Tony Winner Michele Pawk Brings Masterclass to Omaha in April

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by Mike Palmreuter, Contributor

Omaha Theatre Arts Guild and CU@theArts present Audition Technique Master Classes led by Tony Award winning actress, Michele Pawk on Saturday, April 11, 2015 from 9:00am – 11:00am and 1:00pm – 3:00pm at Creighton University. To register, email Susan Tracy at with the following information by April 6th: Name, Email, Phone Number, Participation Type (Performer or Observer), and Preferred Class (AM or PM).

Several years ago, I had the great opportunity to attend a masterclass led by Tony-award winner Michele Pawk at a university in another state. My initial reason for attending was to have a bit of a brush with celebrity. I mean, come on, she is a Tony-Award winner, complete with the little encircled R trademark thingy and everything. Ms. Pawk has worked with the likes of Stephen Sondheim, Alan Cumming, Natasha Richardson, Sam Mendes, Kathleen Marshall, Hal Prince, Brian d’Arcy James, Jodi Benson (the voice of the Little Mermaid), Carol Burnett, Ice-T and The Golden Girls. It was the best chance I would have to be in the same room of that notoriety in some time.

I was under the impression that I would be attending mostly as a spectator. While I did not personally go onstage to sing a piece and receive direct coaching, I gained so much as a hobbyist actor from the short few hours spent in the auditorium. During the time that the handful of students presented their musical theatre pieces, I realized that there was so much for me to gain right along with each of the performers. Michele was very gracious in the handling of each participant and was challenge each to think of how to be better story tellers with their pieces. She presented questions to each performer, often without projecting answers upon the actor: Is your character telling the truth? Is she trying to convince herself? Is he singing one thing but meaning the opposite? How important is this to the character?

A vivid recollection I have from the master class was one student who was suffering from mild laryngitis and could not sing her selected song. Ms. Pawk still had her perform the piece in the manner she was able and was able to challenge the young performer on intention, truth, and subtlety. The young performer went from feeling awkward due to the circumstances to the clear assurance that her time was just as valuable as all of the others.

While teaching in an encouraging manner, she included the audience in the teaching experience and shared encounters of her own learning process (both good and bad, and often with humor). Her expertise was abundantly evident and I gained more knowledge and tools in that one night as an observer than I have in many other theatrical experiences. It will certainly be something I always go back whenever I have the opportunity to be involved in any capacity of the storytelling of theatre.

I can’t wait to see how she will elevate the Omaha theatre community in her short time here. I expect it will be remembered in our community as much more than the time we met Tony Award winner Michele Pawk. I think it will be remembered as an experience that pushed us all to be a little bit better and gave concrete tools of how that could be done.