Thayer students enjoy masterclass with ‘Frozen’ cast members
Upper School and Middle School students got the chance to work with and hear from theater professionals during a masterclass held before Thanksgiving break.
The performers — Kyle Lamar Mitchell and Zach Hess, both members of the touring cast of Frozen — met with roughly three dozen students in a two-hour workshop held Nov. 7 in the CFA’s Hale Theater. Upper School Theater Director Kelly Hines P ‘18, ‘19, Upper School Performing Arts Faculty John Crampton, Middle School Theater Director Tara Corcoran ‘88 P ‘19, and Middle School World Languages Faculty Javonna Corbin organized the session in coordination with Break A Leg Theater Works, a nonprofit which seeks to develop young theatrical talent across the South Shore. In fact, Kyle Wrentz, founder and CEO of Break A Leg, served as moderator during a lively Q&A session with Mitchell and Hess to end the masterclass.
The first part of the class saw four students perform songs as if they were in an actual audition. Mitchell and Hess provided practical advice on the nuts and bolts of the process — be confident, state your name clearly, make eye contact, move only as a means to tell the story, and hold for a moment after finishing a song — but their assistance went much further than that. The two asked questions of the singers to tease out the “why” of the song; the singers were then asked to recall times when they felt similar to their characters and ground themselves in those sense memories. They were then asked to sing the song again, and each performer showed clear and sometimes remarkable improvement.
For the second part of the class, Hess brought students onstage and, serving as choreographer, led the students in a dance routine for “Fixer Upper,” a song from the musical. He did so by teaching one dance move, layering a second dance move on top of that, and continuing the iterative process until, after 15 minutes, the students were performing, albeit roughly, as one unit.
The Q&A session ended the workshop as Mitchell and Hess shared some of their stories, including how incredible they felt when they made their Broadway debuts (Mitchell in The Lion King and Hess in Frozen). Asked by a student to name their favorite Broadway idol, Mitchell offered six-time-Tony-award-winner Audra McDonald while Hess went with the legendary Gene Kelly. Their answers reminded students that, at one point, these two professionals were just young people like them in love with the theater.
Throughout the session, both performers emphasized the storytelling aspects of musical theater and urged the students to bring their own experiences and voices to telling that story.
“Hold on to the thing that makes you special,” said Mitchell.