Broadway's Danielle Ferland Accentuates the Positive in BCT Master Class
At the age of 38 - and seven months pregnant - Danielle Ferland still has the youthful twinkle in her eye that made her portrayal of Little Red Riding Hood in the original 1987 Broadway production of Into the Woods so iconic and memorable. Now a veteran of more than a dozen Broadway and Off-Broadway productions including A Year with Frog and Toad, Sunday in the Park with George, The Crucible, and the York Theatre concert reading and recording of Summer of '42, the savvy Ferland enjoys teaching as much as performing.
Recently the talented actress, singer and director, whose latest main stem appearance was in last season's much heralded revival of All My Sons with Katie Holmes, conducted a spirited Master Class for the Boston Children's Theatre (BCT) of Massachusetts. With major doses of wit and wisdom, Danielle shared her career history and insights with more than 100 Boston area students enrolled in BCT's advanced Summer Studio Program.
Accepted via a formal audition process, the students, ranging in age from eight to 19, receive training and pre-professional musical theater experiences from BCT's Executive Artistic Director Burgess Clark, Associate Artistic Director Toby Schine, and guest artists such as Danielle. This year BCT conducted the advanced Summer Studio Program on the campus of The Governor's Academy in Byfield. The oldest, and one of the most distinguished, boarding schools in America, the Academy is home to a professional-quality, state-of-the-art Performing Arts Center that presents year-round full-scale student productions and a major professional celebrity series.
BroadwayWorld.com sat in on Danielle's recent Master Class at the Academy and later chatted with her about the art of making art in today's economy. In an age where theater arts programs are being decimated by deeper and deeper budget cuts, and live performance time competes with the internet, cell phones, video games and mp3 players, it's exciting to see a 58-year-old not-for-profit children's theater company and a 246-year-old private high school join forces to give aspiring young artists the time and tools they need to build on their dreams for the future.
BWW: Danielle, you really are fabulous working with these kids. You know exactly what they want and need to hear, and you relate to them so well. What do you hope to give to students by doing master classes like this?
Danielle: My goal is to have them have great experiences, especially with funding being cut and schools struggling to provide programming. Math and science aren't the only things that are important. Art is so valuable in so many ways. It brings learning down to the personal and emotional level. It brings people together. It humanizes us. I hope to do more of this. A lot of programs want me to come to talk and teach.
BWW: The stories you are sharing with these students can really serve as life lessons, not just career advice. How did your personal philosophy and balanced perspective develop and evolve?
Danielle: Since I was on Broadway at the age these kids are now, I can really connect with them. I come from a very grounded, human place and can bring them a practical reality. My mother was not a stage mom. She and my family helped me keep my basic values in tact. I have been able to fashion a lifelong career by knowing who I am and not getting caught up in the fame game. I don't really love the attention, which sounds strange coming from an actor. But it's true. I don't necessarily want fame. Oh, it would be nice to work steadily and not have to audition anymore, but it's not about me being in the spotlight. It's about the challenge of the work.
BWW: Having success so young can be a problem. Some child stars are one-hit wonders who outgrow their "cuteness" while others can't handle the fame and fortune and self-destruct. Did you have to fight off "handlers" who perhaps wanted to control your image and steer you into a certain direction with your career?
Danielle: There was one agent early on who said we didn't strike while the iron was hot and that's why I'm not a huge star! She was from a big management firm and was mean to me. So that's why I left her. I wanted to graduate from high school and go to college at NYU. I wanted to study the classics and be more well rounded. Would things have been different if I'd listened to her? Would a hit TV show have changed me? I don't think so. I am who I am. And I really like my life.