By Alyssa Pilecki ’20
On May 6, I got the opportunity to attend a masterclass led by broadway’s Ben Fankhauser. Fankhauser was in the original broadway cast of “Newsies” and on National Tours of “Spring Awakening,” and “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical.” He also has amazing vocal and acting technique that he was able to share with all of the KO students that were able to attend the masterclass.
This is my second time this year experiencing a masterclass from a seasoned Broadway professional, and this is all thanks to Theatre Director Kyle Reynolds.
I believe Mr. Reynolds keeps one-upping himself with the masterclasses he is able to provide for the theatre department here at KO which is contributing to everyone becoming better dancers, actors, and singers.
The masterclass was constructed in a way for students to get an opportunity to sing for Fankhauser and then receive critiques about ways the performance could be made better.
We all sat on the stage in a semi circle to leave room for the person who was going to perform. Each student was called one by one to perform their song and then get ready to receive some feedback on their performance.
Fankhauser focused on each performance in respects to making stronger acting choices. After the initial performance, he would ask the student what their song was about. Then he would ask for the context of the song in relation to the musical it was from as a whole.
From what I know about musical theatre performance, this question should almost always be the first thing an actor looks at before developing what emotions and acting choices they want to make while performing.
He would talk about the emotions he saw portrayed in the performance and how the student could make the performance even stronger. To get these emotions to come out during the performance, he used a lot of techniques that I found very interesting and extremely helpful.
He used a lot of activities for each person to try, such as whispering the entire song into someone’s ear. At first this might seem a little strange, to be whispering an entire song into someone’s ear, but his logic was spot on.
From doing this activity people were able to find new elements to incorporate into their performance. After each exercise there was a noticeable difference in all of the students’ overall performances.
Not only did Fankhauser use exercises to find new ways students could enhance their performances but he also gave some great advice.
He explained that not every performance needs to be extremely over the top because some of the best emotions come from an actor simply standing on a stage and singing. For a lot of students, he had them simply sit in a chair and sing their song in order to find these emotions he described.
In order for me to review this masterclass I need to compare it to other masterclasses I have taken in the past. From my experience in a voice masterclass the actor/actress can take many different approaches to how they will teach each student. I have been to a voice masterclass were the person used generic critiques for each student that essentially made no change to their overall performance. But Fankhauser took new approaches to teaching that I have never seen any masterclass actor take which showed instant improvements in every student’s performance.
His ability to bring each performer out of their comfort zone in order to discover new elements to add to their performance was truly astonishing to watch. Just by watching and listening to Fankhauser give feedback, I learned new ways to approach a performance.
I think that Fankhauser was an amazing teacher, and I witnessed many new teaching styles of finding your character through the work he did with some students. This was for sure one of the most beneficial masterclasses I have attended, and it without a doubt will benefit me in the future.