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Broadway star Jessica Vosk gives Auburn students a musical theatre masterclass


A partnership between the Auburn University Department of Theatre and Dance and the Jay and Susie Gogue Performing Arts Center brought celebrated singer and actress Jessica Vosk to the Plains in September for an unforgettable opportunity for Auburn students.

Vosk’s voice and talent have received critical acclaim in theaters and on concert stages across the country. Her Broadway credits include “Fiddler on the Roof,” “The Bridges of Madison County” and “Wicked,” in which she starred for two years as Elphaba. Before performing a concert at the Gogue Performing Arts Center, or GPAC, she met with theatre students in the College of Liberal Arts to share her expertise.

Vosk said taking what she’s learned from her time on the national stage to a room of students who will one day apply it to their performance careers is an honor.

“Knowing that you’re ushering new talent into a space is special, and it’s a great honor because I love it so much,” Vosk said. “Students are so willing, open and honest. They’ll tell you how they’re feeling and what connects with them—that’s a gift. The older we get, the more we don’t want to talk about those things, and it’s just a reminder to constantly stay open.”

Auburn musical theatre students enjoyed both group and one-on-one instruction from Vosk. Several students performed songs and received live feedback on ways to improve their delivery.

Vosk stressed the importance of connecting with the music, even beyond the context of the musical.

“I learned a lot more about connection with the pieces that you’re working on,” said musical theatre junior Sydney Pereira. “A big lightbulb moment for me was really putting myself and my personal experiences into the work that we were doing.”

Vosk also provided technical training. To Jordinia Denson, who performed “Diva’s Lament” from “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” Vosk advised exploring the stage and playing up the emotions of the song.

Not only was the workshop helpful, Denson said, but it was fun.

“Jessica gave some very, very helpful tools that I can take with me from here on out,” she said. “I am really appreciative of her help and really enjoyed the process.”

During solo performances, the rest of the theatre and dance students watched and learned from Vosk’s instruction. The class shared stories, feelings and music while performing together in GPAC’s Woltosz Theatre.

“The most exciting part was watching everyone perform,” said Ella Taylor, a sophomore double majoring in musical theatre and English literature. “Getting to hear feedback on the piece that I did, and then watching how everyone took the feedback they were given, I got to fully experience it and hear everyone else’s thoughts and experiences, too.”

Beyond performance exercises, Vosk shared her experience from the real world of musical theatre. Vosk told students of theatre’s various opportunities and encouraged them to take things like rejection in stride.

“I learned that I don’t have to put as much pressure on myself,” said musical theatre senior Nisi Collins. “Learning that there’s more opportunity than I think there is, and being confident in myself, will get me to where I want to be.”

After the masterclass, Vosk said the students were “absolutely wonderful.” She said they fully embraced the opportunity to learn and possessed a bravery characteristic of performers.

“There’s this superpower we have as performers in getting up and doing something like that,” Vosk said. “It’s not a normal, everyday thing that people understand how to do. These students, whether they were auditing or on stage singing, all had something to say and something to bring to the table from their lives. They all really stepped up and gave it their best, and they’re all just so talented. It was awesome.”

The workshop was the latest collaboration between GPAC and the Auburn University Department of Theatre and Dance. Department Chair Chase Bringardner said every student, faculty and staff member in the College of Liberal Arts benefits from the partnership.

“The collaborative efforts of the Department of Theatre and Dance and the Gogue Performing Arts Center work to create a vibrant creative arts community for our campus and region,” Bringardner said. “The work within our classrooms and on and behind our stages in the Telfair Peet extends to the Marentes stage at the Gogue Center and beyond, providing students with high-impact practices and experiences that transform the possibilities of their educational journeys.”

Earlier this year, the department and GPAC partnered for a performance of “Into the Woods,” which allowed students to perform the play in GPAC’s state-of-the-art facilities.

Christina Ganus, campus and community programs manager for GPAC, said masterclasses and artist talks are other ways the performing arts center drives creative expression on Auburn’s campus by bringing people together and offering educational arts opportunities.

“The relationship between GPAC and the Department of Theatre and Dance is strong and collaborative,” Ganus said. “Both entities seek to sustain the academic and artistic vitality of the performing arts at Auburn University and wish to provide a learning environment that educates, nurtures student creativity and celebrates individuality and diversity.”

For more information on the Department of Theatre and Dance, visit here. For more information about the Gogue Performing Arts Center, visit here.

Tags: Theatre and Dance

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