This summer, Emily Baker, a familiar face on the Arts Center stages and assistant director of West Side Story at Straw Hat Theatre 2017, went to Mezzano, Italy with Music Academy International, a performing arts training program. Emily, a Music Theater student at the Boston Conservatory, spent a month training and performing in the Trentino Music Festival in Mezzano, appearing in a production of Godspell and in several galas for the community.
The one-month window made for an intense schedule: “My second week there was tech week for Godspell. The galas started the first week. I was up at 8 a.m. and in warm-ups at 8:30.” She worked with Vince DeGeorge (of the University of Cinicinatti’s College-Conservatory of Music) on acting and L’ogan J’ones (most recently seen in Spongebob Squarepants the Musical on Broadway) on dance. “We did ballet, Fosse, and hip hop. I’d be in Godspell rehearsal all afternoon and gala rehearsal all evening, five days a week, with more rehearsals on Saturdays.”
While working on her craft in Italy, Emily was able to draw on the theater training she received at the Arts Center, noting that Kim Godfrey, Director of Theater & Music at the AAC, helped her a lot. “One of the ways Vince works is that he’ll give you an idea, tell you to run with it, and then change it. One day in rehearsals, Vince had me do my Godspell song probably six or seven times. And every time he wanted something completely different. Then at the end of that he said, ‘okay, this is the version I want to go with.’ Kim has a very fluid style of directing, and she also focuses on the actor – she has her ideas of what she wants for a character, then she sees what works with that actor, and intertwines those ideas. Working with her, I learned to try things many different ways and remember the details of how I did each one. I think one of the reasons I worked so well with Vince on Godspell was because I’d been taught to do that. If I didn’t have that training from the Arts Center, I don’t know how well I would have worked with him.”
Emily singles out the friendships she made and the collaborative spirit of the program as valued takeaways: “It was amazing to be in the environment I was in. There was no cell phone service or internet except in one restaurant. It was refreshing to meet people and spend time with them immersed in that environment, with no distractions. The culture of that performing arts program was different, too. We were able to focus more on the artistry, rather than being put in competition with each other, which is a big change from musical theater programs at home. It made a great environment for trying to grow for your own sake as an artist, and for helping and supporting each other. We could give each other feedback without feeling that twinge of competition. A major part of musical theater as a field of study and a career is being told that there’s a set of things you’re supposed to be, and figuring out your ‘type.’ You’re expected to fit into a box a director would want. This program focused on artistry as exploration and individual expression. It gave me the freedom to make mistakes and take different chances.”