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Patti LuPone helped music dance theatre (MDT) students realize the power of emotion


Broadway masterclass with Patti LuPone, September 6, 2019. (Martha Duzett)

When beloved Broadway actress and singer Patti LuPone came to BYU as part of the BRAVO! Professional Performing Arts Series, she participated in a workshop to guide MDT students in the Department of Theatre and Media Arts to dig deep into their emotions and commit to their performances.

"I wanted to see them take me on a journey," said LuPone. "If you're confident in a song, more spontaneity occurs, and when spontaneity occurs, we're captivated as an audience."

As LuPone worked with each student, their performances came to life through laughter, tears and moments of connection to both their music and lyrics. MDT major Miriam Edwards was the first student to perform. Despite her nerves, Edwards was excited for a chance to learn from a renowned professional.

"She was blunt, but her honesty was refreshing," said Edwards. "My biggest takeaway from the masterclass was that performing is never about you. The second I let go of my insecurities and focused on the story of the song, it changed my performance entirely."

LuPone pushed the performing students to get outside of themselves. She didn't want students to focus on how they learned their pieces but rather trust their instincts as they performed. 

"Acting is the simplest thing to do and the hardest thing to learn," she said. "The problem is we plan everything out, and it's not compelling — it's not alive. Come out on stage and let the moment take you."

Jessica Sundwall, another MDT major, chose to perform "Safer," from the musical "First Date." "I learned that acting requires vulnerability," said Sundwall. "If you don't share a little bit of yourself, you will not be doing the song justice." The song she performed already evoked strong emotions, but as LuPone asked Sundwall to speak the lyrics, the whole room became teary-eyed. Sundwall joked that she was grateful to have worn waterproof mascara.


Patti LuPone stresses the importance of emotion to MDT students. (Ben Williams)

LuPone handed her a tissue and said, "It's important for you to feel what your emotions are. You have to want in your soul to go the distance as a human being, as an actor and as a singer. You have to dare to go into your body and cry with tears. If the actor does it, the audience does it."

As Edwards and Sundwall reflected on their experiences in the masterclass, they expressed gratitude for the chance to work with LuPone. "It was a very special experience," Edwards said. "I always think outside advice is beneficial. To have a renowned professional come in and willingly teach us is a wonderfully unique experience. It reminded me that I have a lot of work to do when it comes to focusing outside myself."

For Sundwall, she was grateful for the example LuPone set as a Broadway legend. "Patti is such a humble and honest person," said Sundwall. "I want to always be like that, no matter where my life or career takes me. I believe that she has been so successful because she has shared her true and honest self."

The BRAVO! Series produced by BYU offers masterclasses as part of the professional performing arts series.