A master class with two musical theater professionals and 10 aspiring performers offers students and the community a window into the importance of mentorship.
By Truelian Lee ‘21
Excitement — that was the prevailing word when I talked to acclaimed professionals Kaitlin Hopkins and Paige Price about their day-long residency in the performing arts on Thursday Nov. 30 at Harvard.
“This is going to be such a wonderful opportunity to work with some of the great young artists,” Hopkins said.
“I'm always thrilled by seeing who the next crop of artists will be,” said Price.
Hopkins and Price have decades of experience on screen and in Broadway. They will be holding a master class with 10 musical theater students, combined with a mental health workshop and Q&A session about the field. The event, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club, Harvard Office for Career Services and the Office for the Arts Learning from Performers Program.
Price stressed the importance of mentorship in the growth of an aspiring performance artist.
“I never had a real mentor when I was younger. So, I tried to be like other people instead of developing myself,” Price said. “Part of becoming an actor is becoming vulnerable and becoming very familiar with who you are, and that’s something challenging to you when you're still figuring out and becoming that person. It can be scary. Having somebody in your corner who isn't necessarily your parents but who thinks you're great is important.”
Hopkins shared similar views. “What we [performing artists] do for a living is very complex,” she said. “Having somebody in your life who understands you and understands what being a performing artist does to you is very instrumental to your wellness. The people who are my mentors to this day have shaped everything I do, who I am and how I develop a character. They gave me things to aspire to. And they absolutely shaped many of the choices that I made later in life.”
One of the challenges both artists said they have encountered in their careers is becoming fearless in their skin.
“I think I found it counterproductive to try to be somebody else or other or emulate another actor because what people look for is the essence of you,” said Price. “I would encourage people to develop who you are and never be afraid to be different. I was definitely more self-conscious as an actor, and it took me a long time to get to the place in my career where…I could say ‘This is what I do,’” Price said.
Establishing one’s own point of view and foundation as an actor may be central to achieving success, but, for Hopkins, the opportunity to individually interpret a character is also a strength of working in the performing arts.
“There’s something really extraordinary about the idea that you can take the delivery of a character and do anything with it,” she said. “It’s about how you use the performing arts as a way to tell a story and communicate an idea. What attracted me to the performing arts was the opportunity to use your imagination about you and the human condition, and use art as a way to get that message across.”
Price noted that working with student-artists reminds her of the reasons why she is passionate about the performing arts.
“When you meet people who are aspiring to be in the business, you revisit that pure love of theater, and it reminds you why you try so hard to stay in a business that can be very challenging,” she said. “It's always good to remember that it's sort of pure desire to dig into theater. I like the energy of today. I like to see how young artists are able to be dedicated. And I'm usually really, really impressed with their level of talent and commitment.”