Brad Carroll - Resident Artist / Artistic Associate
Collaboration. Process. Integrity. These concepts were instilled in me as a student and these are the things that, since those formative years in the 1970’s, have remained the foundation of my life and my work. An ongoing commitment to these tenets allows me to continue to learn, to welcome new opportunities, to face new challenges and, I am convinced, is the reason I have remained employed in the Arts for nearly 40 years. Teaching, for me, springs from these concepts – Collaboration, Process and Integrity.
My teaching focuses equally on the individual student AND on the larger group dynamic. The individual, that they may discover and explore who THEY are – their uniqueness, their particular gifts, strengths and challenges; and, since no one does theatre alone, how to then take that individuality into the larger group and contribute in a meaningful way. The classroom and the rehearsal hall are “safe havens” to allow and encourage exploration, experimentation, risk-taking and sharing, with the focus being on growth and expanding personal boundaries rather than on anyone’s concept of success or failure. The best actor is a fearless actor and striving for “fearlessness” will always be nurtured and supported.
Musical Theatre is theatre. Theatre, at its core, is storytelling. Every piece, be it musical, Shakespeare or kitchen-sink drama, has a “form” that must be understood and honored. That being said, acting is acting, whatever the form, and truth in storytelling is where it all begins. In teaching Musical Theatre performance, my approach is that of a Master Class in acting using songs as our monologues and scenes. We study lyrics as stand alone text, melodic content and structure as a form of “expression,” accompaniment as “subtext” and finally, how these elements work together as a whole. Vocal technique (breathing, support, physically engaging the voice, etc.) is geared to individual needs and treated more as an adjunct or complement to the work rather than the primary focus, e.g. taking a “singer breath” (to hit the note) as compared to taking an “actor breath” (to play an action/intention, thereby making ”the note” not only easier to hit, but connected and, ultimately, more meaningful). Vocal technique is a tool, not an end.
History and context are vitally important in understanding any piece. Exploration of Broadway Musical history as well as individual people and performances becomes a key component of Musical Theatre study. I would also extend this exploration into the world of popular music, classic movie musicals, opera and even the concert hall. Studying different genres and the “varying quality” within those genres leads to valuable dialogue with students, encouraging them to articulate WHY they “like” or “don’t like” a particular piece, not just accepting popular opinion as to it being “brilliant” because it won a Tony Award or “garbage” because a particular critic said it was. This kind of analysis is invaluable for young actors in learning how to recognize and rise to great work and how to pull lesser work up to a higher level. Fostering such dialogue, in my experience, breeds curiosity, and a curious student is a wonderful thing.
Directing and teaching, in an educational setting, become wonderfully synonymous, operating interchangeably and with a common language in the rehearsal hall and the classroom. As a director, I always ask the same questions: Why this story? Why now? And how can we best bring this story to life with this group of collaborators (actors, designers, et al)? I think the success of any production is realized by honestly answering these questions, empowering people to do their individual work and then…working (often tirelessly) to bring everyone’s efforts to fruition. Collaboration. Process. Integrity. I’ve yet to find a better way.