If you're anything like those of us on The E staff, tickets to see “Hamilton” in Portland were too pricey.
But there's still a chance to catch a sprinkling of the magic from the smash hit musical here in the mid-valley and to support local students at the same time.
“Hamilton” cast member Tyler McKenzie is running an “Acting the Song” workshop for local students Monday. Community members will have a chance to see the students perform songs they've worked on with McKenzie in an evening performance at Corvallis High School, and ticket sales from the performances will cover the costs of the workshop so it is free for participants.
McKenzie, who is in Oregon as an ensemble member with the “Hamilton” production on tour, told The E that he will be working with two groups of six local middle and high school students and one group of six Oregon State University students. He doesn't know what songs they are preparing — and that’s by design.
“Nothing is planned, and it will all be off how we are feeling that day,” said McKenzie, who was also in the “Hamilton” Broadway cast before joining the touring company.
McKenzie said he wants to come in with no expectations and help the students find new ways to perform the music they bring. So he'll be looking for unexpected moments of vulnerability or different moments to emphasize.
“I’m sure something in my crazy mind will pop up,” he said.
McKenzie said the workshop will involve each student first performing 32 bars of music they have prepared in advance. He will then work with the students to try to find new dimensions to add to their performances.
“I’m excited to see what is brought to the table,” he said.
McKenzie, an alumnus of Western Carolina University, said he is modeling the workshop on ones he did as a student.
“I still have the notes connected to the workshops I did in college,” he said.
He said having outside professional artists give him feedback helped him develop as a performer and learn versatility.
“I don’t know where I would be without the outside voices and perspectives of so many people who each put a little nugget (of insight) in,” he said.
McKenzie’s only other workshop while in Oregon will be a dance workshop at the Portland Dance Center April 8. He said he usually does dance workshops, but his former Western Carolina classmate Mitchell Hutchings, now Oregon State University’s director of opera, had the idea for the “Acting the Song” workshop and set it up through Hutchings' company American Vocal Arts.
Hutchings said students who will participate in the workshop were selected through a two-stage audition process. Other than the $15 application fee, there is no cost for the students who participate, he said; instead the workshop is funded by ticket sales.
“American Vocal Arts wanted to make this opportunity available to the best singers. In doing so, it is the ticket sales that fund this opportunity for these students, rather than depending on the students' own financial means,” he said.
The first workshop group, middle and high school students, will perform at 4:30 p.m. Monday on the Corvallis High School main stage, at 1400 NW Buchanan Ave. The second group, also middle and high school students, performs shortly after at 6:30 p.m. The college students will perform after that at 8:30 p.m. Tickets for each performance are $17 to $39, depending on the location in the theater. Tickets can be purchased online at csdtheaters.com or by calling 541-750-7990.
McKenzie said he’s excited about working with students who are in the same place he was when he was in school.
“I never thought I would be on the other side,” he said. “I’m sure I’m going to be using the things I learned when I was in their shoes."