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Broadway pros help Nature Coast High drama students pursue acting dreams

BROOKSVILLE

For the 20 student actors, it was a lot to absorb in a short amount of time.

First, there was a song to learn — the chorus number Do You Hear the People Sing? from Les Miserables. Then the choreography, followed by suggestions on proper body movement, diction and other dynamics needed to properly present a polished performance.

In a normal musical production, those elements may take days to come together. But guest drama instructors Alexander Gemigna and his wife, Erin Ortman, didn't have such luxury. They had just 3 1/2 hours Thursday in which to impart their extensive stage knowledge to the students.

Nature Coast Technical High School senior Kara George didn't mind the boot camp-like pace.

"That's why we signed up for it," she said. "You don't get many opportunities to be part of something like this. It's intense, but that's how you learn."

Ortman, who teaches vocal performance, music scene study, acting and improvisation at New York University, said the goal of the two-day workshop was to give drama students a glimpse into the world of the professional stage.

"It's not about basics — they already know that," Ortman said. "Our hope was to be able to show them what professional stage directors would expect from them as actors."

Gemigna, an actor noted for his recent roles in the Broadway revivals of Sweeney Todd and Les Miserables, said he wanted the students to understand that acting involves more than just memorizing and reciting lines.

"When you are on stage your entire body is involved in the character you portray," Gemigna told the students. "Even if you're sitting down you should be thinking of how your character might be doing that."

Nature Coast drama department director Lori Erickson said she invited Gemigna and Ortman to conduct the workshops in an effort to give her students a better understanding of the world of professional theater.

Erickson, who had met Gemigna and Ortman previously, received a grant from Target department stores to cover the actors' expenses.

"Acting is a very demanding profession," she said. "The challenge comes in knowing what the people hiring you are expecting of you. I wanted my students to see that perspective of it."

Ortman challenged the students to focus on the "bigger picture" of their performance.

"This is a craft that involves making the audience feel what you feel," Ortman said. "Remember, you're telling a story. You are what brings it to life."

Colton Lawver, president of the school's Thespian Honor Society, said the workshop brought him greater understanding of his responsibility to his acting craft.

"I've learned a lot," he said. "Sometimes when you're on stage you let little things slip by that you don't think will be noticed. From now on, I'll be thinking about those things."

Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or lneill@sptimes.com.

Broadway pros help Nature Coast High drama students pursue acting dreams 09/16/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 16, 2010 8:03pm]
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