Greensboro on Broadway

by Lenise Willis

Now that Greensboro has made its mark on Broadway, we might be seeing some of the big city’s influences right here in the Triad.

A local theatre instructor has new knowledge to share after returning from New York and the sixth annual Freddie G. Fellowship.

Jose Rondon, Jr., resident choreographer at Community Theatre of Greensboro and assistant director at The Pointe! Studio of Dance, was selected to participate in a fourday series of workshops earlier this summer where he worked one-on-one with awardwinning Broadway greats, including director and choreographer Jeff Calhoun, composer Stephen Flaherty, director, choreographer and actorChristopher Gattelli, lighting designer Ken Billington and Broadway sound designer Matt Kraus.

“The feeling was really surreal,” Rondon said. “I honestly didn’t think that I would be inducted into the fellowship because of how many great and inspiring teachers that are out there in this world. The opportunity is something that I will cherish for the rest of my life, because it means that I am reaching lives and making a difference.”

The event, funded by Myrna and Freddie Gershon, chairman and CEO of leading theatrical licensor Music Theatre International (MTI), selects eight educators who are working to make a difference for their students and communities through the use of musical theatre. The participants were flown to New York to study under proclaimed theatre stars, and their schools were given a $5,000 grant to enhance their arts programs.

“It was a dream come true to be able to choreograph in front of (Christopher Gattelli) and hear that he thought it was amazing and could see my love for the children and what I do,” Rondon said. “One of the best moments of my life.”

During the fellowship, the participants were treated to the Broadway play, which Rondon said was one of the most visually stunning shows he’d ever seen. “I thought the show was very imaginative and appealing to the eye,” he said. “Of course, I loved the choreography from Mia Michaels, who is one of my favorite choreographers on .”

The teachers also attended a private dinner with Broadway stars Bernadette Peters and Brian d’Arcy James.

But Rondon said the most valuable part of the fellowship””besides the helpful grant””was that he and the other teachers got to spend hours picking the brains of industry professionals.

“We had interactive opportunities at the workshops and then we did a question and answer forum,” he said. “It was very intimate and very honest. Just seeing that they were as excited about meeting us and thanking us for all that we did was an amazing feeling. The biggest thing I took from each of them was the idea of storytelling””of being able to use theatre to get across the story we are trying to tell, no matter if its dance, acting, singing, lighting or sound.”

Rondon said he believes that CTG will benefit from the new theater skills and teaching techniques he learned while there, as well as the new connections he made.

“The networking will be great for us: The ability to call up fellow Freddie G’s and ask questions or thoughts about costuming and lighting, and being able to go back to our mentors at iTheatrics or MTI to ask questions.”

Of course, the money doesn’t hurt either. CTG will use the $5,000 to further its youth program in several areas. For starters, Rondon plans to start an annual JTF Ambassadors Scholarship, which will sponsor two students attending the Junior Theatre Festival.

The rest of the $5,000 will go to support the theater’s studentdriven productions and sponsor outreach efforts for underprivileged children interested in the arts.

“I applied because I saw an opportunity for the children of Community Theatre of Greensboro to benefit in the long run,” Rondon said. “First, I have seen where so many arts programs are being shut down and I thought that if we had another Freddie G that it could preserve the impact we make here at CTG. Second, there was money involved and we could definitely benefit from it to help the kids receive scholarships, training, and to help provide better materials for the children to utilize. Third, I wanted to make a difference beyond just CTG. I want to be able to learn more, soak up other teacher’s wisdom and be able to share beyond North Carolina.” !