The Broadway director of Newsies, Jeff Calhoun, is set to come to Jesuit during the week of February 12 to watch the Jesuit cast of Newsies rehearse and offer advice for the cast before the show opens to the public.
Jeff Hall, co-director of Jesuit’s drama program, is responsible for communicating with Calhoun and planning his visit to the school.
“We got connected with [Calhoun] because we’re a pilot production,” Hall said. “He heard about our show, and through the people at Disney and Music Theater International, we’ve been able to talk with him and other people who were involved in the [Broadway] show.”
The drama program has the ability to invite high profile guest like Calhoun to the school thanks to a special fund set up in honor of a Jesuit alum.
“What’s great is we have the Sam Wasson Memorial Guest Artists Series,” Hall said. “Sam was a student who passed away during college and was really heavily involved in the [Jesuit drama] program. His parents set up a fund so we could invite guest artists to come and we’ve been able to have some awesome guest artists in the last seven or eight years because of that. Even when we don’t use that fund, knowing we have that fund allows us to ask guest artists to come because we can fly them in or pay them if they need to be payed. So we asked [Calhoun] and he said, ‘yeah, let’s do it.’”
The cast of Newsies is anxiously awaiting Calhoun’s arrival and looking forward to the guidance he will bring during his visit.
“It’s such a cool opportunity to be able to interact with him and get some insight on the show,” senior Paul Danowski said. “The fact that we get to work with someone so professional and so educated in his craft is really very humbling opportunity. I really hope we take advantage of it and get Newsies as good as we can with his much appreciated influence.”
Calhoun will bring some fresh perspective to the show, as he has his own unique directing style which will be different from anything Hall or co-director Elaine Kloser are able to offer.
“We’re going to be in our second to last week of rehearsal when he’s here, so it’s not really time to totally rework anything, but he obviously is going to have a lot of insight,” Hall said. “I think at that point in our rehearsal process what we want to be focusing on is the story and he knows the story really well. I’m a fan of his, and one of the things I like about his direction and the way he directs is he speaks the same language that Elaine and I speak here in terms of everything being all about the story. The feedback we’re going to want is, is the story coming through? We’ve got so many people up on stage, but is everybody focused on telling that story to the audience?”
Cast members hope that Calhoun’s wisdom will not only help the show improve, but will contribute to their personal growth as actors.
“Whenever you work with a different director it helps you to look at different scenes in different ways and expand your character to make them more dimensional,” senior Lauren Burton said. “Working with Jeff Calhoun will take his experience from being a Broadway director and choreographer to this show and then we’ll be able to apply what he teaches us not only into Newsies but into whatever show we do next.”
The opportunity to work with a professional from Broadway will be a priceless experience for the cast members who are considering a career in theater.
“What I like about [Calhoun’s visit] is that the people who are involved in the program can understand that this is somebody’s job,” Hall said. “What Jeff Calhoun does is he flies around the country and he directs shows. And I love the fact that he’s really interested in making sure that students understand that. That’s one of the reasons he’s coming, is to give his perspective not just on the show but on the field and the business of doing theater.”
Several cast members have considered going into Broadway as a potential career, making Calhoun’s visit especially significant for them.
“Broadway is definitely the dream,” Burton said. “It’s an experience all its own and it would be awesome to have that as a career. You would have to book show after show after show for it to become a stable career, which is really difficult, but it can happen. I do want to go into theater for college and I think acting could take me so many places.”
Even those not planning on continuing with acting after high school will be able to benefit greatly from working with Calhoun.
“Through theater, there are so many life lessons you learn such as confidence and public speaking skills,” Burton said. “There are so many ways you can take acting and put it into your life, whether or not you end up pursuing it as a career.”