Houston native Tyce Green is bringing Broadway to Texas in a big way. His Straight From New York master classes invite award-winning musical theater actors to dispense industry wisdom and share personal anecdotes while giving feedback to professional and amateur local performers.
The series has been enticing big Broadway names — Mary Testa, Laura Benanti, Hunter Ryan Herdlicka, and Constantine Maroulis — to teach in New York, and now Green has expanded the series to include Houston and Dallas.
Green is offering a free workshop for high school seniors and incoming college freshmen who are planning to pursue an acting or musical theater career (and their parents) on July 28 at Rice University's Hamman Hall. (Actually the workshop costs a penny that is require to register students through an onliune computer system.)
"It's unlike anything you've ever experienced," Tyce Green says. "The people who come consistently say that master classes like these just aren't happening."
Wesley Taylor (recognizable from NBC's Smash and Broadway roles in Rock of Ages and Addams Family) will lead a masterclass, working with performers on musical theater and pop pieces, in Houston on July 29. The fee for participants at Taylor's workshop is $249, but observing is only $35.
Adam Pascal, who created the role of Roger in Rent and starred in the Broadway productions of Memphis, Aida, Cabaret and Chicago, enthralled a group at two master classes in Houston last month. A group that ranged in age from 12 to 34 sang audition snippets for Pascal and Green, who offered practical feedback in everything from song selection to breath control to physicality choices.
"It was a thrill to work with the talented and dedicated artists of Houston and Dallas," Pascal said. "They are an inspiration to me and remind me why theater is so special."
Green, who is also known as the Audition Consultant, answered a few questions about the history and future of Straight From New York.
CultureMap: How did you get into audition coaching?
Tyce Green: I grew up very early in this industry and have had great opportunities to work with esteemed Broadway stars throughout my career as an actor thus far, and I picked up information very fast. As a Texas native, I split my time between New York and Houston pretty equally, and I devote a lot of my time and resources to bringing the right industry information to students and artists in Texas.
I am actively auditioning as an actor, producing, working with all different levels of industry people, and it's my first-hand experience that people trust. And I do it because I love it, which is the most important factor, in my opinion.
CM: How did Straight From New York come about?
TG: Funny story. About two years ago, I was visiting my really good friend Nancy Opel (you remember her for her Tony-nominated turn as Pennywise in Urinetown, or as the original Eva replacement in Evita), at her apartment right near Times Square, gorgeous location, and she mentioned that she has started privately coaching students out of her apartment. I was floored.
Overdone audition songs: "Gimme Gimme" from Thoroughly Modern Millie, any song from The Last Five Years, "This is The Moment" from Jekyll & Hyde, "The Beauty Is" from The Light in the Piazza and "So Much Better" from Legally Blonde.
Nancy is Juilliard-trained, Tony-nominated and working on Broadway eight shows a week, and yet she still had time to devote her energy and attention to the next generation of artists. Long story short, I asked her to come do a workshop in Houston, she stayed in my friend's garage apartment, I paid her with love and the rest is history.
CM: What can people expect at these master classes?
TG: Every artist is different. As you saw with Adam Pascal's class, it was really more like a dual-taught class with Adam and myself. Some are like that; others are not. They cover different areas of performance, i.e., audition skills, song choices, song interpretation, technique — it really runs the gamut.
People can expect to come and have an insightful look into a high-level artist's perspective based on their experience. And of course enjoy a couple of songs and maybe sing a little.
CM: Whom are the classes aimed at?
TG: Participants should be singers who are interested in in-depth coaching on singing styles, performance technique and audition skills. All levels and ages are encouraged; we do this because we believe everyone at all levels should have these great opportunities.
Observers can be friends, parents, teachers or students who love musical theater, singing, performing — or just love the artist!
CM: What do observers get out of it?
TG: I always joke about observing being the better "gig" because you get to learn without having any stakes in being coached. Don't get me wrong; it's an amazing experience to sing, but observing takes away the nerves and the judgment the singer might have on themselves and allows them to still receive all the helpful information that they can apply to their work without the stress of "Omgsh, I'm singing for a star."
Then, of course, teachers and parents who observe get to see firsthand just what their students are learning, which is one of our big missions.
CM: What's been the most rewarding experience with this series?
TG: For me personally, I am a young actor who is privileged to also be a producer, so the benefit for me is that not only do I get to help pass information alongside esteemed artists, I get to learn from them as well. It's a two-way street, and anyone who's successful will tell you that they never stop learning.
Learning, in this regard, is my job, and that's just the best I could ever ask for.
CM: Is there anything else you would like people to know about the workshops?
TG: Look, it's unlike anything you've ever experienced. The people who come consistently say that master classes like these just aren't happening, and the information for singers is so unbiased, unfiltered and 100 percent aimed at their future success.
That comes with laughs, revelations and hard truths, but the reality is that aspiring students deserve just that: the truth. We are very "real" with them when it comes to where they are with their abilities, what they need to grow on and our opinions on the next steps they need to take to reach their performance goals.
CM: What do you consider to be the top five most overdone audition songs?
TG: I love this question. I would like to make this clear for performers: Overdone songs are constantly growing! Don't assume you're safe! If I had to choose a mix, though, it would be these: "Gimme Gimme" from Thoroughly Modern Millie, any song from The Last Five Years, "This is The Moment" from Jekyll & Hyde, "The Beauty Is" from The Light in the Piazza and "So Much Better" from Legally Blonde.
Believe me, though, the list of overdone songs is vast.