Forty students recently had the chance to participate in a Theater Workshop hosted by Lisa Finegold, Co-Dance Captain and Female Swing* in the touring production of Hamilton.
Ursuline was first made aware of the workshop through Broadway Plus, which reached out to the UA Performing Arts Department with the opportunity to work with artists in the Hamilton cast.
Performing Arts Department Chair Terri Ferguson hoped the workshop would exhibit that theater can be fun at every level.
“Lisa gave them a great workshop,” she said. “She also shared with them the life of a professional actor - both the good and the bad. I think the thing that surprised them the most was the amount of rehearsal and work that goes into creating a Broadway hit, and the fact that the rehearsals never really end!”
Students learned the Hamilton dance combo, “The Room Where It Happens,” a technical number meant to challenge. Afterwards, Lisa shared her personal theater experiences and answered questions.
However, before they got started learning the dance, students were first given a rundown of the background and emotions behind the piece.
At this part of the play, the main character Aaron Burr experiences a breaking point where his mannerism and niceties fade away. Lisa had students reflect on a moment in their lives when someone stood in their way and how they overcame it, to truly “feel” the piece. It came together over an hour as students practiced segments of the dance and then put it all together.
A competitive dancer and actor, Amelia Mappus ’24 hopes to one day pursue a Performing Arts career. She appreciated the advice Lisa gave to them during the Q&A.
“I learned about some of the audition processes Ms. Finegold has gone through during her career,” she said. “In the future I plan to pursue a career in acting, singing, and dancing so learning about the audition process and how it works for different shows was a great opportunity.”
Her classmate Jordan Schwab ’24 agreed that the workshop was challenging but noted that it was also fun and an amazing experience.
“With Lisa’s awesome instruction and patience, people of all dancing backgrounds were able to join in on the fun,” she said.
The workshop also demonstrated that hard work pays off. It took Lisa a few tries to succeed in accomplishing a role in Hamilton, which she said taught her that “you get told, ‘no,’ a lot in life and in theater, but you have to keep going for it.”
Lisa also shared her experiences learning to sing and dance, her favorite number in the show, and her emotional transitions from Act I to Act II. She explained that to make the switch from a youthful, scruffy character to one that is more mature, you must “live in those worlds outside of the self and pull from personal experiences and from experiences of people you know to find the energy.”
“I love dance and musical theater and this experience really helped me learn more about theater and what it offers,” said Elisa Welch ’24.
“I was so proud of our students,” said Performing Arts teacher Stephanie Butler. “They exuded nothing but professionalism, grace, and kindness. Not to mention, the talent they all have. It was so wonderful to just watch and see what they all can really do.”
Hamilton is playing at the Music Hall at Fair Park in Dallas through December 5.
*The Dance Captain is responsible for learning all the dances in a production and making sure that the integrity of the choreography is maintained by the cast. They are also responsible for teaching the choreography to any replacement cast members. A swing is a person that understudies a variety of roles. They have to learn each of those “tracks." Which means they need to know the lines, blocking, and choreography of each of the performers they understudy. If a performer has to step out for any reason, most often an injury or illness, the swing steps into the role until they return.