A Chorus Line won the Tony Award® for best musical in 1976
I spoke Monday morning with Arizona’s sole Tony Awards® voter, a singular sensation in her own right when it comes to Arizona arts and culture.
Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director for ASU Gammage and assistant vice president for cultural affairs at Arizona State University, is in New York this week and will be attending Sunday’s Tony Awards® ceremony at the Beacon Theatre on Broadway.
The Tony Awards® venue changed this year, says Jennings-Roggensack, because Cirque du Soliel inked a five year contract for the award show’s former home.
She notes that the theater is located in the area of Spanish Harlem and hopes the streets will be bustling with eager onlookers, adding to the festive nature of theater’s most important night.
The smaller theater means seats aren’t available for the general public. Still, I’d love to be there — if only to see Jennings-Roggensack negotiate the evening wearing the four inch heels daughter Kelsey told her were a must with the low-back white sequin gown she’s selected for the evening. I’m told there’s also a gown with purple sequins in the mix.
Tune to CBS Sunday night to watch the 2011 Tony Awards® ceremony
While others are busy predicting this year’s winners, Jennings-Roggensack has her hands full seeing those last few shows she’ll have to vote on before this Friday at 5pm.
She flew into New York on Sunday, saw “Baby It’s You” that night and has “Anything Goes” tickets for Thursday evening.
She’ll be attending the Tony Awards® with Michael Reed, senior director of cultural participation and programming at ASU Gammage — who works with Jennings-Roggensack to select and secure touring productions for each ASU Gammage season.
I ran into Reed and his family during this year’s Arizona School for the Arts “Showcase” at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Phoenix, but didn’t yet have Tony Awards® fashion on the brain, so I can’t speak to this element of his NYC experience.
Personally, I’d like to see all the men sporting white dress shirts and skinny black ties ala “The Book of Mormon,” this year’s most nominated show. But it’s unlikely.
It’s a treat to chat with Jennings-Roggensack each year as the Tony Awards® ceremony draws near — because she’s a walking Broadway encyclopedia who never loses her zeal for the art form or her enthusiasm for the artists and others who make it all come to life.
She’s got a pretty good idea of who’ll walk away with the best musical award, but describes the best play competition as “a real horse race.”
I’ll be seeing “War Horse,” one of four shows nominated for best play, when I’m in NYC with Lizabeth later this month. And spending lots of time in line with folks entering raffles for “The Book of Mormon” tickets. But talking with Jennings-Roggensack makes me want to see it all.
The Book of Mormon is this year's most nominated show, with 14 nominations including best musical
Jennings-Roggensack expects Bobby Cannavale to win the Tony Award® for best actor in a play for his performance in “The Motherf**er with the Hat” and says Sutton Foster, nominated for best actress in a musical for her role in “Anything Goes,” is on her way to becoming “Broadway royalty.”
She describes the cast of “The Normal Heart” as “stunning” — praising Joe Mantello’s work as both actor and director, and calling Ellen Barkin’s performance “wonderful.” Barkin is nominated for best featured actress in a play. Jennings-Roggensack describes “Arcadia,” also nominated for best play, as “cerebral.” Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing lies in the mind of the beholder.
Jennings-Roggensack says she was “surprised — in a good way” by John Leguizamo’s performance in his one-man play, and was pleased to see the work attracting “a very multiracial, multicultural audience.”
And she’s surprised that Robin Williams wasn’t nominated for his performance in the play “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.” She describes Mark Rylance, nominated for best actor in a play for his work in “Jerusalem” as “the next Olivier.”
“I’ve been watching the Tony Awards® since I was a baby,” says Jennings-Roggensack. “It was a big deal at our house.”
Note: Click here to learn more about the 2011 Tony Awards® — including FAQs about who gets to vote, when the ceremony is being broadcast in your area, and how you can get tickets to see nominated and winning shows on Broadway.
Coming up: More pearls from Colleen Jennings-Roggensack — including her musings on “The Book of Mormon” and insights into Broadway trends
Posted in arts, dance, music, theater
Tagged Anything Goes, Arcadia, Arizona School for the Arts, Arizona State University, ASA, ASU Gammage, award show fashion, Baghdad Zoo, Beacon Theatre, Bengal Tiger, best actor, Best Actress, Best Musical, best play, Broadway, Broadway in Arizona, Broadway royalty, cerebral theater, Cirque du Soleil, Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, John Leguizamo, Laurence Olivier, Michael Reed, NYC tourism, One singular sensation, Orpheum, Showcase, Spanish Harlem, The Book of Mormon, The Book of Mormon raffle, The Motherf**ker with the Hat, The Normal Heart, Tony Awards, War Horse
I spoke with David Hallberg, principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre, the morning after Natalie Portman waltzed away with a best actress Oscar for her performance in “Black Swan.”
Hallberg noted that she’d done some of her dance training for the film at the ABT studios in New York, and was generous in his praise of her work in developing the level of movement needed to perform the role of “Nina.”
Still, he’s quick to dispel the myth that “Black Swan” is a ballet flick. Instead, Hallberg describes it as “a great horror movie.”
Hallberg uses the term “focused pressure” to describe his own experience as a principal dancer — noting that he’ll be performing in March with the Bolshoi Ballet in Russia.
“All the world and Russia will be watching,” reflects Hallberg. One “could buckle under the pressure,” he says. “But — knock on wood — I never do that.”
So is there a strategy Hallberg suggests for developing dancers? “Focus the stresses,” he says. “Know how to use them to your best advantage.”
David Hallberg performs in “Other Dances” (Photo by Rosalie O’Connor)
It sounds like he got plenty of experience doing just that during his five years as a student at Arizona School for the Arts – which recently honored Hallberg with its inaugural “Distinguished Young Alumnus Award.”
Arizona School for the Arts, a charter school in downtown Phoenix that serves grades 5-12, is currently celebrating its 15th anniversary.
ASA students spend their mornings in academic classes and their afternoons in arts classes. The school enjoys partnerships with several professional arts organizations, including Ballet Arizona.
Hallberg credits much if his success to Kee-Juan Han, with whom he studied both at ASA and at what’s now known as the School of Ballet Arizona.
Despite his devotion to ballet, a talent Hallberg first honed during his early teens (which is late by ballet standards), he was always expected to study hard and get good grades.
“My parents were never okay with me having a secondary academic career,” shares Hallberg. After a full school day at ASA, he’d take more dance classes at the Ballet Arizona studios.
Hallberg recalls doing homework during brief breaks between classes — then heading home around 9pm for a protein shake, more homework and that scarce resource known as sleep.
While studying at ASA, Hallberg’s mornings began at 5:15am. First there was the drive to school. Then more homework. Then classes and dance for the rest of the day.
David Hallberg performs in “Cinderella” (Photo by Marty Sohl)
But what about the students studying dance who haven’t the same passion for pursuing a ballet career? Hallberg says they enjoy the same benefits — developing discipline, a strong work ethic and the focus that’s helpful in all walks of life.
Hallberg recalls that French was among his favorite academic classes at ASA, where all students are required to complete several years of study in either Spanish or French. It came in handy during his time with the Paris Opera Ballet.
Hallberg describes developing greater appreciation for history and language arts as his “school career went along.”
He’s especially intrigued by European history and the “molding influence of arts” on movements like the Renaissance and the Reformation. He also sees the influence of arts in contemporary movements and events.
David Hallberg performs in “Giselle” (Photo by Rosalie O’Connor)
So was there something specific in his ASA education that gave Hallberg this appreciation for the interplay of arts and culture? “I had an education,” reflects Hallberg, “that was out of the box.”
“It wasn’t a conventional A-B-C type academic education,” says Hallberg. “It taught me to see all shadings of a certain situation.”
Hallberg feels the experience sets him apart from his peers. “I realize my responsibility as an artist to influence my contemporaries and the next generation.”
Too often public education in our country doesn’t value or respect students as individuals, according to Hallberg. “At ASA,” he says, “being an individual is encouraged.”
“Being a unique individual,” muses Hallberg, “is what sets you apart from the status quo.” Hallberg says his years at ASA were “very positive and formative” — helping him “spread his wings” to become the person he is today.
Experiences at ASA taught Hallberg to keep reaching and growing — and to share the wealth of his experiences with others.
“When you have a talent or a calling,” says Hallberg, “it’s one thing to rest on your laurels.” The higher calling is “owning up to the responsibility that brings.”
When he’s not dancing or traveling, Hallberg enjoys experiencing “other art forms.”
Hallberg rattles off a long list that includes visual arts, museums, other performance art and classical music. Also something he calls “techno” — a fact shares with a bit of a giggle.
But how did Hallberg even realize he had an interest in dance? What made him take that first class? What started the journey to so many places far and wide?
“I saw Fred Astaire on television at the age of eight,” recalls Hallberg. “I just knew I wanted to move like him.”
Note: Click here to learn more about ASA’s affiliation with another Valley arts organization, Phoenix Theatre.
Coming up: Burning questions (inspired by Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony), Real drama in Wisconsin, Scottsdale Conservatory Theatre
Update: Mr. Hallberg has accepted the position of premier (principal dancer) with the Bolshoi Ballet in Russia, the first American dancer to do so. Learn more at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/21/arts/dance/american-to-join-the-bolshoi-ballet.html?_r=2&hp. Updated: 9/20/11.
Update: The Opera & Ballet in Cinema Series presents a live simulcast of the Bolshoi Ballet production of “The Sleeping Beauty” featuring Svetlana Zakharova and David Hallberg in three Arizona theaters at 8am on Sun, Nov. 20. Click here for details. Updated: 11/3/11.