BWW Interviews: Two-Time Tony Nominee Laura Osnes Talks Masterclasses in Texas
Laura Osnes is bringing her beauty, brains and talent to Texas - Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth respectively. In each city, she will teach a masterclass drawing on her wealth of experience as a Broadway actress and Tony Award Nominee. In this interview, she talks about what she's been taught and what she plans to teach. If she approaches this class with the same charming mixture of pragmatism and idealism that she approaches her career, you'd better sign up fast.
BWW: You're pairing with Straight From New York for a masterclass. What can students expect?
Laura Osnes: I am going to be coaching them on the pieces they have prepared, offering advice on auditioning and learning how to act your song. We'll probably do a Q&A where I can give them industry tips and answer any questions they may have.
BWW: The Straight From New York website mentions you will be instructing students on connecting through song, as well as audition techniques and how to determine your "type." I'm interested specifically in type. It's a controversial concept to actors. What is type? What is your "type?"
Laura Osnes: Oh, gosh! I think it's important to know where you naturally fit, but, especially in the beginning, you should audition for everything. I still get brought in for things I don't feel that I'm right for. Sometimes, you can even book those things. I think knowing where you can generally fit is important, but the fun thing about being an actor is sometimes stretching beyond that stereotype and stretching beyond the box that people put you in. As important as types are, I would urge the kids to think outside the box as well and try not to pigeonhole themselves into being one type of person.
I had a masterclass and this sweet, pretty girl came in and totally became the comedic sidekick. She even had the voice of ingenue. Kudos to her for going outside the box. But, it depends on what you're going in for. You really have to take it on a case by case basis. It depends on what show you're going in for and what roles are available. Cater your talent to that.
As far as my type, I'm obviously the ingenue type as well, but I've gotten to play roles like Bonnie Parker in BONNIE AND CLYDE and Polly Peachum in THE THREEPENNY OPERA. I get to be the darker bad girl too, to show the Rodgers and Hammerstein side of my voice and be more legit, and also be belty and country with BONNIE AND CLYDE. It's important to be versatile. That's why it's kind of cool working with these kids. In their life, at this point, at such a young age, they're still figuring out who they are and what type they are.
BWW: That's really good to hear. A lot of actors are afraid of types. So, it's good to know that there is some flexibility there. What is a mini-concert and what will you be performing at the mini-concert?
Laura Osnes: I haven't even really decided yet! I literally think they'll all sing for me and I'll go off in my own little corner. I'll just sing at the piano. It's not going to be anything too fancy. It'll be very informal - a personal, acoustic concert of probably just a song or two from a show that I've done.
BWW: A lot artists say that each project teaches them something about their craft. I want to know about your most famous shows - BONNIE AND CLYDE, CINDERELLA, SOUTH PACIFIC, ANYTHING GOES. What did each production teach you?
Laura Osnes: I could go down the line. GREASE was my broadway debut. That was eye opening. At the same time, it was very familiar. It was a Broadway show, but it's kind of the same as doing a show in Minnesota. It's the same type of rehearsal process. You are doing 8 shows a week, but I worked at a theatre in Minnesota that did 11 shows a week. Broadway is a piece of cake. [Laughs] Just kidding! It's just that everything is done to a grander scale. GREASE was neat. It was just so rewarding and magical because it was my very first Broadway show.
SOUTH PACIFIC - I really learned a lot. I swear I like to say that during SOUTH PACIFIC, I went from being a girl to being a woman. Bart Sher is an amazing director. I went through a series of four auditions to get that role. That taught me perseverance - if nothing else did. [Laughs] I was 23 years old, and I was still very green and very young. I definitely felt that I had to grow up a little bit playing opposite a 40 year old man and having to have a mature love relationship. Yes, Nellie is very naive in some ways, but she's also facing war in the South Pacific, dealing with all that brings, and being a nurse during that time. I feel like I really did have to grow up for that role.
ANYTHING GOES was just a ball. I loved learning from Sutton Foster and Joel Grey, who led our company so beautifully. That was just fun to get to watch them be leaders and learn from their ethics in rehearsals. Their humor and all of that was really great.
BONNIE AND CLYDE was the first show and the first role that I got to originate. Being part of that from the ground up and investing three years of my life into seeing that show come to Broadway was really rigorous but also so exciting. And, it was really rewarding to feel that a show was being created around me, who I was, and what I brought to the table. Dealing with two different leading men along the way - it started with Stark Sands and then Jeremy Jordan - and seeing what a different person and their strengths can bring to a role was cool.
CINDERELLA! That was magical. I learned stamina through that show, I think. I was running around a lot. I hardly ever left the stage. Once the show started, I never went back to my dressing room. [Laughs] It was really a marathon in that sense. It's all taught me something special. I've had the opportunity to work with such wonderful actors and actresses - Victoria Clark, Santino Fontana, Ann Harada. Learning from them, just sitting back and watching, and having conversations with them about their experiences, I felt, really, really lucky.
BWW: Do you have any transformative roles that are, perhaps, less well known?
Laura Osnes: I had a really wonderful experience my senior year of high school. I played Dorothy in THE WIZARD OF OZ in a children's theatre company in Minneapolis. The director of that, Matthew Howe, is one of the most incredible directors I've worked with. Again, it's all about reaching people in their high school years, when they're still figuring out who they are and they're still being shaped as artists and as people. He was so good at working with young people. I do remember that experience very well.
BWW: Last question, a silly question, How do you get to Carnegie Hall?
Laura Osnes: [Laughs] Talk to Steve Reineke. Become friends with Steve Reineke [Laughs] or Rob Fischer. Both of whom are the conductors that have invited me to sing there.
BWW: That's not the answer the students are looking for.
Laura Osnes: [Laughs] I know! Keep working hard. Keep singing. The first time we met I sang there. It was during the run of GREASE. Steve Reineke was conducting. I don't know how he knew me or how they asked me to be a part of their performance, but I felt so lucky. And, I got to sing with an orchestra at Carnegie Hall, which was fantastic. I've gotten to sing there four times since. Once you get your foot in the door, then you're on the list, which is great. [We Both Laugh]
BWW: Talent and luck is what you're saying.
Laura Osnes: Yeah! Exactly. [Laughs]
Two-time Tony Award nominee and Broadway's own Cinderella Laura Osnes, will lead Straight From New York's upcoming masterclasses in Houston, Dallas, and Fort Worth, TX on September 22-24, 2014. ALL ages are welcome to participate. Participants should prepare one 32-bar cut of a musical theatre or pop song. Bring sheet music marked and in the appropriate key. An accompanist will be provided. No CDs or A Capella. To register, visit www.StraightFromNewYork.com.
Fort Worth, Texas