Six-time Tony award-winning actress Audra McDonald taught a master workshop giving select students an opportunity to learn on Wednesday, April 8.
Students Bryce Dutton, Haley Haupt, Kiah Amara Fischer and Tyler Sandblom all auditioned and were chosen to attend the workshop. Tatyana Lubov was selected as an alternate.
“Ms. McDonald taught me to find power in stillness and not layer my performance unnecessarily with faux movement,” Haupt said. “An audience can very quickly identify the truth or a lie, and as a performer, honesty is always the best policy when wanting to connect.”
Haupt first heard of McDonald in sixth grade. McDonald is also a two-time Grammy award-winner and Emmy nominee. She appeared in several films and television shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice.”
“Since then, I’ve kept up with her albums and watched many YouTube videos,” Haupt said. “Ms. McDonald is easily considered musical theatre royalty by many people’s standards.”
McDonald impressed Dutton with her genuine attitude and generosity. To begin the workshop, McDonald welcomed each student to the room with a hug.
“It was a really nice way to introduce no fear into the room and create a collaboration,” Dutton said. “We would perform the song once through, then she spent a bit of an amount of time to deepen the material and make it more visceral and personal for us through a lot of physical and stage work.”
Though these students especially admired McDonald for her work on Broadway, it seems her attitude toward show business is what resounded with them most.
“Ms. McDonald shared that her ultimate goals is to become a better singer and a better actor than she was the day before,” Haupt said. “This really struck a chord with me. We should all want to evolve into better people than we were yesterday.”
Haupt is passionate about working hard and finding where life takes her. She is eager to apply what she learned from McDonald to future work, experiment with different performance exercises, discover ways to dig deeper and create layered material.
“Above all else, Ms. McDonald taught me humility and kindness go a very long way in the business,” Haupt said.
Dutton said ideas about deepening oneself is what he found most special about the workshop. He hopes to move to New York one day and appear on “The Great White Way” himself.
“It wasn’t just about performing,” Dutton said. “It was about being a better person, growing and deepening your performance through being a better person, and having that mindset of constantly evolving, getting better and having a positive, open outlook.”
During her visit, McDonald also performed at Sentry’s Theater @1800 and with Stevens Point area sixth-graders on Thursday, April 9.
“That type of openness and generosity in her work that transfers over is what is really inspiring for someone like me,” Dutton said. “To give as much as possible and be engaged the entire time in an open way is what takes ego out of everything and really puts you in the moment.”
Arts & Entertainment Editor