Posts Tagged ‘NYC


Jordan Russell reporting from NYC

That’s right! Our very own Jordi Russell (Maria in West Side Story and Sarah Brown in Guys and Dolls), a graduate of Matthew Flinders Anglican College, took off  to NYC last week and reports here on her experiences auditioning for four tertiary arts courses.


Each university had specific audition requirements for what I needed to prepare. These were very specific, especially for the classical auditions.
For the first two (Musical Theatre) auditions at AMDA (American Musical and Dramatic Academy) and PACE University I sang cuts from the songs Till There Was You from The Music Man, by Meredith Wilson and I’m Not Afraid of Anything from Songs For a New World by Jason Robert Brown. The monologues I chose for the AMDA audition were Debbie from Love and Money by Dennis Kelly – this monologue was quite full on with a fair bit of swearing and risque content but at the end the panel said they really liked it as it was so contrasting to the songs! They also said, “This is New York – nothing is too risqué!” so that was great!
The monologue I had chosen to do at PACE was Harper from Angels in America by Tony Kushner, but unfortunately due to time restraints, no one was able to perform their monologues. That one is yet to be performed…
My third and fourth auditions were for a Bachelor of Music in Classical Voice. I auditioned at Mannes College – The New School For Music and at the Manhattan School of Music.  For both these auditions I had prepared 4 songs but in the auditions I only performed two of them. The first song was selected by me and for both auditions I chose to sing Mit Einem Gemalten Band by Beethoven. The second song was selected by the audition panel.  One of my repertoire options is written by an American Composer called The Crucifixion and is quite a new piece for me – so I was hoping it wouldn’t be chosen – but of course it was! The song is called The Crucifixion, composed by Samuel Barber. Despite not being overly familiar with the piece, I was quite happy with how it turned out.
There were different time frames around the preparation of each audition piece. I have been singing some of my classical pieces for over a year, others for only a month or two. While this was the case, I definitely felt very prepared going into each audition, having researched the Universities, the courses on offer, the teaching staff, the location, the background information on my music, the composers, the shows the music is from, the plays of the monologues, and the characters I play in the monologues and songs. I used 5 months to prepare for auditions, from the time I started the first application to the end of my final audition so I have had time to do the research! It was really a great relief to have completed all the aspects of my applications to each of the universities. I now have the fun task of waiting around to be told my fate… will I get in?! I should hear back from each of the universities by the first of April.

During this waiting time, I am living in a shared apartment in Brooklyn with some other international students. I am volunteering with
ASTEP (Actors Striving to End Poverty), which is a wonderful organisation connecting performing and visual artists with underserved youth in the U.S. and around the world to awaken their imaginations, foster critical thinking, and help them break the cycle of poverty. I will initially volunteering through the administration side of things, eventually moving into doing more hands on volunteering. The people involved at the New York office are so lovely and I’m really looking forward to working with them!
Newsies. Well, I’m not sure if its coming to Aus, but if it’s not it should be! It is such an incredible show – from the outstanding choreography, to the impressive set, and beautiful storyline. It is such an ensemble show with outstanding leads that don’t steal all the spotlight (a bit like when we did West Side Story at Noosa Arts Theatre; a really strong cast all round). It has moved up my list to being one of my favourite shows. I am already trying to find a day to see it again!
The fashion here is really quite exciting! There are all sorts of things on people here. Yesterday, I saw a lady walking around in 2 degree weather with stockings and THONGS!!! Bit too crazy for me…! There have been old ladies in bright blue fur coats, and other fashionistas covered in labels from head to toe! I saw a guy wearing leopard print tights, fur coat and high heel boots – that was certainly a highlight! Just one day on the town means you can truly see everything that fashion has to offer.
I’m not much of a bagel person… so I personally haven’t found NYC’s best bagel BUT I did find a charming little coffee shop near where I am living in Brooklyn called the Breukelen Coffee House. It has great coffee, and outgoing staff and a real urban feel. Last night I walked past and they were having an open mic night, and they invited me to come along to their Jam Night next week (with my trumpet) so that should be fun!
Yesterday the weather finally started to warm up… from highs of 2 degrees. Yesterday went as high as 13 degrees and I was wearing way too many layers so I could almost say, “Yesterday was uncomfortably HOT!” Ah, such a contradiction to the weather in Aus right now hey?!

No Child…

Brisbane Festival

No Child…

Brisbane Festival and QUT in Association With Theatre Works and Melbourne Festival

Brisbane Powerhouse

26th – 29th September 2012

“There are no subjects that teach a child how to be human.”

Nilaja Sun’s No Child… directed by Hal Brooks, is precisely why we teach. And why we don’t teach. And why so many choose never to start teaching. And why so many choose to finish teaching. No Child… expresses why I started teaching. And why I stopped. It’s why I’m teaching again and why I said at the end of my first day at another new school this year, “OH. MY. GOD. I’m Michelle Pfeiffer and this is Dangerous Minds.” I’m not even in Mt Isa anymore. I’m teaching Performing Arts to a whole new demographic on the Sunshine Coast. The students are in Prep – Year 7. American followers, that’s kindergarten to the seventh grade. That means these kids are between 5 and 12…and they’re going on twenty-seven.

The law that is known as “No Child Left Behind’’ is the primary statute governing the federal government’s role in education.
First passed during the Johnson administration as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, it was rebranded as part of its last major overhaul in 2001, when Democrats joined with President George W. Bush to make its focus the use of standardized test scores in schools, particularly those serving minority students.
While No Child Left Behind has been praised for forcing schools to become more accountable for the education of poor and minority children, it has been derided for what some regard as an obsessive focus on test results, which has led to some notorious cheating scandals. Critics have also faulted the law’s system of rating schools, which they say labeled so many of them low performing that it rendered the judgment meaningless.
The law set the lofty — and controversial — goal of making all students proficient in reading and mathematics by 2014.

Source: The New York Times

During the show, Nilaja Sun steps into the shoes of 16 different characters, each offering their own perspective on the part a new teacher plays in their lives. Appropriately, Nilaja wrote the play like a lesson plan, to tell the story of “teaching artist”, Miss Sun, who takes on a notorious tenth grade class of “academically and emotionally challenged youth” (more commonly known as “delinquents”) once a week for six weeks to put on a play. The play Miss Sun chooses – and berates herself for doing so – is the Australian work by Timberlake Wertenbaker (not to be confused with Justine Timberlake) about British convicts on the First Fleet, Our Country’s Good.

“There is a way to help the growth of a soul of a child.”

No Child Nilaja Sun

Nilaja teaches her class – and us – that seemingly elusive skill, empathy, reminding us that there are kids who feel like prisoners long before they take their seat in a regular classroom each day. Sometimes it’s too easy to forget. She inspires, motivates and helps to free the souls of students who go through 20 – 30 minutes of security checks daily and who expect to go to jail. Or die at the hands of a Bronx gang.

Nilaja’s ability to embody each of the students, their classroom teacher, their principal, the security guard and the school janitor is beyond belief. Through subtle changes of breath, vocal tone and placement, posture, facial expression and gesticulation she is able to convey completely different personalities from one moment to the next. The changes in character are instantaneous and have the opening night audience transfixed. An empty stage, except for some chairs and a broom, and some stark changes in lighting to denote sudden beat changes, take nothing away from the sole performer.

I’ve never heard sustained silence in the Brisbane Powerhouse and I’ve never heard so much spontaneous, delighted laughter either. No Child… is bold and brave and riotous. It’s also terribly sad. The hilarious upbeat moments are delicately juxtaposed against devastating circumstances and the most maddening of outcomes. We feel every high and low with Nilaja. We feel her pain, her determination and we feel her struggling to keep on top of things. It’s so hard sometimes to feel like you’re a step ahead of the students. Sometimes it’s impossible and sometimes it doesn’t even matter. Sometimes all we can hope for is to stay in step with the kids, to slow down and replace expectation with acceptance. Place our faith not in the system, which continues to let us down, but in the students and parents, who are more open to change than they think. Nilaja boldly shows us variations on a theme that demands alternatives within the system.

I feel like giving Nilaja a big hug and telling her, “YOU ARE AN AWESOME TEACHER”. I feel like this is my story and the story of countless teachers – and parents – with whom I’ve worked and commiserated and celebrated the small successes. I feel like there are teachers in this audience. This is an audience who recognises the efforts and emotional struggle of teachers everywhere! And who appreciates the incredible journey that each character experiences, as well as the ambition, artistry and formidable talent of the teaching artist, writer and actor, Nilaja Sun.

“The arts, particularly theatre, teaches the students how to speak, how to communicate, how to empathise…”

Nilaja Sun’s is not just a virtuoso performance; it’s an awe-inspiring life-changing one. No Child… will challenge your view on this country’s education system as well as NYC’s. It will inspire you to consider your own education and perhaps it will even encourage you to rethink whatever pretty package you’ve designed for your children’s education. This show is superbly written, directed and executed and it feels like it’s come as a warning, at a time when we need to remember that once, we were all taught to be critical readers and viewers and thinkers. The themes promise to ring in our ears long after we’ve left the theatre. Now, if only our curriculum writers, policy makers and tired, undervalued teachers could all see this show and be (re)inspired to continue to make the changes we need to ensure no child is left behind.

No Child… goes to Melbourne next. Don’t miss it.