Ever wanted to learn how to be a Broadway performer? What it is like to work with professional talent of the Great White Way? Or what it takes to put on a group performance of a musical? Well, now is your chance to find out. Jeanna De Waal (Kinky Boots, Wicked, Carrie) can help with making your dream a reality. Adult Theater Camp is coming to Seattle. Not only will you get to work with people whose names are recognized from the stage, but also a ticket to the 5th Avenue Theatre’s production of the highly-acclaimed musical, Come From Away is included in the price.
Eric Andrews-Katz: Who were your earliest influences in becoming a performer?
Jeanna De Waal: I would say my teachers. I definitely got into the performing arts because of the classes and teachers I had. I enjoyed being in the rehearsal room. It grew from that. I went to a performing arts high school. Then I started buying cast album CD’s. Actually seeing a Broadway show came later, but by that time the passion was already there.
Andrews-Katz: CATS was the first show you saw. What was it about that show that gave you the ‘theatre bug’?
De Waal: I think I remember being terrified. We were so close to the front of the stage, on the section that moves, and the cats were coming right at us. I loved being effected so greatly by the experience. I got quickly addicted to the feeling that anything can happen in the theatre.
Andrews-Katz: You took over the role of Lauren in Kinky Boots. What was your audition like for that show?
De Waal: I believe I had three rounds of auditions. THe first was a sort of review of the material, to see if I could handle the material. When you go into a show as a replacement, you want to bring something of your own to the role. So I presented my take to the Associate Musical Director and it went well. The second take is where the material is reworked, with my interpretation of the role. In the final round I performed for the big wigs; Jerry Mitchel and Cyndi Lauper. They liked my work.
Andrews-Katz: You played the title role in the cult-classic musical, Carrie. How did a show like that go from being the Worst Flop in Broadway History to becoming a Cult Classic?
De Waal: Actually, I didn’t play the title role. I played Chris Hargensen [Carrie’s main tormentor]. I think the show was a cult classic before we did the Off-Broadway revival (with Molly Ranson in the title role, and the late Marin Mazzie as Margaret White). There was a huge fan following and i think that has a lot to do with the nature of the material – which is about people singing about getting their periods. That’s really fascinatingly wonderful if you think about it. I didn’t have much to do with the development, but I’m glad I was a part of the show.
Andrews-Katz: When did you first come up with the idea of Broadway Weekend Theater Camp?
De Waal: I came up with the idea about two years ago, Thanksgiving. I was on vacation with a friend of mine that runs yoga retreats all around the world. She explained what she was getting out of it. I felt the same way about being in the rehearsal room, and about the [theatre] community, and overcoming your own challenges. I think there’s a world for a Theatre Camp retreat. It’s not for getting an agent, or for getting a job, but something for the pure pleasure of being in rehearsal. A lot of people don’t have the time commitment to join a community theatre, and this gives them an opportunity. We did the first camp as an experiment. We posted it on our own social media pages, and have now done eight camps in New York. The first summer camp was completely sold out with a waiting list of 15 people. The most interesting thing was that there were only two people from New York, everyone else flew in from around the country, specifically to do this camp. We decided to find a way to do it regionally. We are currently teaming up with Jane Bunting (the dance captain), Becky Gulsvig (Captain Beverly), and the associate music director from the 5th Avenue Theatre’s production of Come From Away. They will lead the workshop for the weekend. The price of Theatre Camp includes a ticket to the Saturday matinee production at the 5th Avenue, so after working with them during the camp, you can see them perform on stage. Each camp is a little different in that I collaborate with teachers from all different shows around the country.
Andrews-Katz: Do you ever get intimidated by some of the people you work with?
De Waal: ‘Intimidate’ is a strange word. I definitely admire and respect the people I work with, but my experience is that people are willing to form a very friendly dynamic among the group. I never see other cast members give off the feeling of intimidation. Community is a part of theatre, anyone being to class recognizes the community as being part of it.
Andrews-Katz: What can people expect from Broadway Weekend Theater Camp?
De Waal: In our Seattle camp, the main feature is learning a group ensemble number. It involves learning the music and staging, learning the choreography, and then cleaning it up to run smoothly. We will talk about creating characters and how to flesh them out on stage. We will show the final piece to family and friends on Sunday morning.
Andrews-Katz: What will the number be?
De Waal: (In an impish voice) I’d rather not say. I like it to be a surprise. Even in the New York camps, the main feature is the group ensemble number because I think that [working together in a group] is when you get the spirit of being in rehearsal.
Andrews-Katz: What are the age restrictions (if any apply) of who can attend Theater Camp?
De Waal: It’s for adults. Our camp in New York is 21 and over, but our regional camp is for 18 +. There will be no alcohol at this theatre camp, so any adult 18 or older, are welcome to attend.
Andrews-Katz: You are going to be appearing in the upcoming musical Diana, based on the life of late Princess Diana. Why do you think the world was so captivated by this lady?
De Waal: Because she made everyone around her feel special. She was a source of love and care, and she proved that by caring for everybody. She made [the average person] feel like they deserved her time and efforts.
Andrews-Katz: If you could play any role –regardless of any limitations – what would it be and why?
De Waal: I would play [the title role] in Funny Girl. It is one of the best written roles. It would be such a huge challenge. In all honesty, I’m excited to play Diana. I know there are other roles but I can’t think of a thing I’d rather be doing than developing this new musical about Princess Diana.
Seattle Theater Camp will take place on October 20 – 21, 2018 at the Century Ballroom (915 E Pike, on Capital Hill). Saturday’s class lasts from 10 AM – 1 PM and includes a ticket to the 2 PM matinee of the 5th Avenue Production of Come From Away. Sunday’s class will resume at 10 AM and last until Noon. A production of the ‘group ensemble’ will follow for friends and family. Get more info here.