FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CSC’S YOUNG PERFORMERS WORKSHOP MARKS 30 YEARS UNDER THE DIRECTION OF BROADWAY, FILM, AND TV ALUMNUS MICHAEL BLEVINS
PHOTO(S) ATTACHED: Courtesy of Michael Blevins.
CONTACT: Christopher Young or Sydney Fucito (908) 979-0900
HACKETTSTOWN, NJ: Centenary Stage Company’s 2022-2023 season marks the 30th anniversary of the Young Performers Workshop under the direction of Michael Blevins, a Broadway, movie, and television alumnus.
Get to know Michael Blevins. Most widely recognized for his portrayal of Mark in the film adaptation of A Chorus Line, Blevins has an extensive career that has spanned across film, television, and Broadway. Other film roles include a cameo in Zelig and a supporting role in Chaplin starring Robert Downey Jr. Broadway appearances include Bring Back Birdie, Neil Simon’s Little Me, and The Tap Dance Kid in which he created the role of Winslow. Blevins most recently performed with his student Sean Fosse, grandson to Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon, in selections from Bob Fosse’s Dancin’ at City Center.
He has worked and performed with many Tony and Oscar winning artists including Sir Richard Attenborough, Bebe Neuwirth, Chita Rivera, Woody Allen, Vivian Matalon, Bob Fosse, Michael Douglas, Andy Griffith, and Brooke Shields. For the past two years, Michael has served as a Master Teacher in Acting and Tap Dance for the Verdon Fosse Legacy Professional Training Program in New York.
For CSC Blevins has directed and choreographed Menkin’s A Christmas Carol three times, for which he won the 2012 New Jersey Tony Award as Best Director/Choreographer. In addition to this, Blevins has also directed/choreographed CSC’s productions of Peter Pan, Oliver!, Newsies, Nunsense, Wizard of Oz, Little Shop of Horrors, Mary Poppins, Annie, and Beauty and the Beast.
One of Blevins’ previous students, Jake Jackson, shared how participating in the Young Performers Workshop has had a lasting influence.
“I consider Michael Blevins a dear friend. We worked together for three seasons, and his support continues through the years since 2017. He knows his craft, he gives great advice and is a sympathetic ear. I stop by when the opportunity presents itself. He refers to the alumni as YPW royalty! Michael, who danced professionally with the talents of Nicole Fosse, Chita Rivera, Alfonso Ribeiro, wrote my letter of recommendation to the Neighborhood Playhouse.
He is the director and choreographer of the Young Performers Workshop. He gives the students an opportunity to work on several shows at once. Experiences I rely on to this day as theatre takes tremendous stamina. In one show you are a dancer, in another a singer and a dancer, then you are a singer, dancer and an actor. The numerous skills I have picked up from the workshop are very much implicit. You gain the confidence to work with professionals, and to be yourself. Take responsibility, learn from your mistakes and to keep growing. I am thankful to know Michael and to have worked with him.”
Blevins has taken the time to answer some questions about his career, the Young Performers Workshop, and working in the theatre industry.
You’ve worked with multiple influential artists and directors, Sir Richard Attenborough, Woody Allen, and Brooke Shields to name a few. What is the most influential piece of advice that you’ve learned from working with them?
From Richard I would say the notion that art is for everyone and not just the elite. And, if you want to be a strong actor you must whole-heatedly know that you are the perfect actor and only actor walking the planet, to play the role, at that time in that film. And as in life you must think before you speak as it is so with acting. And the notion to act with your eyes not your emotions. The eyes are the windows to the soul and on the big screen your eyes are eight feet wide. Act with your eyes.
Looking back at your extensive career, is there a memory that sticks out from the rest?
Yes, working with Danny Daniels, the Tony winning choreographer of Broadway’s Tap Dance Kid. Danny is a brilliant choreographer who taught me how to teach tap when he hired me to assist him in training young Dule Hill, Jimmy Tate and Savion Glover for their roles in the Tony winning Broadway production of The Tap Dance Kid. Other celebrated Blevins’ students include, Justin Boccitto, Frank Dolche, Ron Moorhouse, composer/lyricist Jason Robert Brown, and Tony-nominee Melissa Errico which gave me the weight to give Sean Fosse, legendary iconic show-biz couple Gwen Verdon’s and Bob Fosse’s grandson, his first tap lessons. Daniels is a genius tap teacher who can teach anyone to be a strong tapper. I’m so glad to be well versed in his technique. He would take the simplest steps and just tweak them in a slightly odd way and come up with something so new and fresh. I will never forget Danny Daniels he left me with many wonderful blessings and many awesome steps to share with the world.
What do you like most about working with the Young Performers Workshop?
I enjoy sharing my passion for theatre, acting, dance and music with young people who have a similar love for those arts and disciplines. It is a joy to see young people realize they are far more capable than they ever thought they could be. It’s fun to see them discover they’ve accomplished something new. Plus, YPW students have an incredible work ethic commitment and discipline because they need to in order to survive the program, especially when in a 15-week session we’re on target to produce two or even three full-scale musical shows. I respect them for that and they know it. They learn the awesome power of their ability to make choices and consequently realize when they take ACTion they can alter the outcome. They know I trust them to master what is necessary and they trust I’ll show them at their best and direct them so they uncover and disclose their best selves on stage. Musical theatre training assists the kids with many diverse and necessary skills to move through life – after all theatre is simply a recreation or representation of life. Musical theatre students master quick thinking skills. I love it that the students discover and develop new emotions they would hardly express in their normal lives but with the opportunity to play a role and be someone else the new feelings and emotions flow freely. Likewise, self esteem is easily elevated when they hear the appreciative applause at the end of the show and have their own Sally Field moment and realize, “I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now! You like me!” Participating in the process of performance students learn alternate ways of doing things and engage in new modes of thinking. I’m very excited about our fall lineup as shows being considered for younger performers this session includes Descendants, Aladdin, Frozen and Suessical. Shows under consideration of Jr/Sr high performers include Godspell, The Apple Tree, 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Into the Woods, Day in Hollywood/Night in Ukraine, Shrek and others. Another thing I think is cool about being the Director of the YPW is I can wear really weird clothes, and no one bats an eye.
What does the Young Performers Workshop mean to you?
It means I get an opportunity to help others achieve their dreams and to play a prime role in shaping the theatre of tomorrow. As an entertainer you the performer are the instrument – and a unique one at that. YPW also means a fundamental opportunity for young performers to learn more about themselves and who they are – their minds, their voices and their bodies. Socrates declared his guiding life principle by stating “Know thy self.” and “Knowing others is intelligence, knowing yourself is true wisdom” was asserted by The Tao Te Ching. And Shakespeare of course, in Hamlet penned “This above all, to thyne own self be true.”
What advice would you give someone who wishes to pursue the arts as a career?
I would say you get what you expect. If you think you will succeed and are willing to do what’s necessary. You will succeed. Otherwise, if there is anything else you can do and be happy – do that. But if you’re going to be absolutely miserable if you don’t pursue a career – then go for it.
Centenary Stage Company’s Young Performers Workshop is now accepting registration for the fall session, and the deadline to register is September 9. The course will run September 10 through December 18. For more information about the program visit centenarystageco.org or call the box office at (908) 979-0900.
Header images from left to right: Blevins as the emcee in Cabaret; Sir Richard Attenborough (L) and Michael Blevins (R); Blevins as Mark in the movie A Chorus Line