Learning from a Broadway actor

BROADWAY ACTOR Kevyn Morrow (seated on chair), an Omaha native, hosted workshops at several Nebraska schools throughout the week as a part of the Omaha Performing Arts' Nebraska High School Theater Awards program. He stopped by Norfolk Tuesday.

Theater workshops are nothing new to Daniel Vinson, a senior at Norfolk High School who aspires to be a professional actor.

But Vinson and almost 30 other students had the unusual opportunity Tuesday to learn from a Broadway actor.

Kevyn Morrow — who has starred in half a dozen Broadway musicals and will start work on his latest role in "The Color Purple" next week — stopped in Norfolk as a part of the Omaha Performing Arts' third annual Nebraska High School Theater Awards program. The Omaha native led improvisational workshops at nine schools throughout the week.

"The Nebraska Theater Awards program has really awesome opportunities," said Taryn Retzlaff, Norfolk High's drama teacher. "This is the first year they extended their reach to us, and as soon as I was approached about it, I thought we have to sign up. There's not many times you get to spend an hour and a half with a Broadway actor."

Students worked on projecting, keeping the line going and reacting to each other during the workshop. Two students had the chance to perform monologues and gain feedback from Morrow.

Vinson was one of the students to perform, using an excerpt from "My Trip Down the Pink Carpet," an autobiography written by actor and playwright Leslie Jordan, who may be best known for his role as Beverley Leslie on "Will and Grace."

Morrow had little to criticize.

"I felt you invoking him but not imitating," he said. "That was a bang-on impression of that man. You made it your own; you made it Daniel's."

The program had 22 participating schools when it started in 2014. It now reaches 50 schools, and there are plans to make the program available statewide in the next two years, said Dominic Green, Omaha Performing Arts' education coordinator.

"It's very exciting for Omaha Performing Arts to bring a Broadway actor to enrich what's already going on in the schools," Green said. "The program is about celebrating and expanding on what is being done."

Schools participating in the program will have their musicals critiqued by adjudicators. Norfolk's musical is “Mary Poppins,” which will hit the stage in mid-March.

"They'll provide feedback about what went well and what didn't and how to fix something," Green said. "When we hear back from teachers, they love that. That's one of their favorite parts of this program is getting that feedback."

Two students from each school also get to perform in a Tony Awards-style showcase in June, and the top high school musicals selected based on the adjudicators' comments will be highlighted.

It's all something Retzlaff said the school is excited to be a part of.

And as the 2015-16 program kicked off with Morrow's workshop tour, Norfolk students got a dose of inspiration, getting to ask him about his favorite roles, how he got his start and even if he thought a kid from Nebraska could make it in the theater industry.

"If I can do it, then you can," he said. "But it has to be your passion. It has to be the only thing in the world you feel like you can really do."

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