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Let Me ‘Edu-tain’ You

Edutain [ed-yoo-teyn] verb to educate and entertain simultaneously

How does teaching your art inform your performance? I asked five theater professionals and here’s what they say…

Forrest McClendon, The Scottsboro Boys

When I got cast in The Scottsboro Boys I remember a fellow performer said, “You’re gonna have to give up that teaching sh@% now!” I looked at him with equal parts incredulity and intrigue. “Why?” I asked. I’m still waiting for an answer. I’ve always done both. They feed each other, especially at this point in my career. I do a lot of international master classes and that largely means opening a script I happen to be working on along with my journal. It’s an opportunity for me to talk about living as an artist. In 2017, I performed in a new play directed by Taye Diggs in NYC and then commuted to the O’Neill in Connecticut to lead a workshop for writers, actors, and directors. I’m a storyteller, and making new work and training future theater-makers informs one another. I feel at home where there is a university and an Equity theater. For me, the O’Neill is Hogwarts.

Lauryn Ciardullo, Aladdin

I teach by using the experience I’ve had performing in shows but more importantly taking bits and pieces from my amazing teachers. I like to give constructive criticism by using myself as an example and sharing habits I had trouble breaking as a singer/dancer. For a singer who needs help with a vowel, I’ll start by saying “this is an exaggeration of what you’re doing” and then I will demonstrate. “Try to tweak it ever so slightly and do it this way instead.” We’re always learning no matter what age or how much experience we have. I think of myself as a fellow performer to my students. I hope to guide them as the eyes and ears of someone who may be auditioning them.

Samantha Joy Pearlman, Chasing Rainbows

I’m sure you’ve heard “Those who can’t do, teach.” I knew from a young age that could not be farther from the truth. My first voice teacher, the late great Victoria Mallory, was a working actress, teacher, mother, and beautiful spirit. She modeled what a great coach looked like for aspiring performers. Currently I’m a working actor/musician/director, in addition to a private voice teacher and acting coach. Working professionally in the entertainment business is integral to my teaching work and vice versa. I can more effectively help my clients walk into auditions or rehearsal rooms as I am there, too. I train my clients not only to master their instrument, but also to better navigate the professional landscape for the NYC theater scene. Coaching singers and actors is a deeply creative process, as well as a daily practice of empathy, listening, and collaboration. It helps keep my vocal and acting chops open and active as I dialogue with students. Teaching and performing are about curiosity and learning – I can’t imagine having one career without the other.

Natalie Weiss, Breaking Down The Riffs

I love to multitask and have 80 things going on. My hustler mindset is on 24/7 and I find it hard to take vacations. My friend is getting married in Utah? Great! How can I turn this into a business opportunity. When I first graduated, I said yes to everything, and though it’s hard for me to say “no,” I’ve learned there’s also power in it. I want to give my fellow artists 100% of me, and in order to do that, I strive to find a balance between work and play for vocal, mental, and physical health. I often suffer from imposter syndrome since I don’t have a vocal pedagogy degree and I find myself making it up as I go. But it is those major breakthrough moments with a student that reaffirms I’m right where I need to be. Last year, I had 20 of my regular students join me on stage for a number in my solo show at The Green Room 42. My ultimate dream is to own a pop music school and for the first time, I saw it come to fruition. To combine performance and education for a sold-out crowd was definitely a life highlight and something I hope to achieve again and again.

Michael McElroy, Broadway Inspirational Voices

As a working actor for almost 30 years, I bring my knowledge and craft into every classroom. As a professor of vocal performance or acting the song, I create my syllabi based on exercises that allow the young actor in training to access and utilize lived experiences, develop their imagination, and build their acting skills. I develop exercises and techniques taken from my own acting work and process. Being a teacher that still performs, I must utilize in practice what I demonstrate to my students in the classroom. By teaching and remaining active in the field I continue to evolve as an actor and my students are able to see me utilizing skills that I want to instill in each of them. Those skills are an entryway into the work but also, in a more holistic way, help each student to recognize the ways in which they must approach their craft.

Written by Mara Jill Herman

Mara Jill Herman is an actor, educator, writer, and producer based in Astoria. Her developmental highlights include The Band’s Visit (Playwrights Horizons) and Sam’s Room (Theatre Barn’s Impact Award). As a soloist, she has appeared at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Feinstein's/54 Below, and with the Orchestra Japan in Disney On Classic. Favorite productions include On The Town (Hildy), Rent (Maureen), Guys and Dolls (Adelaide), and Jesus Christ Superstar (North American tour). Mara frequently appears with America's Sweethearts, the all-female vintage trio. She directs/produces concerts at The Green Room 42 including Stronger Than Hate: A Benefit for Tree of Life Synagogue and Changemakers: A Celebration of Women and StateraArts. Select writing credits include coauthor of So You Wanna Be A Superstar? The Ultimate Audition Guide (Running Press Kids) and contributor to Musical Theater Today, Vol. 3 (Yonkers International Press). Mara is a proud alum of the National YoungArts Foundation and Regional Coordinator for StateraArts Mentorship (NYC Chapter). In 2011, she received the Young Alumni Service Award from University of the Arts.

instagram: @marajillherman

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