BWW Interview: Director, Ben Hodge of BEAUTY & THE BEAST at Central York High Performing Arts Program

BWW Interview: Director, Ben Hodge of BEAUTY & THE BEAST at Central York High Performing Arts Program

Featured in the photo, from left to right, the Central York Performing Arts Team of Directors- Nick Curry, Jim Martini, Donna Lynch, Ben Hodge, and Tim Lambert.

At the start of the 2017-2018 school year, Central York High School's performing arts program experienced a change in leadership. Bringing both veteran and new staff members together, the program is now poised for growth in the coming years. Broadway World sits down with Ben Hodge, who has been teaching Performing Arts at Central for 15 years, and is now director for the school's plays and musicals.

BWW: Tell us about your new leadership team.

BH: Our team has been amazing this year; we've assembled a group of five directors who have collaborated to bring our winter musical to the stage, and really focus the direction of Central York Performing Arts (CYPA). I've taken on the role of artistic director, while another longtime teacher and band director, Jim Martini, has been producing, music directing, and conducting the pit orchestra. Nick Curry, the school's Director of Orchestras, has also taken on some of the producing and musical direction, while tackling sound design for the stage and pit. New to the team this year are Tim Lambert, who as Director of Choirs for Central provided vocal music direction for the winter musical, and Donna Lynch, who is CYPA's new choreographer. We also have a team of costume designers: Shanna White, Charlotte Bader, and Jessica Georg, who spend countless hours making sure every detail is taken care of.

Everyone brings so much talent and experience to the table, which makes for an excellent collaborative team. We are all so excited for what's to come.

BWW: What is a unique quality that distinguishes your program from others in the area?

BH: What we're trying to create with CYPA is a comprehensive theater arts program. It's not just about putting on one musical a year. It's about providing theater education and performance opportunities that transcend that. We have studio plays, curricular program plays, improv performances, and workshops. Added to the school curriculum next year will be a brand new Musical Theatre course, which in addition to the current offerings in music production and acting courses will help us create well-rounded artists. We also hope to add more specialty workshops, such as dance, and even stage combat classes.

We also strive to provide opportunities for students to take on their own leadership role within CYPA. We have over 100 students involved in our current production of Beauty and the Beast, and many of them are not part of the cast. There are student stage managers, stage crew, sound technicians, lighting technicians, costume assistants, ushers, and pit musicians. We encourage everyone to take ownership of their position, and help us to create the final product the audience sees on stage.

BWW:Tell us about your current production.

BH: After producing our Fall Show (EMMA: A Pop Musical) back in November, both Nick and I were blown away with the amount of talent that we saw come out for auditions. We realized quite quickly that we needed to select a show that celebrated and showcased this talent, some of whom had never performed on stage here before. After some discussion we settled on Disney's Beauty and the Beast for our first CYPA Mainstage show. We strongly felt that this show introduces the community to CYPA's new vision while entertaining thousands with a well-loved and well-known show. We hope everyone enjoys it as much as we all have.

BWW: Describe your directing philosophy.

BH: One of my major philosophies is to maintain a strong sense of authenticity and truth in every performance. I spend much of my directing and blocking time working on the actor's ability to maintain truthful to each moment in each song and in each scene. To me, acting is about connecting to each other and to those moments that are in each story and clearly communicating them to an audience. Good acting should look like it isn't acting at all; it should look, feel and sound natural, in the moment and believable in all things. As a director, one of my main jobs is to help my actors get out of their own way and get them locked into listening to the moment, raising the stakes and making bold, instinctual choices.

As an artistic director I am firm believer in theatre as a collaborative art-form. As a person and director, I am well aware of my strengths as well as my weaknesses. I want to surround myself with talented, passionate creatives that all excel in each of those areas. When that happens, and I feel strongly that CYPA is showcasing this with the new team, everyone can focus on what they do best while sharing valid input and feedback with each other in the spirit of creation and storytelling.

BWW: What's next for CYPA?

BH: CYPA's season is far from over! We have our Spring Play that will run in late April as well as two curricular one-act plays in late March and May. The leadership team has already been thinking a lot about the 2018 Fall Season and are excited to share the news as soon as we make the final decisions. As mentioned earlier, we are beyond excited to keep the learning going with upcoming dance and stage combat workshops that will help our actors become more well-rounded artists.

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From This Author Rich Mehrenberg

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