Poised to offer aspiring musical theater performers a wealth of personalized training and experience in music, dance, and theater, the TIFTT workshops, taught by Broadway professionals and helmed by director Paul Canaan, are enriching and focused, exposing their students to many different facets of on-stage life.
Currently, the workshops are limited to those aged 10 to 18; a teachers workshop took place in East Lansing, but that idea has yet to be developed in Traverse City, nor have adult theater workshops. But for the youthful students who are fortunate enough to be able to enroll, its a chance to see what the Broadway life is really all about.
DANCE AND SING
We try to maximize the students experiences with our faculty, Canaan explains, we usually begin a workshop with a vocal warm-up with the whole group, and then we split into smaller groups and dance in one space, while another group works on vocal material. Then the two groups switch so that they get both classes.
One-on-one solo coaching is also included through the week (so students can work on their own material, Canaan says), and a broad range of both classic and modern musical theater composers and plays are referenced throughout, so performers can get the Broadway experience from the ground up.
We touch on Fosse, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Sondheim, Rent, Canaan says, musical theater encompasses a huge variety of themes and styles.
TIFTT got its start at the Wharton Center at Michigan State University (as part of their Artist in Residency program), a program known as Take It From The Top is quickly becoming a favorite returning event for Traverse City, partnering with the Old Town Playhouse for classes during the day, and performing their recitals at the Traverse City Opera House.
Whether students are just looking to have fun with on-stage arts, improve their performances in local productions, or aim at the bigger footlights of Broadway or national stages, Canaan says theres something for everyone - but the program does also have a great record of success as far as giving performers the confidence and connections to help get their dancing feet in various professional and college-level doors.
Weve had a lot of students stay in touch with our casting directors, and get auditions in New York, Canaan enthuses, I actually sent a video of a boy from Traverse City to the casting director of Billy Elliot (the Broadway musical), and she was thrilled to see all of the talent in Michigan.
We also have a lot of students get into great musical theater college programs, he continues, which I love seeing, as well.
Canaans rewards are, he explains, in seeing new talents gain confidence, and in working with new instructors, as well, which he explains can add a whole new level of enthusiasm to the program itself.
Im bringing a new team of teachers into the workshops (for 2011), he says, which is always fun when you have some of the same students. And Im very excited that we get to perform at the Opera House in Traverse City - its one of my favorite cities to work in. My favorite part about the workshops week is seeing the growth throughout the week. A lot of our students come to the program not knowing what to expect, and nervous about working with theater professionals.
But by the end of the week, he says, theyre on stage singing and dancing and taking risks fearlessly. I love that.
The Take It From The Top workshops begin on August 2. For more information and to sign up, visit http://www.cityoperahouse.org/takeitfromthetop.php