Broadway star Jonathan Groff talks with students and conducts masterclass at Temple
by Logan Beck
On Friday, August 28, Tomlinson Theater quickly filled to the brim with theater majors, performers, and fans to hear from Broadway star and Lancaster native Jonathan Groff.
Groff took a train early Friday morning to Philadelphia to conduct a casual Q&A session with Temple students, as well as conduct a masterclass before returning to New York City to perform in the new hit Broadway musical Hamilton.
As a Tony Award nominee, a television star, and a voice actor in Disney’s hit Frozen, Groff shared the story of his path to success, which did not include attending college. Groff contends that there is more than one way to succeed as an actor, and that everyone needs to follow his or her own instincts.
“You should stay open to everything, let your excitement take you where you want to go,” Groff said.
According to Groff, he fell in love with musical theater at an early age; he used to perform as Dorothy in Wizard of Oz in his dad’s barn. From there, his passion grew, and he began performing locally with the Fulton Opera House, and when he was nineteen, he was cast in a non-union tour of The Sound of Music.
Groff told the students how he came to realize his own methods as an actor have changed over time.
“When you first fall in love with musicals, you imitate every sound you hear,” Groff said. “That’s how I started to learn and get inside the choices they [the actors] were making, then you realize what your own impulses are.”
Junior theater major Madison Buck says Groff taught her to be less concerned with making a piece vocally perfect, but rather focus on telling a story.
“The most important thing I learned from him that I didn’t learn before was there are so many ways to interpret a song, and taking time to play with the piece and discover a subtext can truly make a difference when it comes to performing,” Buck said.
When asked how he deals with other performers that may not be in the industry for all the right reasons, Groff explained the importance of not judging other actors.
“The primary reason why I perform is because I love it,” Groff said.
In addition to discussing his trajectory on and off broadway, Groff spoke about his experience on television and in movies, and the different methods he had for preparing for both. As a character on the hit TV show Glee, Groff faced challenges when auditioning for other roles.
“You are always stereotyped for better or for worse for what people know you for,” Groff said. “You constantly have to be proving yourself.”
After the Q & A, students got to perform musical theatre selection for Groff during a masterclass sponsored by the George and Job Abbott Center for Musical Theater.
Sophomore theater major Jordan Dobson, had the opportunity to sing “All That’s Known” from Spring Awakening, the song made famous by Groff on Broadway.
Dobson himself spent the summer performing as Melchior Gbor in Spring Awakening at Avenue Theatre Company, the role that gave Groff his start on Broadway.
Performing for Jonathan Groff was a life changing experience for me,” Dobson said. “He's one of my idols in musical theater, so I was balancing nerves and excitement in order to perform for him.”
According to Dobson, Groff’s teaching techniques helped him to reanalyze his character’s truths and portray them through his performance.
“I will always take with me the exercises he used to teach me in order to fully understand each song that I perform in the future,” Dobson said. “His methods were very practical and eye-opening.”