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Joel Grey

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Reflections on a Master Class

Posted: 08/08/2012 12:13 pm

Now, back home after my week at Ten Chimneys, I find myself reflecting on what was a truly unique experience. In my previous entry I mentioned the Lunts's tradition of creating a welcoming retreat for actors, and how lucky I felt to take part in that legacy. The remainder of my week in Genesee Depot only reinforced all those sentiments. This tradition has found itself the most wonderfully suited torch-bearer in the form Kristine Weir-Martell, who runs Ten Chimneys with the Lunt-Fontanne ethos firmly intact.

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But to me it was the work (for me it's always the work) that resonated most deeply. Spending a week with ten fine actors, exploring the craft of musical theater, and putting on a show -- that is what I had come there to do. Musical theater actors have a special bond, and it was a treat to get to have such intimate conversations about the issues we all face. We covered a number of basic issues including coping with rejection and how actors deal with vocal problems while doing a run, as well as more complex topics like discussing the fact that character and truth are as important in a musical as in a straight play.

Brad Oscar, a brilliantly talented actor and one of the Fellows, said the experience reminded him that "we're all in this together" as actors -- a notion that he felt makes it easier to face the "constant uncertainty" of the business of show. As someone who has faced and dealt with that uncertainty for my entire life, I could identify with that completely.

Having a few years on the Fellows I was working with I tried to impart some of my "experience, strength, and hope" on them. But really, though one "Master Teacher" and ten "Fellows" was the framework, the week was really just a collaboration between twelve artists (which must include the brilliance and expertise of Musical Director Rob Fisher). At the end of the week we put on a show that opened with (appropriately enough) "A Weekend in the Country" (Sondheim) and closed with "Make Our Garden Grow" (Bernstein). Putting on a sold-out show for 300 locals in a matter of days was grueling, but the most fun for me was to watch the Fellows ultimately have the audience eating out of their hands.

I must mention one other very special guest. My long-haired Chihuahua, Miguelito, who, even though he doesn't sing or dance (don't tell him, he doesn't know), totally charmed everyone and came to be known as the First Dog of Ten Chimneys and has an open invitation to return. I hope he lets me tag along.


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