Meet your teachers: Part One…

We asked the Summer Conservatory 2013 teachers a few questions so you could get to know them a little better. Here is how some of them answered…

XAVIER AUZA, WE BALLROOM

Where are you from?

I’m from Bolivia, South America

How long have you been involved in theatre?

I started performing professionally in 1993.

What are a couple of highlights of your professional career?

Founding my company, Avant Dance Project, for kids with unlimited talent but limited financial means.

LAURIE BERICH, WP & WE CHOREOGRAPHER

Where are you from?

Danvers, Massachusetts.

How long have you been involved in theatre?

I have been dancing since I was four years old and was in my first musical (The Sound of Music) in the second grade.

What is your dream role?

I would love to play Kate in Kiss Me Kate and I would love to play any part in HAIR.

What is your favorite play or musical?

Ragtime.

Who is your professional idol or role model?

I don’t really have any one role model. I admire people who work hard at what they love to do, whatever that may be!

What are a couple of highlights of your professional career?

This past year I created and taught a theater class for 2 and 3 year olds, my youngest students yet. I was so inspired by their imagination and playfulness and loved teaching them. Another highlight was producing the play PRINCE in 2012. It put all my skills to the test and was one of my most challenging and rewarding experiences yet.

Do you have any secret skills?

I can juggle and recite the alphabet backwards. I’m also a great cook!

JESSICA BASHLINE, WE DIRECTOR CHILDREN OF EDEN

Where are you from?

From New york, specifically Queens and Long Island

How long have you been involved in theatre?

I did my first show when I was in the 3rd grade, I sang a song about a plastic alligator, I still know the words and the dance moves (you can feel free to test me).

What is your dream role?

I have many dream roles- but the one I know I can NEVER play is Effie White- so, I’ll go with that.

What is your favorite play or musical?

My favorite musical changes often, but recently it has been Merrily we Roll Along.

Who is your professional role model or idol?

My professional idol these days is Diane Paulis, I thought Pippin was genius!

What are a couple of highlights of your professional career?

I have spent the last seven years working with the Wingspan Arts Conservatory- and every year has been special and amazing.  This will be my last summer as the head of this program, as I am moving on to pursue some other artistic aspirations.  So I can already say that this summer will be a highlight in this incredible career I have had here.

Do you have any secret skills?

Well they wouldn’t be secret if I told– BUT i can recite the entire first verse of “Modern Major General” on one breath..

ELLEN BROWN, WP MUSICAL DIRECTOR, WP SINGING CLASSES

Where are you from?

I’m originally from Greensboro, NC, but I now happily reside in the diverse community of Astoria, NY.

How long have you been involved in theatre? 

I’ve had a passion for theatre for what feels like all of my life, but my first experience was in 2nd grade when we performed classroom skits.  I was a mosquito.  Needless to say, I have been hooked ever since!

What is your dream role? 

I have a dream of one day playing Margaret Johnson in “The Light in the Piazza.”  I’m aware that I’ll need to be about 15 years older, but I am willing to wait.

What is your favorite play or musical?

I have to say that “Les Miserables” is my favorite musical, because it was the first full-scale musical theatre production that I ever saw.  I listened to the soundtrack so many times that I memorized the entire show and often sang it to my favorite stuffed animals.

Who is your professional idol or role model? 

My incredible mother will forever be my role model for her kindness and strength.

What are a couple of highlights of your professional career? 

After working professionally as an actor in new york productions and in national tours, my interest shifted to doing theatre with young people.  I’ve had a very exciting couple of years working with private, public, and charter schools as well as community centers in NY and NJ to provide theatre-based instruction.  I couldn’t be happier with my career and am excited to see what happens in the future!

Do you have any secret skills? 

I can do a very strong monkey imitation.

MICHAEL KIRK LANE, WE DIALECTS

Where are you from? 

Fenton, Michigan

How long have you been involved in theatre?

My first role was as the ringmaster in the kindergarten circus. I proudly shouted “ladies and zentlemen, pwesenting the circus”

What is your dream role?

The Baker in Into the Woods, Seymour in Little Shop

What is your favorite play or musical?

Depends on the day and mood I’m in.

Who is your professional idol or role model?

One of my mentors, William P. Ward, who spent his career creating in Flint, Michigan. The town may have been depressed, but his art and dedication to his students lit up the cultural center for over 30 years.

What are a couple of highlights of your professional career?

My Manhattan Association of Cabaret Award nominations.

Returning to Flint for William P. Ward’s last show before retirement last year

Working with No Strings USA to create educational and peace building films for children in the developing world.

Do you have any secret skills?

Not really

MARISSA PORTO, WP DIRECTOR

Where are you from?

Demarest, New Jersey

How long have you been involved in theatre?

Well, one could argue that I got bitten by the bug the day I stole a solo in my preschool graduation. Not really STOLE, but rightfully took back what was mine… I had a solo and some other girl decided she wanted one too, so the teacher turned it into a duet. During the performance I just stood directly in front of her and sang my heart out…my parents were really embarrassed.

What is your dream role?

Little Red in Into the Woods, Audrey in Little Shop, Olive or SchwartzandGrubenierre in Spelling Bee, Cathy in Last Five Years, this could go on for hours…

What is your favorite play or musical?

Our Town always gets me. Every time I start thinking I don’t like it as much, I read it again and remember how great it is. My favorite musical changes a lot depending on where I am in my life, but old standbys that I will always listen to are: Into the WoodsRENT, Les Mis, Ragtime, The Last Five Years.

Who is your professional idol or role model?

I have so many, but here are a few…Cate Blanchett, Katie Finneran, Sutton Foster, Amy Morton, Ann Bogart, and my amazing professor and mentor from college, Alma.

What are a couple of highlights of your professional career?

I actually had a really amazing year professionally, so I can say that 2013 was a highlight! I recently graduated from grad school and was certified to teach theater. That took me a few years so I am really proud and excited that I finished. I also was in a show called The Drowning Girls that Bashline directed at The Walker Space. It was my return to the stage after a few year hiatus and it was so incredibly rewarding and reminded me how much I love it. It was also really cool to see my name and good reviews in some big NY papers!!

Do you have any secret skills?

I am really good at doing impressions of people. Maybe that’s not so secret since I do them a lot…

ELISE REYNARD, WP DANCE CLASSES

Where are you from?

I was born in Windsor, England and grew up in Boston, MA. GO SOX!!

How long have you been involved in theatre?

From the age of three, I put on shows in my parents basement.  Some of my best work, really.

What is your dream role?

I have so many!

To name a few: Cate in Blasted, Baker’s Wife in In to the Woods, Dr. Frankenfurter in Rocky Horror Picture Show, Lady Anne in Richard III, Lucille Bluth in Arrested Development

What is your favorite play or musical?

I don’t have a favorite!! (like a child…) Okay, excluding Shakespeare: Mary Stuart, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Marisol, Metamorphoses

Who is your professional idol or role model?

Patrick Stewart, Sarah Silverman, Henry Rollins

What are a couple of highlights of your professional career?

Working with John Barton (the founding artistic director of the RSC) on sonnets in Oxford.  WOW!!!  He was amazing.  Like if Yoda were a Shakespearean genius!

Playing Puck in Midsummer Night’s Dream with New York City as the backdrop!

Playing Beatrice, Adriana, Aemilia, Juliet, and so many other wonderful characters from my favorite (Shakespeare) plays!

Dancing at Radio City!

Do you have any secret skills?

I can walk solely on my big toe!

HADLEY SMITH, WE YOGA

Where are you from?

Columbus, Indiana.

How long have you been involved in theatre?

I’ve been dancing since I was four years old.

What is your favorite play or musical?

The Method Gun is a performance/play/dance created by the Rude Mechs, a multidisciplinary group out of Austin, TX. It is an awesome example of collaboration across disciplines!

Who is your professional idol or role model?

I don’t have one – I have many! Meredith Monk for her ability to work in many disciplines, Pina Bausch for the safe space she created for her dancers, choreographers and dancers my age who create spaces and shows for new work!

What are a couple of highlights of your professional (or non-professional if you are an intern and haven’t had one of those yet) career?

I was a 2012 RAW Materials Artist at Dance New Amsterdam where I was mentored by Yanira Castro and presented a new work, LadyMargaretRhodaChrystalLaurenGail, as a part of a group show with other RAW Materials Artists. In August I will begin the MFA Dance program at University of Illinois!

Do you have any secret skills?

I consider myself a nail artiste. My friends often ask me for funky manicures with designs inspired by Keith Haring or Piet Mondrian!

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