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Every October for the past four years, the Theatre Department at Liberty University has taken graduating seniors to New York City to experience theater on a larger scale.
This year, 14 students had the opportunity to be mentored by major Broadway actors, audition in front of directors and attend three different musicals including Peter and the Starcatcher, Once and Newsies.
“The purpose is for them to have professional workshops taught by Broadway casting directors, producers and choreographers so that they understand exactly what the professional world is going to be like in about six months when they graduate from here,” Linda Nell Cooper, Chair of the Theatre Department at Liberty, said. “It gives them some connections to some Broadway faces.”
This year, the workshops were held by Broadway actor, director and playwright Michael Watson and Tony-nominated actor and choreographer Rick Holmes.
“It’s really good for them to hear from professionals things that we might have been telling them for four years, but because they hear it from us for four years, sometimes it resonates (better) from someone who has actually directed on Broadway,” Cooper said.
Cooper also added that the trip was strictly for academic reasons and served as a mini job fair for many of the students who went on the trip.
“When you go see theater in New York, you feel entranced, and you forget you’re watching a musical because the experience is just so magical,” Liberty senior and theater production major Tyler Williams said. “It makes you more inspired to work harder and to want to achieve that level of excellence.”
Not only did students have the chance to attend workshops, but they were also able to audition for Watson and get their performance critiqued by him. Watson, who is also a good friend of Cooper’s, told students to get in contact with him if they ever decided to move up to New York.
Senior Erica Mini said she was very encouraged by the feedback given by the professionals on Broadway.
“The audition workshop was really insightful. To hear (Watson) tell all my friends things like ‘You can do this’ and ‘(Broadway) is not unattainable’ was just so encouraging,” Mini said.
After she graduates, Mini wants to attain her equity card, which will not only allow her to audition for major Broadway shows, but will also give her connections with casting agents who communicate with directors on Broadway.
“Our Theatre Department students enjoyed precisely that type of experience in New York. Our goal is to provide each student who studies in our school (with) ample opportunities to grow both as a Christian and as an artist or practitioner in their craft. When you graduate with a degree from Liberty, we believe that you will be ready to encounter the world wherever God leads you to serve,” Norman Mintle, Dean of the School of Communications, said.