Last week, Jared Howelton, former NESA Musical Theater alumni, Otterbein University alumni, and current performer in Chicago’s production of “Hamilton”, hosted a three-day masterclass for musical theater and dance majors. Here, Howelton spoke on the fundamentals of musical theater, the importance of understanding the craft and being fully committed to the performance world. Let us dive into the key questions and answers, quotes, and concepts Jared covered during his instruction over the course of the masterclass.
On Monday, the lesson was primarily focused on vocal technique and performance. Mrs. Bryant, our vocal teacher, hand-selected students to perform a short thirty-six bar cut of a musical theater song. The students selected were instructed to perform to the best of their abilities, and after, Jared gave critiques and advice, catered to the individual performer, on how to improve the overall performance. Some advice he gave students included “playing with dynamics”, taking time to create the foundation of the character, “milk[ing] that last ending moment”, “playing with vocal levels”, and being prepared to make choices (no matter how corny or exaggerated they may be). Some of the most interesting advice given by Jared was to “ask yourself what your duet or scene partner would do in the situation”. This was a cool concept to discuss because during the performances, Jared would “become” the duet or scene partner in order to engage the performer’s ability to respond to another person and the situation.
The next day, Jared Howelton introduced a dance combination choreographed to the song “My Shot” from “Hamilton”. Not only did Jared focus on the details of the choreography, but rather individual character development and formulating a meaning behind every move. Being able to focus on the “personal meaning” helped the steps become more effective and the storyline was able to slowly take shape. The context is just as important as the choreography, so put just as much effort into your acting as you do your dancing.
On our final day with Jared, we gathered in the auditorium, where he entertained a Question-and-Answer session with all of the musical theater and dance majors.
Mr. Connelly, the NESA musical theater acting teacher, asked, “Who do you cover for in Hamilton?” and Jared explained that he is a principal cover for “Marquis de Lafayette, Thomas Jefferson, Hercules Mulligan, King George III, Man 5, and Man 6.”
Toby Lawrence, a junior dance and musical theater double-major, asked if there was a “piece of advice [Jared] wished someone told [him] before [he started]”, and Jared advised to not “just do [musical theater]” because the production team wants to see who you are as a person, not just your credentials and talent.
Lucy Gibbs, a musical theater sophomore, asked what Jared’s backup plan was in high school, in case he didn’t get into the musical theater industry. Jared confidently said “[he] didn’t have one,” but he 100% recommends having a backup plan.
When a student asked what his least favorite part of the audition process was, he simply answered “the auditions”.
We are very honored and grateful that Jared was able to join us and volunteer his time to working and teaching us more about the real challenges in the professional performance industry. He allowed us the chance to expand our knowledge in the field we love. Thank you Jared for showing us that if we really put our minds to it, we can achieve anything!
Written by: Daniela I. Landa-Gonzalez (MT'21)