Broadway veteran Paul Canaan has been performing in one production or another for the last 15 years.
From shows as diverse as "Legally Blonde" and "La Cage Aux Folles" to his latest appearance in the Tony Award-winning musical "Kinky Boots," in which he had a three-year stint as an angel and the production's dance captain, Canaan has been one busy man.
In addition, when not working under the bright lights in the big city, Canaan is busy crisscrossing the countryside offering his "Take it From the Top" master class to Broadway hopefuls of all ages.
We spoke to Canaan recently about the class -- which comes to Hilton Head Island this month -- and what advice he'd give to up-and-coming performers.
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What are some of the skills or "takeaways" that participants will come away with after taking your workshop?
I try to give a triple-threat experience. I offer some music, some dance and some straight-forward theater (instruction). And not everybody does all those things.
While it's important to show your strengths, or show me what you're good at, you should also show me what you're not so good at so that we can kind of work to identify what may be your weaknesses, or what you don't get a chance to work on that often.
I love to see people who don't do dance try their hand at that or who are terrified to sing get up there and sing.
And of course (as part of the workshop), I answer questions on what it's like working on Broadway and what's it like to go on an audition.
I realize you're not a talent scout, but can you spot talent right away and, if so, what does it look like?
I cast a kid in every workshop. (laughing)
Honestly, I've run a lot of auditions in New York (whether) for 'Legally Blonde' or 'Kinky Boots,' and what I've noticed is, it's the people who are authentic or who want to be there.
... A lot of students who are going to college and trying to pursue this professionally, it's almost equal to work hard as it is to have talent.
We're not always looking for a polished performance as we are people who are there to work hard. There's a lot to be said about being authentic and being comfortable with yourself.
That could be said for a lot of things in life.
Right. My thing is theater or the performing arts bleeds through into ... whatever profession you decide to go into. It's important for a lot of things in life to know how to be professional and have confidence.
I see where you are quite involved with teaching theater and arts education whether it's through your work with Kids' Night on Broadway, Camp Broadway or the National High School Musical Theater Awards.
What makes you so passionate about arts education?
I love what I do. And I love that I've been lucky enough to work in this business. I'm passionate about this because I honestly wouldn't have been anywhere if it had not been for teachers or mentors.
And I just think there's a need for performing arts in schools and more opportunities for young people.
Theater is a face-time activity, which is something more young people could use. (laughing) You want to say, 'Put down your phone, you might enjoy this.'
But there's really no curriculum for theater in schools. Everyone is just winging it. ... I love to get to know local theater teachers and see what they are teaching. I like to go in and add to what (students) have learned. Because it's not like a math class or a math book where you can say this is algebra. Show business is tricky that way.
Which do you prefer -- teaching or performing?
There are different payoffs with each.
I love seeing the reaction from audiences with 'Kinky Boots' because every night people are unexpectedly touched by the show. So I love to see how they react to that.
But then I get so excited when I see kids taking risks, especially when it pays off and they get applause by those around them.
I always love to see the shy kid get applause. Or for all of us to say, 'You did a good job, and we're going to clap for you now.'
Sports people get trophies, but the theater kids usually don't, so it's important for theater kids to get recognition also.
What words of advice or encouragement do you have for young people or someone who is interested in moving to New York to try to make it on Broadway?
I say, 'Be a doctor, but if you dream about this then do this also.' (laughing)
It's not for me to say, 'You are not going to make it ... or you're no good.'
It's for me to create an environment for kids to explore something new. To find out if they really want to do this professionally.
And if they dream of doing this, then I say, work on your craft, learn all aspects of theater, learn how to work on sets, build your bag of tricks and make it your goal to be well-rounded. And don't fight to be the star every time.
Explore your authentic self and bring that to your work. ... No one is you and no one will ever be you, so you have that going for you.
If You Go
Hosted by Don Hite Productions and Broadway Carolina, Paul Canaan's "Take it From the Top" three-day workshop is open to performers of all ages and will be at 6 p.m. Jan. 15, noon Jan. 16 and 2 p.m. Jan. 17 at Move and Motion Studios, 21 Cardinal Road on Hilton Head Island.
Space is limited and registration for the workshop is required.
The cost is $150. Discounts are available for cast members of Don Hite Productions' "13 the Musical," "Guys and Dolls" and "Music of the Night."
For details or to register, call 843-816-0754 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow reporter Mindy Lucas on Twitter at twitter.com/MindyatIPBG.