Empowering Artists: Inside Broadway Dreams Foundation's Impact

Exploring The The Power of Artistic Mentorship

By: Feb. 22, 2024
Empowering Artists: Inside Broadway Dreams Foundation's Impact
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When it comes to training programs in the arts, one organization tops them all. Established in 2006 by Annette Tanner, the Broadway Dreams Foundation (Broadway Dreams) has been bringing inspiration, excitement, and opportunity to students across the globe through its musical intensives and performance opportunities. Boasting successful program alumni such as Renee Rapp (Mean Girls, "Sex Lives of College Girls," "Saturday Night Live," recording artist), Ryann Redmond (If/Then, Frozen, and upcoming Borderlands Movie) and Tony Award nominee Sidney Dupont (Beautiful: The Musical, Paradise Square), among another 250 or more students who have snagged major stage and screen opportunities, this program is the most successful training opportunity available to those interested in the arts today. Students have the opportunity to work and perform alongside award-winning performers, and some are even fortunate enough to make life-changing connections along the way. Broadway Dreams bridges the gap between the highest level of working Broadway professionals and dreamers ready to launch their careers in the theatre industry. The relationships that are formed during Broadway Dreams weeklong intensives have proven to lead to incredibly influential, beneficial and, for some, life changing mentorships.

One such example is Kiwi dreamer Thea Erichsen. Erichsen was a stand-out artist during all of the Broadway Dreams New Zealand intensives. She immediately gained recognition from the team and was awarded the New York Industry showcase scholarship in 2019, bringing her to New York for the first time. In summer of 2022, Erichsen was invited to join the organization's Summer Intensive tour Empowering Artists: Inside Broadway Dreams Foundation's Impact as a performance intern and traveled to eight cities where she assisted, taught, performed, choreographed, and connected with all of the Broadway faculty. Many of the faculty were wildly impressed with her talents and drive. Faculty member Connor Gallagher, choreographer of Broadway's Beetlejuice, The Robber Bridegroom (Roundabout, Astaire Award), Elf (national tour), as well as notable productions at Goodspeed Musicals, The Public Theatre, Bucks County Playhouse, Lincoln Center, Papermill, Playhouse Square, and Shakespeare Theatre in D.C. immediately recognized Erichsen’s attributes as an excellent assistant and associate choreographer. He selected her to assist him throughout the tour. “I was immediately drawn in and inspired by his style of work. My time assisting Connor at Broadway Dreams taught me invaluable lessons about the industry and built a mentorship that I’m so so grateful for,” said Erichsen. Erichsen and Gallagher worked closely together, crafting performances, choreographing and teaching throughout the country. Gallagher then invited Erichsen to shadow him in creative workshops in New York while she was completing her studies at Broadway Dance Centre’s professional semester program. Upon her completion of the program he offered her a contract to join the inaugural company of Broadway’s Beetlejuice onboard the brand new Viva Norwegian cruise ship.  After seven months performing across Europe, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, Erichsen and Gallagher are ready to get back to work on more exciting new professional projects, some that have yet to be announced publicly, but that are sure to be met with success.

Another alumni who participated in the program multiple years and made such an impact on faculty both on and off stage is Chess Jakobs. An accomplished performer, Jacobs Empowering Artists: Inside Broadway Dreams Foundation's Impact caught the eye of faculty member Gordon Greenberg thanks to his hard work and dedication to getting the job done. Greenberg, a successful director of works on Broadway, Off-Broadway and on London’s West End, is also an accomplished and celebrated writer for the stage and television. Greenberg took Jacobs under his wing and has continued to mentor him both as a director, and as a writer. After inspiring Jacobs to finish his new play, Greenberg helped to have it submitted for consideration at festivals in the US. It was recently selected by Ford’s Theatre in DC for performance and was presented as part of their new works commissions and readings. Greenberg also hired Jacob as his associate director for the recent off-Broadway production of Dracula, A Comedy of Terrors, which delighted audiences throughout its run and earned many critical accolades. Jacobs has continued to impress Greenberg throughout their mentorship, and Jacobs will now have the opportunity to head to Broadway alongside Greenberg as his assistant director of the new Broadway musical, The Heart of Rock and Roll.

One area that is also a focus for Broadway Dreams is college prep. Omaha Broadway Dreams alumni, Ben Ahlers, wasn’t sure where he would go to college until he met Rachel Hoffman (Telsey + CompanyEmpowering Artists: Inside Broadway Dreams Foundation's Impact ) during a college audition prep class. Hoffman was impressed with the poise and dedication of Ahlers, and took him under her wing. She helped his family learn about colleges and programs that would be a good fit for his passion for performance and musical theatre, and she even wrote his college recommendation letter. An alumni of the university, Hoffman recognized Ahlers talent and knew he would be a great fit for the University of Michigan. Ahlers has since gone on to perform on stage in professional productions in California, and is now making waves on television screens across America in HBO’s "The Gilded Age." 

While mentorships are not in any way a guarantee while participating in Broadway Dreams Foundation workshops, students like Erichsen, Jacobs and Ahlers have gone on to find success well beyond the intensives thanks to their mentors and the close relationships they have maintained. There is no doubt this is just the beginning for these artists, and as long as there are organizations such a Broadway Dreams around to help cultivate new artists and encourage their passion for the arts, the future of theatre and film is in good hands.