BWW Q&A: Jennifer Hemphill of A CHRISTMAS CAROL THE MUSICAL at The Conservatory for the Performing Arts at Stephens College

Through December 15th, 2023.

By: Dec. 06, 2023
BWW Q&A: Jennifer Hemphill of A CHRISTMAS CAROL THE MUSICAL at The Conservatory for the Performing Arts at Stephens College

Ebenezer Scrooge is a prosperous curmudgeon who believes that personal wealth is far more valuable than the happiness and comfort of others. Scrooge summates his feelings of Christmas tidings and charitable giving, but is forced to face his selfish ways when three ghosts appear to him on Christmas Eve and lead him through his Past, Present, and Future. Music by Broadway heavy hitters Alan Mencken and Lynn Ahrens breathes new life into this classic tale.

Jennifer Hemphill (BFA, MFA, AEA, SDC), spent two decades in New York before transitioning into academia. She was seen on Broadway, on National Tours, in Europe, regionally, with symphonies, and at sea. In addition, she has taught masterclasses and workshops across the United States. Jenn is a respondent for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, and is a member of MTEA and SETC. M.F.A., Kent State University; B.F.A., Tisch School of the Arts at New York University

What inspired your transition from performing to academia?

I’m from a family of educators and have always loved to teach. A few of my wildly talented and successful actor friends went to graduate school later in their careers. When they returned to NYC, they had an amazing amount of confidence and self-awareness. I was inspired by their journey and decided to go to graduate school myself. After graduating with my MFA, academic doors just seemed to open, and that’s how I landed in academia.

Can you share a memorable experience from your time on Broadway?

Truly, there are just so many. I’d have to say being on stage with my husband, John Hemphill, at the Winter Garden. That was an amazing highlight.

How does your experience as a performer shape your approach to teaching?

It enables me, and the rest of our faculty, the opportunity to focus on the things that are really important in both training and in preparation for the business. We focus a great deal on current industry standards and how to apply strong training with the knowledge of how to put the training to use. This all begins in the first semester. By the final year, our goal is for every graduating student to have booked prior to graduation. In the past few years, we have come very close, which is incredibly exciting.

What do you believe sets the Conservatory for the Performing Arts at Stephens College apart from other performing arts programs?

We have a remarkable faculty complete with Broadway and Film/TV veterans and a Tony and Drama Desk nominee. All of them are working practitioners, as well as amazing instructors. Our program is small and our mission is to cater to the individual. We want to celebrate each individual’s uniqueness and to capitalize on their strengths and what makes them special.

Can you talk about the importance of having working professionals as part of the faculty at the Conservatory?

It keeps our program relevant and it ensures that we are offering training that is consistent with the current industry. When students see our faculty “practicing what they preach”, they become more confident in what they are learning. In addition, it invites mindfulness and empathy into our instruction. As working professionals, we still audition, we still win and lose roles, we do self-tapes, and in-person appointments. We continue to do exactly what we are preparing our students to do and that keeps us honest, so to speak.

Can you tell us about the opportunity to work at the summer stock theatre in Okoboji, Iowa?

The students at the Conservatory for the Performing Arts at Stephens College have the opportunity to spend one, and in some cases two, summers at our summer stock theatre, The Okoboji Summer Theatre. Stephens has run the theatre for well over 60 years. Time spent at Okoboji counts as a full semester and is an immersive learning opportunity for all of our BFA majors. Students act, design, stage manage, and everything in between. Typically, students are there for 8-10 weeks during the summer months. It’s a great way to build resumes, network with industry professionals, and to build stamina.

What advice do you have for students looking to pursue a career in the performing arts?

Be authentic. Be brave. Be prepared. Be consistent. Be humble. Be kind. You never know when it’s going to be your day, so keep showing up!