BRADENTON -- The fiery, red-headed Tony Award-winning Broadway star has played larger-than-life characters such as Ursula the Witch in the undersea tale, "The Little Mermaid," but she said Monday that teaching students helps keep her grounded.
Faith Prince, won the Tony and Drama Desk Award for her performance as Miss Adelaide in "Guys and Dolls," took the stage at the State College of Florida in Bradenton to teach a Master Class for music and musical theater students. The program, associated with the Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota and the Asolo Repertory Theatre, gives students a rare opportunity to work with acclaimed actors and musicians.
Josie Fleming, who starred in an SCF production of "Bye Bye Birdie" was the first to take the spotlight with Fleming. As Fleming sang "If I Loved You" from "Carousel," Prince told her to think of temperatures, smells, anything to make the piece more relatable.
Prince's goal was to perfect the talent in each student through their hand motions, demeanor, pronunciation, characterization, tempo, and song choice. She encouraging each to be as "in the moment" as possible.
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"Who are you singing to?" she asked.
On the second time through the song, Fleming's eyes were close to welling. It was apparent that both Prince and Fleming were in their element.
"When I'm on stage, I feel at home," said Prince. That is the feeling she said she wants to share with nervous students.
"Even nerves can be utilized," Prince said. "Go with the swing and use that momentum as push back."
Along with several other students, Prince coached Alexandra Arroyo-Acevedo through her number, encouraging all of the students to consider changing songs and characters, Prince picked Rizzo's "There Are Worse Things I Can Do" from "Grease" as the right fit for Arroyo-Acevedo,instructing her to lean into the crook of the piano and imagine it as a brick wall.
"That character has been through a lot," Arroyo-Acevedo said on stage. "I will be taking Prince's advice on thinking of specifics."
Although Prince said she is ultimately a performer, she is interested in working with students. She teaches over Skype and does acting and singling workshops for Mini Moon productions in Sacremento when she's not performing in a 60-pound Ursula costume in Broadway's "The Little Mermaid," or busy on some other production.
"I can help you if you want a route in the professional world of entertainment," she said. "The stage is a place for you to clear out a space for yourself, especially if you had a complicated home life."
For auditions, Prince told the students to think outside the box and make unexpected choices, reminding females that they have the freedom to choose a song written for a male and vice versa. She recommends that each performer have a "Bible" of about 10 songs that he or she knows inside and out.
The last thing she told students was a story from a performance of "The Little Mermaid," when a mechanism on the Ursula costume crashed to the stage. She had to improvise when the tentacles on her costume fell off. She hit the big high note and then used her fingers instead of the costume to finish out the scene.
"You need to bring your intelligence with you, and you need to be able to carry on," Prince said.
The next Master Class at SCF is Thursday featuring classical guitarist Rene Izquierdo.