SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — On May 1, 25 Broadway actors performed with their mentees in the culmination of Vanguard Theater Company’s Broadway Buddy Mentorship program. Alan Rickman once said: “Actors are agents of change. … A piece of theater can make the difference. It can change the world.” In the span of several months, Broadway Buddy changed the lives of 25 aspiring actors, as they connected with professionals who gave them not only valuable performance advice, but also life lessons about succeeding in show business and in life. On YouTube, see glimpses of the 2017 Broadway Buddy Cabaret.
Sometimes the audience at the South Orange Performing Arts Center couldn’t tell the professionals from the “up and comers,” according to co-artistic director and founder of Vanguard, Daryl Stewart.
“We had over 50 young actors apply to be mentees; so we were able to select a pool with amazing talent and potential,” Stewart said.
In addition, Vanguard was overwhelmed by the number of Broadway professionals who volunteered their time and talent as mentors. Stewart’s co-founding partner, Janeece Freeman-Clark, attributes this to the experience professional performers have had as they’ve “climbed the ranks.”
“No-one does this alone,” she said. “We are all graced with people in our path who give us support, whether a word of advice or encouragement, a shoulder to lean on, or a connection to pursue. We hope that these mentorship relationships will last for years to come.”
Freeman-Clark spent weeks considering how best to pair the mentors and mentees, taking into consideration age, types of experiences, backgrounds and personalities. Vanguard Theater Company’s mission is to promote diversity and inclusion in the performing arts, and so it was important that the Broadway Buddy mentors and mentees reflect the rainbow. And that is exactly what was onstage May 1. Mentors included Linedy Genao and Martin Sola from “On Your Feet”; Dwayne Clark, Joaquina Kalukango and Kevin Mambo from “The Color Purple”; Robert Creighton and Danette Holden of “Cagney: the Musical”; Jelani Remy and Bonita Hamilton of “The Lion King”; Catherine Brunell of “Something Rotten”; and many more. Some of the mentors were new to Broadway, like Joshua Morgan, who made his Broadway debut in 2015 in the recent revival of “Les Miserables,” while others had years of experience to share, like Michael James Leslie, who made his Broadway debut in “The Wiz” in 1975.