By Estelle Sobel Erasmus
If you are looking for a coach with vision, energy and passion to help your child learn about herself and her strengths through the process of learning how to audition, look no further than Jill Jaysen, creator of Broadway Edge, a weekend workshop audition program for boys and girls, ages 8-18. Jill first developed the program, which she exuberantly calls "theatre for life," at Center Stage Theatre Company. In the program kids have the opportunity to team-up with Broadway professionals to help them master the art of auditioning.
The next Master Class Workshop, will be held on Saturday, March 2nd through Sunday, March 3rd from 11:00am-5:00pm in Manhattan at the Nola Theater.
I had the opportunity to talk to Jill, a former stockbroker, award-winning director, playwright and acting coach, corporate communications coach and strategist and the founder and Artistic Director of Westport Center Stage Theatre Company about her passion for the workshop and its teachable moments.
Q: What made you decide to create the Broadway Edge program?
A: "My gift is to bring out the gifts in others aka their strengths. The reason I’m so passionate about this program, is that my sister passed away from breast cancer eleven years ago; and I realized that life is short. I was working with corporate clients, and on the side I was coaching a girl on how to audition, and her mom told me her daughter had learned more from me than from her other teachers, and asked me, “when are you going to open a school”?
I believe that this program is so powerful, because my partner, Michael Schloegl and I follow the philosophy embodied by Stanislavski, the founder of modern theater. His philosophy helps people embrace their strengths and bring it out in their performances."
Q: How does the workshop work?
A: "We team-up with Broadway professionals to help children master the art of auditioning. The workshop is so powerful, that the kids are creating monologues, following choreography and performing a show by the end of the workshop.
We use the B.E.S.T Approach I created during my work with Center Stage Theatre Company, which stands for Belief, Energy, Strategy and Talent. It's important to me to teach kids to cultivate their strengths so that their weaknesses become a non-issue. By focusing on their strengths, young actors can combine their personality with the character they portray to create memorable moments on stage that are spontaneous, organic and exciting.
In the final performance for the parents I bring in an in-house casting director, who will challenge the children by asking them to make adjustments to how they are acting (such as to change the tone of what they’re saying, or to look up while speaking). The parents enjoy watching how eager the children are to follow the instruction and rise to the challenge. It’s wonderful because the kids see that they can achieve anything if they focus and contain the collective energy."
Q: How does your program help children?
A: "There is nothing more rewarding than to impact the life of a child and know that you’ve made a difference. Besides helping children learn how to audition, our aim is to give each child a voice, so that they can stand up and speak for themselves as well as others, empowering them not only for auditions, but for life. Whether it’s in an audition or a college interview, I want kids to feel comfortable making themselves heard. Giving kids a voice is also ultimately a preventative measure against bullying."
And Jaysen is correct, the reviews are excellent on the program: Here is a quote from Amy Oztan of Selfish Mom, whose daughter, an aspiring performer did the workshop.
"It was also interesting to see the way that the Broadway Edge instructors treated the kids. They were gentle, but realistic: they expected a lot out of these kids, some of them very young. They would ask the kids to do something several different ways, so that the kids could learn to take direction. They worked the kids like they were pros but made sure to work on fundamental concepts that would give the kids an edge over the kids who are just told to smile and sing out."
And from Holly Rosen Fink of The Culture Mom
"I appreciated how the program helped my daughter come out of her shell. "Broadway Edge is all about building confidence and allowing each child to spontaneously access their powerful instincts. As a result, they become unstoppable as their belief rises to new levels."
Q: Who are some of the Broadway and off-Broadway actor participants?
A:" Past Broadway guest artists and award-winning industry professionals include: Ryan Duncan (SHREK), Terry Eldh (Phantom Of The Opera), Tibor Feldman (Film and TV), Lisa Fishcoff (Liz Lewis Casting), Joanna Glushak (Hairspray), Heather DeLude (Second City Conservatory), Holly Buczek (HDB Casting), Hunt Block (Film and TV), Justin Huff (Telsey + Company), Jill Jaysen (Award-Winning Director, Audition Coach), Chad Kimball (Memphis), Matt Loehr (Mary Poppins), Penny Ayn Maas (Cabaret), Cady McClain (Film and TV), Mike McGowan (Priscilla), Greg Mills (Phantom Of The Opera), Michelle Mallardi (Beauty And The Beast), Walter O’Neil (Wicked), Tony Pichette (Kipperman Casting NYC), Anthony Rapp (Rent), Ivan Rutherford (Les MisŽrables), Michael Schloegl (Director, Choreographer, Movement Coach) and Bill Youmans (Wicked).
Q: What are some of the success stories for the participants from "theatre for life"?
A: "The children who have taken our program go on to summer programs and college programs and come back to us and tell us that they learned more from our program than anywhere else. I think that a reason is because I have them do the character work before they even memorize the lines. I get them to get out of their heads and into their center.
As for our success stories, this formula has led to students performing on Broadway, Off-Broadway and on film and television. We have one of the cast members in the show Spring Awakening; someone did the national tour of In the Heights, and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Also, one of our alumni Adam Kaplan, just joined the cast of Newsies on Broadway.
We have found that casting directors love children who have graduated from our program because they don’t come off as little, over-memorized robots."
For further information, pricing, and to give your child The Broadway Edge, speak with Jill at 646-359-2898 or visit the website Get The Broadway Edge. You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter. The Broadway Edge is now also open to doing parties.