Tuesday Jun 14th, 2016
Jay Scheib, world-renowned opera director, mentioned that while in high school he was mostly focused on track and sports like high jumping. After deciding that the possibility of becoming a P.E. teacher wasn’t an option, he somehow wandered into a BFA audition and received a full acting scholarship to the University of Minnesota. Scheib’s early practice in athleticism may have been where his admiration for physical theatre stemmed from. YoungArts alumnus Aaron Casey, who played Don Jose in the recent Carmen production on the YoungArts campus, loved the physicality required in Jay’s Scheib’s direction. Oh, and that cameras were constantly following him (like the super star he is)!
This is just some of the insight shared at this past Sunday’s YoungArts Salon, sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, where the cast of Carmen shared laughs and stories about their process and collaboration. Their love of opera and its hyper expression of emotion and tragedy was a common thread throughout the discussion. YoungArts alumna Asia Stewart, a calm beauty, reminded me of a golden-age movie star. Her dramatic gestures flowed seamlessly between the stage and camera. Not surprisingly, she is currently studying at Harvard while performing in her spare time.
Scheib’s contemporary twist on the classic tale transported the viewer through time and space. The decorating of the plot with visual innovations and scenic technologies gave the viewers the opportunity to follow multiple characters and scenes simultaneously. By moving the setting from Seville, Spain to Miami, Scheib brought the story even closer to the modern and diverse audience. The production only had nine days on site before the premiere, but this accelerated, creative endeavor is nothing new for YoungArts alumni. During the 2015 YoungArts New York regional program, I participated as a resident advisor and watched YoungArts alumnus Wes Goodrich work with Scheib on a four-day development of Peter Pan. The enthusiasm and creativity these artists bring to the work is transcendent.
These connections, these meant-to-be moments, are what keep me so involved with the organization. YoungArts consistently attracts eloquent, sassy, evolved performers—performers that are completely unaffected by their own greatness and carry themselves with humility. Did you know India Carney was a top contestant on The Voice? Or that Llewellyn Sanchez-Werner has played for the President? Some of us in the room might have actually suggested Llewellyn run for president. The mood of the Salon was vibrant and fun, but my time with these superstars was rapidly winding down. Scheib and his cast shared some of their upcoming travels and works in progress, and the last Salon of the season came to a close.
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