Technique vs. Truth
While we teach all of our theatre students the techniques associated with dance and singing, we place a much greater emphasis on the musical theatre performer as an actor. Yet, we do not do this at the sacrifice of perfectly practiced technique, rather the technique, learned and masterfully applied, should eventually liberate the musical theatre actor to become a vessel of emotional truth through which the drama is told.
I think back to the episode of Glee back in March 2012 when Kurt first auditions for NYADA and is rejected, not because he lacked the skill or technique to get into NYADA. Rather, he chose the less “risky” song for his audition, thinking that the display of a technically sound audition would win his way into NYADA, which it didn’t. It is not until the Dec 2012 episode when he once again approaches Carmen Tibideaux one last time in an attempt to win another chance at auditioning for NYADA. She grants him this request just hours before the showcase performance by the NYADA students, and tells him that he will audition under these circumstances. Unrehearsed and unprepared, Kurt nearly backs out of this last minute performance until Rachel encourages Kurt to sing Company’s “Being Alive,” a song very close to Kurt’s own experience. As those who follow Glee know, Kurt gets into NYADA as a result of this audition, not because he displayed a technically perfect audition, but because he made himself emotionally vulnerable in the audition by allowing himself to honestly connect to the truth of the song, which took him from a just a technical performer to a truthful performer with whom audiences can connect.
Personally, I believe that actor, Chris Colfer, was doing more than just acting when he performed this song. On some level, Chris likely experienced the truth and meaning of this song himself. And this is what our theatre students must learn to do. As they apply the technique of dance, singing, and acting to their performances, they too must discover what the story of their character means to them and bring that truth to their performance, while trusting that all of the songs, lines, and dance routines they’ve learned will carry them from scene to scene.