Like You’ve Never Seen Them Before
After last year’s great success in USF’s Black Box Theatre, “Out of The Box” showcases actors’ musical theatre talent in Theatre 2 Nov. 21 and 22.
TAMPA, Fla. (Nov. 18, 2014) – “A romping good time,” is what happens when USF’s School of Theatre & Dance students discover their musical theatre sides in “Out of the Box” – for two days only, Nov. 21 and 22 at 8 p.m. in Theatre 2.
Georgia Mallory Guy directed "Out of the Box" which includes students from her musical theatre class.
The title references the move following a surprisingly well-attended Musical Theatre Workshop’s scene study performance event at the Black Box Theatre held last year. There’s also the fact that the actors are stepping out of their comfort zones.
For those who have seen many of the actors in other productions, there will be surprises. Guy chose all of the songs – which come from some of the most well-known Broadway musicals – for each and every one of them. So the choices have a very personal quality to them.
Students had to audition for the class which gave Guy, an adjunct faculty member of the School of Theatre & Dance, a head start. “I knew who I was bringing in, and as I started to get to know them I learned what they were capable of and what their ranges were, what they could do well and what would challenge them as well.”
Her husband had to endure having sheet music spread all over their living room and her late nights obsessing over her choices, but it all paid off nicely based on the reactions.
“They were all really open, they embraced what they were given and were all really excited with the pieces they were assigned.”
Guy is interested in seeing how the people who know them react to her choices. "I think their classmates will understand why their songs were chosen for them."
She also aimed to bring variety to the blend of talent and styles in a cabaret format and it all works because the pieces all revolve around “love, loss and stuff,” she explained. Highlights will be two ensemble pieces – one all-male and one all-female.
“It’s really a lot of fun – a good blend of classic musical theatre like ‘West Side Story’ and ‘Guys and Dolls,’ and more modern like ‘Legally Blond’ and ‘The Book of Mormon,’ – a nice blending of genres.”
Preparing Students for the Future
She also wanted to enhance her students’ skills and so chose pieces from well-known productions.
“These are roles they could conceivably do now or within the next 10 years.”
In “Out of the Box,” there are only the songs, none of the dialogue. ASCAP fees would make it too expensive, so instead the students are preparing their own introductions to provide the contexts. Nonetheless, they still have to use their acting skills to sell the songs, which is something Guy knows a lot about.
As someone who majored in straight acting with a vocal minor, throughout her career Guy was getting callbacks for musical roles “because the director took notice of my acting skills.”
“I found myself in musical pieces because they wanted the deeper acting values I had to offer,” said Guy.
She is bringing that experience to her students.
“My class doesn’t teach technique, they have a voice teacher in the music department for that,” she said. “I’m bringing to light how to approach the material as an actor singer – getting at the specific acting viewpoint in the delivery of a song. We’re focused on the acting qualities.”
She is quite satisfied with the results.
“I’m truly impressed with how well they’ve conquered a song and found their niche in some of these songs,” Guys aid. “I love that I was challenging them to be more real and emotionally driven.”
Guy is particularly interested in preparing her students for the realities of the theatre world – both in Florida and around the country.
“There has been a great shift in musical theatre since the early 2000s,” she said noting that there is more realism than in the past. “You went for the mythical qualities and singing. Modern audiences want to find more believable circumstances when they’re viewing musical pieces.”
She added, “What we’re doing here is one of the first steps toward working in musical theatre so they can see the possibility of putting themselves in musical theatre. And these are not just silly songs – we’ve got some meaty stuff in there. You have to be a versatile actor, you have to be flexible. “
The Rewards of Teaching
While Guy, an experienced professional actor, singer and dancer, has been part of such ensembles and assisted in the production of cabarets, and has directed many times over the past ten years, this is her first directing effort in this genre. Teaching, something she has done in a variety of contexts, is something she loves as much as performing.
“When I see what I’ve been trying to get at with a student, when it finally clicks, I’ve shown them what they needed – it’s the most rewarding thing about teaching in general,” she said. “When the class sees in another actress or actor, when they feel as an audience what that actor has been trying to accomplish – it becomes so much clearer. I love that.”
Guy makes it easy for her students even as she treats them as professionals with all the expectations that go with professionalism.
“I work on building camaraderie to make the room a really safe place. It’s ok to fail so they can keep trying until they make the best choice – for them – so they can try something new. This is hard to do in a world where you’re supposed to succeed quickly. They need to be willing to fail to see what happens. I let them know it’s a flexible class – no one is judging anyone. We’re all here to laugh together not at anyone.”
With “Out of the Box, Guy hopes audiences will also learn that “USF is right for prospective students who are looking for a well-rounded theatre program.”
Advance tickets are $12 general admission, $8 students and seniors; day-of-show $15 and $10, respectively. Purchase tickets through the College of the Arts Box Office at 813-974-2323 or online at www.arts.usf.edu.
Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563