The Troy Arts Council, in cooperation with the Troy University Department of Theatre and Dance and the Alabama State Council on the Arts, sponsored a free voice master class on Monday, Oct. 13, at the Black Box Theater in Malone Hall.
The master class was open to anyone to perform a musical theater song for Broadway star Sally Mayes in return for her advice and critique.
“You are going to work because you are so weird,” Mayes said to a young singer after he belted his heart out in front of the audience of 30.
This playful yet serious attitude that Mayes brought into the master class created a warm and entertaining atmosphere that was full of constructivism and emotion.
Maggie Criswell, a theater major from Oneonta, sang Scott Alan’s “Behind These Walls.”
“Nice pipes, but I just really do not like that song,” Mayes said when Criswell was done with her performance.
“Sally had a full Broadway career, which is what we all want to do in some way or another,” Criswell said. “There is a lot we can learn from her.”
Mayes interacted with the audience throughout the performance. If a student was nervous about the performance, she would give him or her a hug.
“You don’t have time for nerves,” Mayes said. She engaged participants in an exercise to channel nervous energy into their performances, which will be useful throughout their careers.
Mayes also connected personally with the crowd. Many theater students had concerns for their future careers and families, and Mayes talked about how she gave up Broadway for her son.
“I just wanted to play with blocks in the floor with my son,” Mayes said. Mayes advised to have priorities in a theater career, but said, “A life you create is more precious than any role you can create.”
Mayes was impressed with the talent of Troy students. “The talent here is off the charts. I was pleasantly surprised by the sophistication of the material, and I cannot wait to see more,” Mayes said.
Mayes teaches vocal master classes such as this one around the world, including at Yale University, Boston University, Royal Academy of Music and Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center. Mayes said she would be delighted to return to Troy to teach more extensively.
Chris Charleston, a theater major from Birmingham, said that Mayes taught him “a whole new way of thinking.”
“I really learned more about what mental state I should be in while performing,” Charleston said after the class.
Mayes told participants to ask themselves the following questions to create a mental state that they can communicate through their performance: “Who are you? Where have you been? Where are you going? Who are you singing to?”