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Master Class

“If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches and poor man’s cottages prince’s palaces.”  Portia – Merchant of Venice

I didn’t have my 16-bar audition piece or my monologue ready to go or I would have done more than observe, but when I heard about this opportunity through Chicago Cabaret Professionas, I felt that I really had to attend.  I’m glad to report on a very productive and motivating educational experience I enjoyed on Saturday July 11, 2012 when I audited a master class featuring Sam Samuelson’s perceptive and spot-on audition coaching.  The event was facilitated by music director/accompanist Mark Burnell and hosted by “Your True Voice” voice teacher Randy Buescher and Kidz Kabaret in Naperville, IL.

The first third of the three hour master class featured performances by Mr. Buescher’s students which he curated, followed by an hour and three-quarters of some of the best audition coaching critiques I have ever encountered by Mr. Samuelson of Stewart Casting.  The class concluded with a short question and answer exchange with everyone pitching in.

Mr. Samuelson was introduced as “one of the good guys” and one of the top musical theatre agents in the business.  His sensitive, incite-full comments and interactions with a variety of talented performers with a wide range of experience (from beginners to pros and all stages between) convinced me just how good he is and why he is so well regarded.

He consistently encouraged the performers to “get out of their own way.” Whether the performance might be obscured by self-indulgence, obtrusive technique or working too hard to be loved, his primary message was that an agent wants to see the “real you” shining through an audition.  He warned against artists who seem to be “high maintenance,” which I took to mean, too encumbered by personal issues.  He emphasized that the performer who is well prepared, has the material which will allow their unique personality to shine, and who has fun and seems to be “cool” to be with, will have the best chances of booking a job.

It’s a common-place bit of trade wisdom that agents are really all pulling for you as a performer.  After all they are looking for the solution to the immediate casting challenge at hand and they want clients that succeed so that their bread will be buttered.  But in this master-class I witnessed not just an agent who was willing to give guidance out of self- interest, but someone who seemed to have a sincere goal of improving working conditions and the art-form.  I wouldn’t want to miss the next opportunity to participate.  Kudos to all involved.

Daniel Timothy Johnson is a retired speech teacher who has coached auditions and verse performance.  He has bi-coastal experience performing in theater and film and is new to the Chicago market where he is an enthusiastic associate member of CCP.

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