Shaping the artist: Broadway Theatre Challenge is again for 2024


Broadway Theatre Challenge (BTP) is an establishment in American musical theater training. The summer season coaching program, which was began by Broadway legend Ann Reinking and affiliate Debra McWaters in 1991, is held in Tampa, FL, and exposes apprentices to the numerous kinds, strategies and strategies getting used immediately within the performing arts world {and professional} leisure business.

This summer season, from June 19-29, BTP is again for the primary time since Covid and, for the primary time ever, shall be open to 12-15 younger artists aged 15-24 who will deal with their craft and all features of the business for 10 days. Every day will encompass extremely targeted consideration on growing artistry, audition and efficiency abilities, in courses taught by a roster of seasoned professionals and devoted educators.

Right here, Dance Informa speaks with BTP Creative Director Debra McWaters concerning the thrilling issues to return throughout this summer season’s program.

How thrilling that Broadway Theatre Challenge is reopening for the primary time since Covid! Why do you’re feeling now is a good time to begin up once more for the summer season program?

Broadway Theatre Project. Photo courtesy of Debra McWaters.
Broadway Theatre Challenge. Picture courtesy of Debra McWaters.

“We by no means supposed to shut the Challenge completely. In 2019 and 2020, we had been readying college students and school for a summer season crammed with sturdy approach coaching, Pre-Faculty and Pre-Skilled sub-programs and new creative choices. We had been topping all off by a fair stronger, extra structured mentoring program. Our ultimate week was to be at sea on Norwegian’s Breakaway as we ready to develop into the final mainstage present on the ultimate Saturday evening of that cruise. Then Covid hit and all bets had been off. We switched gears and started plans for a small efficiency tour for week three, together with a efficiency at Disney World. Nevertheless, as soon as it turned readily obvious that Covid dangers had been nearly in every single place, we noticed that our program was not going to have the ability to run within the conventional means. Nevertheless, we knew that we had college students who had been set to return and had been already grieving over what was occurring with their dream of performing, so we knew we needed to do one thing. We lowered tuition drastically, shortened the size of this system, started mentoring our college students immediately, secured all of our artists, and ran a distant model of Broadway Theatre Challenge. Each single artist participated, and Donna McKechnie even arrange distant one-on-one courses for BTP college students for a really low price. It was a courageous journey all of us undertook that was troublesome and enjoyable and poignant, and crammed with artists, younger and fewer skilled, and those that are defining Broadway, sharing fears about what was forward, whereas courses went on and by no means skipped a beat.  

The following two years introduced us with the state of affairs of not having the ability to make BTP occur as a result of issues the College of South Florida had been combating with that horrendous illness. The USF College of Theatre and Dance has at all times been probably the most welcoming of houses and to see them wrestle to search out their means by way of that nightmare was troublesome for all of us. The yr 2022 didn’t discover BTP on its calendar pages because of life points that a few of us needed to are inclined to, in addition to the devastating financial hit BTP took these earlier years. We determined to take a deep breath, after which Annie Reinking handed and for us, the world stood nonetheless. By way of the grief, Blake Coheley, our Government Director; Herman Payne, the Co-Creative Director; and I had many ‘phoners’ in order that we might do one thing with the unhappiness that may re-define BTP, retaining it related whereas nonetheless respecting the fundamental tenants upon which it was conceived 30 years in the past. We felt we needed BTP to evolve right into a ’30 years later’ model of what Annie had set out for as the 2 of us put heads collectively and agreed that we needed to construct a summer season institute so a few years earlier. This previous fall, Blake, Herman and I checked out one another and mentioned, ‘It’s time.’

Debra McWaters.
Debra McWaters.

Now right here we’re, engaged on one thing fairly completely different but nonetheless with Annie’s imprimatur fairly evident. The extra shot of magnificence in what we’re doing is that now we have some very gifted alums enjoying essential roles. Tucker Tab deGregory is our new Program Director, Giulia Falabella has been working quietly with me for the previous couple of years as Assistant Creative Director, and Merrick Henry and Taliek Hill are the Co-Firm Managers of BTP 2024. We now have spent over a yr engaged on what BTP shall be and fine-tuning it nearly every day. The extraordinary factor about it’s that we’re all in it for the love of it. Nobody is doing it for a paycheck. That’s the strategy to the humanities that I keep in mind existed when Annie and I first began our journey collectively.”

Who’s BTP geared towards? What ages and dance pursuits and profession targets is this system greatest for?

“This summer season, BTP shall be geared towards college students from 15 to 24 years of age who’ve already began working severely within the approach courses of their chosen artwork kind. Musical theater has at all times been the place we resided, and the calls for of being an employable musical theater performer are excessive. To exhibit abilities as a dancer, as a singer and as an actor is troublesome and is finished after many hours of coaching. We’re individuals who have proven us that they’ve been coaching and have been skilled effectively. In fact, many are more proficient in some areas than others, and never everybody decides to do musical theater. We now have dancers who’ve additionally skilled in appearing and singing, actors who’ve taken strong courses in dance and voice, and vocalists who’re working onerous of their dance and appearing courses. We’re searching for the artist who has some coaching in all three. That is normally the one that brings so very a lot to the stage or to the display screen. We received’t be coaching anybody who’s at the start of the training curve. That’s the reason we are saying we’re ‘Shaping the Artist.’ We have an interest within the pupil who is able to take a leap right into a much less tangible place and work in collaboration with us find the artistry that completes the work. We need to work with pre-professionals who want to search out this being inside as a way to develop the high quality contact wanted to face out in such a aggressive, powerful setting. We need to work with the pre-college pupil who’s looking for what is required to be aggressive sufficient to win entrance into a very good program.”

What can dancers anticipate from the every day program at BTP? What’s a typical schedule?

“All college students, actors and singers, in addition to dancers, can look forward to finding a format that’s most likely unfamiliar to them. We now have many visitor artists coming in who’re very profitable of their respective areas and who shall be spending a night and a day with the scholars. In our quest to work with college students as a way to dig deeper in order that we are able to all faucet into what makes them tick, now we have an attention-grabbing format for our Visitor Artists. When an artist visits, the primary night is a two-hour block of time to carry out a one-act play or cabaret act or to work on school auditions with the pre-college crowd, with the pre-professional crowd and with those that want to work on cruises or theme parks. We would like the scholars to see these artists in movement, doing what they love greatest, displaying not simply stunning approach however the creative contact to the fabric that has made it successful. The following day is dedicated to classroom instructing the place that artist can dig extra deeply into the excellence between a technically sound piece and one which defies description as a result of artistry that’s evident because the piece is carried out. We’re even going to have an open mike evening hosted by Michael Orland throughout one of many evenings. 

Broadway Theatre Project. Photo courtesy of Debra McWaters.
Broadway Theatre Challenge. Picture courtesy of Debra McWaters.

When the visiting artists aren’t at school with these apprentices, there shall be a myriad of courses going from a little bit of approach work to the artwork of choreography (essential for all to be taught as a way to spherical out a creative effort), the artwork of collaboration, the artwork of the audition, the artwork of improvisation, and the artwork of performing. Work shall be performed on each the piece every pupil is to convey to the Challenge that feels comfy and feels completed, and the items that the scholars have introduced as a result of they really feel that they want work. We’ll work at the side of the scholars on their work in order that they will take dwelling, on the finish of the Challenge, two items that ought to present a extra developed contact and are discovered to be extra comfy to carry out. With a small group of 12 to fifteen college students, there would be the alternative to work one-on-one periodically with the instructors. As well as, a well-developed mentoring program shall be in place which can pair college students with school even earlier than the Challenge begins.

Along with all of this, there shall be courses the place college students will be capable to be taught work performed particularly for BTP by Ann Reinking or by the 2 of us. This work was solely performed right here, they usually would be the ‘keeper of the keys’ of some uncommon work.

The very last thing is that in 1991, Ann and I deliberate to create a warm-up that’s strictly a BTP warm-up. It was to be geared towards the apprentices solely and was for use by them as soon as they left the Challenge. Because it seems, we did end this warm-up. It was simply by no means handed on to the scholars however shall be this summer season. So, along with the fantastic artists and instruction they are going to be receiving, the Annie Reinking contact shall be in proof.”

Who else is about to be on school this summer season thus far?

“Blake Coheley, Government Director, and Herman Payne, Co-Creative Director, are, in fact, right here and dealing onerous on this new program. Jose Simbula, who’s a dynamic musician, shall be our music director.

Broadway Theatre Project. Photo courtesy of Debra McWaters.
Broadway Theatre Challenge. Picture courtesy of Debra McWaters.

Within the visitor artist class, now we have musician and vocal coach extraordinaire Michael Orland; Stephen Sondheim’s authentic lead in Merrily We Roll Alongside, Ann Morrison; the multi-talented, multi-faceted Brenda Braxton, whose work has been created by quite a lot of heavyweights from Sondheim to George Wolfe and plenty of factors in between. We now have extraordinarily proficient Carmit Bachar, broadly often called one of many former Pussycat Dolls however now a lady along with her personal act, a presenter, an writer, a mannequin who has graced the quilt of among the most admired style magazines, in addition to a New York Trend Week participant.

Scott Wojick, casting director and proprietor of his personal company, and Michael Rodriguez, expertise agent and in addition the proprietor of his personal company, will spend priceless time working with the scholars on several types of auditions that may be going through them. They’re very effectively versed in auditions from school placement degree to cruise ship jobs to reveals on Broadway. They’re very caring when working with college students on the audition course of and possess a world of information in different areas of leisure as effectively.

Jake Kodish, a dancer, a choreographer and a grasp educator, was as soon as a BTP pupil. He has gone on to bop with many high-profile artists, corresponding to Prince, Taylor Swift and, most just lately, Jung Kook of BTS. His choreography is edgy, and we’re so excited to have him develop into a member of our school.

Lastly, Eric Jordan Younger will be a part of us. Eric was an teacher at BTP a few years in the past, however the present has taken him from Broadway to Broadway excursions to cruise ships, to Las Vegas, and now to Lengthy Island College. Eric’s resume reveals his prolonged present background as a performer in Chicago, The Look of Love and Ragtime, amongst others.”

Personally, what’s your favourite half about BTP? What are you most trying ahead to this summer season?  

“I reside for being within the classroom and rehearsals and collaborating with sensible, proficient, younger people who find themselves able to doing probably the most superb issues. My ardour is instructing, choreographing and directing these proficient, hungry, appreciative younger artists. There may be nothing like being in a room discovering that you’re collaborating with a lot vitality, a lot expertise, a lot technical prowess and figuring out that that is the subsequent technology shifting into your land. To create a bit and put it on younger artists who, at instances, add a twist right here or there that truly improves the piece is an incredible expertise, and I cherish the instances this has occurred.”

What units BTP other than different musical theater applications and intensives?

Broadway Theatre Project. Photo courtesy of Debra McWaters.
Broadway Theatre Challenge. Picture courtesy of Debra McWaters.

“The individuals who work at BTP love what they do. They love their artwork kind, they love college students, be the brand new college students to the performing arts or these able to hit the streets for work and that dream job. We like to collaborate with one another after which to collaborate with the scholars. We now have all labored within the extremely aggressive skilled realm, and we’re all educators. We don’t let our egos get in the way in which. We acknowledge that all of us nonetheless can be taught, we are able to nonetheless be higher. We’re not inquisitive about competing with different establishments for college kids. The fitting match should exist and doesn’t at all times. We have a look at the entire particular person with whom we’re working. Bodily well being and psychological well-being can by no means be overshadowed by how effectively one dances or sings or acts. Our philosophy towards instructing started when Ann Reinking determined that this was to be her ‘Tampa’ undertaking, and now we have revered that philosophy each day now we have been in existence. We imagine in working onerous; we love the artistic course of. We don’t imagine that ‘the efficiency’ is the place all of the reward lies. Annie and I used to speak about how we had been happiest after we had been in a dusty black field creating. The people who find themselves the center of this Challenge really feel the identical means. We’re form, we’re compassionate, we’re sensible, and we all know what we’re doing. We respect, are grateful to and rejoice the lecturers, mentors, administrators, and choreographers who’ve skilled the scholars who spend that quick slice of summer season with us annually. We thanks for trusting that we are going to do the very best work potential along with your college students. After 30 years, we’re nonetheless right here. Our visitor artists are so supportive of us and return yr after yr. I imagine that speaks volumes. The very last thing is that, as Jason Samuels Smith informed our college students one summer season, ‘We stand on the shoulders of those that got here earlier than us.’ We’re all respectful and grateful to those that introduced us alongside. We’re passing the baton because it was as soon as handed to us.”

Purposes for Broadway Theatre Challenge 2024 are due by March 4. For extra info, go to

By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.


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