a way to remember you. This will also allow people to see you are easy to work with. If in fact it has come up during your audition, make sure to end with it as you’re leaving the room. This could take a little work on your part, and if you are having trouble coming up with a witty way to work it in to the audition, ask a friend for help and do some brainstorming. You want to be remembered!

So next time you walk into an audition, use these tips to calm your nerves and make it to the callback. Break a leg!!!

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Top 5 Things to Look for When Choosing a Theater Program

Looking to enroll in a theater program? The good news is you have hundreds of options. The bad news? Not all programs are the same — or even respected. Variations abound in terms of intensity, quality, professionalism, methodology and expertise.
So what’s an aspiring actor or supportive parent to do? The reality is that finding a program that’s “just right” requires some serious research. For starters, meet with instructors, sit in on a class, or see a production. Know if you’re looking for a program active in the “industry” or one that’s just for fun.
Sorry, but if you’re serious about performing, you can’t shortcut this process. But you can shortlist the search by only looking at theater programs that adhere to a list of standards and best practices.
Here are the five most important:

1) Multiple and Experienced Instructors.

Look for a community of teachers/directors who are passionate about their expertise. Start by browsing teacher bios on the program’s website. Do the teachers actually work there? Does the owner teach everything — or are multiple teachers on staff? If it’s the former, then what you are taught is professional credits.  going to be very limited. You will only learn the style of an individual teacher. Same everything.
It’s important for a program to be filled with a broad team of experienced teachers who can guide you through different areas of interest. How can you stand out among thousands of aspiring actors if everyone in your program has the same style? Select a program with many different types of teachers with different styles, who will highlight your skills and help you develop new ones.
2) Community.  

“There is nothing like a theater community”

Seek out a program that emphasizes Community. There is nothing like a theater community, which is fostered by the people who run the training program. If it’s done right, the people you meet in your theater community will be in your life forever. This community will cheer you on, hold you accountable, be truly happy for your success and will be there to pick you up when you fall.
This strong community of people are the ones down the road you will write and produce shows with, direct or cast you in something, even spend long nights talking about theater and singing songs with harmonies you learned 20 years ago. How can you find out about the program’s community? Speak to alumni or kids currently in the program. The true test: Make a random visit and go up to anyone and ask them to tell you about the community. Actors are honest.
3) Pre-Professional.

What’s the point of doing anything if you’re not going to give it your all? You want a program that is pre-professional, where the level of discipline prepares aspiring actors for professional auditions, as well as booking a job and how to work in a professional setting. Most programs that require an audition are pre-professional. The program most likely does not tolerate missing rehearsals, requires knowing your lines, harmonies, dance moves, blocking or where you stand in front of the camera, in advance. These programs encourage working outside of rehearsal time. A disciplined program is built for performers who want to enter the business professionally or are prepared to enter college conservatories. 
4) Just For The Fun Of It.

A more relaxed approach in a program is great, too. Not everyone wants to be a professional in the world of performing. There are people who just want a boost of self-confidence, or who love to be on stage, or just like it as a hobby, but don’t want a career in it. All of these reasons are important and valid. Make sure you look for that vibe in the program you pick. A student might just want to learn a dance and not worry about perfect technique, or might not care about meeting an agent. Enjoy being around kids who also love performing as a hobby. There is nothing wrong with doing something just for the enjoyment of it. This is equally important in finding the right program. 
5) Variety.

Acting, as covered in a previous blog, is now a multi-disciplined profession [J1]. You want to train at a theater program with a wide age-range and variety of instruction. That means multiple types of classes in dance, musical theater, acting, film, private coaching, workshops and more. You don’t want to have to run to 12 different programs to study each type of training. Keep it in-house so you can be in a place where teachers are talking about your training and giving input to each other about your progress. Know that your instructors are really investing in you.
Perfecting a variety of skills demonstrates passion and commitment — and, above all, directors and colleges want to see commitment. They like it when students stick with what they love. Loyalty, passion and commitment are qualities valued everywhere, so make sure you pick a program that will nurture your strengths but also give you the opportunity to try new things and improve your weaknesses.

A one-size-fits-all theater program does not exist. You need to find the best fit for you. Just make sure any program you settle on meets the above qualifications. If not, take a pass and move on to the next one.