May 18, 2007
Photo courtesy / Jennifer Lefsyk
Open Jar a hit with students
BY JOHN QIAO
NEWS Jeff Whiting, a former Broad- way performer, told a story to start out the Open Jar Work- shop.
He explained that a scientific experiment was once held using fleas and a jar. The fleas were simply put into the jar and the lid closed. At first the fleas tried their hardest to jump out but bumped their heads on the jar every time and quickly learned their lesson. After two days the fleas learned to jump only at a certain height so they would not hit their heads. When the lid was finally taken off, the fleas continued to only jump at the certain height and eventually died because of their inability to jump out. The lid has been screwed on your whole lives and tonight it’s being unscrewed -
it’s up to you whether to jump out or not.
Open Jar Productions is a fairly new program that visits various theater sites and high schools to give young actors and actresses who are interested in Broadway performance a taste of what it takes to make it in the business. On Tuesday, May 8, Open Jar productions made a visit to Niskayuna High School to give its thespians a once-in- a-lifetime opportunity to learn various aspects of the Broadway performing business. The work- shop was directed by Whiting ,who had a role in the Broadway musical “Hairspray.”
After school on May 8, the at- tendees gathered in the audi- torium and mingled, excitedly preparing and stretching, ea- gerly waiting for the workshop
Photo courtesy / Jennifer Lefsyk OPEN JAR: Students who participated in last Thursday’s workshop danced, acted, and learned under the instruction of professional performers from Open Jar.
nizer of the Open Jar Workshop in Niskayuna said, “I decided to do this because I knew the kids would learn a lot from the work- shop and hopefully use what they learned to continue in later Niskayuna performances and later in life as well.”
Once everyone was prepared and ready, the three profession- al performers from Open Jar stepped out of shadows and the practice was under way. The first exercise to loosen up the nervous thespians was a recita- tion of names, which was sup- posed to reflect the personalities of the actors. “It’s best to be as honest as possible in projecting your current mood through the recitation of the names,” said Desmond, one of Open Jar’s leaders. Gestures and motions were welcomed as well. “Be loose and comfortable with each other when performing these exercises so as to get a sense of who you are, so don’t be afraid to do anything embarrassing, because what happens in Open Jar stays in Open Jar.”
After the recitations, actors and actresses were paired up with a partner to perform many acting exercises ranging from begging and pleading to happiness and joy and finally a little romance. “Many people often mistake act- ing as good lying, but it’s best described as truthful emotion in an imaginary situation,” com- mented Whiting. Following the acting session was interpretive dance. Though some individu- als were clearly more experi- enced than others at this, every- one seemed to have a great time and put out a lot of effort. The interpretations of the dances ranged from spies and cowboys
to fish and poodles. According to the dance instructor, the best way to be convincing in interpre- tive dance is to use every part of the body and to be comfortable with the surroundings. More im- portantly, however, all perform- ers must work together in creat- ing a work.
The next part of the work- shop was preparing for an audition. “In auditions, it’s best to be confident, easy-going, and collected,” said Whiting. “With- out these aspects your chances at making it into the cast of a Broadway show will be great- ly diminished.” Students who practiced auditioning included juniors Jacob Finkle, Megan Fer- relli, Eliza Kalm and sophomore Stephen Smith, all of whom re- ceived advice and criticism, “It’s best to put yourself in the point of view of the character singing the song. This way your perfor- mance will seem more honest and better put together.”
Finally, the last portion of the program was comprised of learn- ing the dance steps to “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from the hit Broad- way show “Hairspray”. “I had a lot of fun with the workshop and it was a really great experience,” exclaimed senior Jennifer Lef- syk, “I really like how we all took risks and I never would have thought we’d be able to learn and accomplish so much in six hours.” Everyone had a lot of fun and the night was a big success. The goal of the program was to inspire young performers and to give them a taste of what it takes to be on Broadway; many of the future performers left the audito- rium long after the house lights were dimmed and the curtains were pulled shut.