Garrick Morgan has had no dance experience, or much acting experience for that matter.
Even though the senior, who is double-majoring in music education and vocal performance, starred in Temple’s “The Boys from Syracuse” last semester, Morgan wasn’t sure if he’d even make it into Temple’s production of “Oklahoma!”
“I had a dance class in seventh grade, and I tried to sit out most of the classes,” Morgan said. “I don’t dance. After watching all those obscenely talented students in the musical theater department, I was like, ‘This isn’t going to happen. That’s fine, I’ll be in the chorus, I’ll take this as a learning experience and still be involved and be a part.’ I had no expectations of anything.”
Despite his assumptions, Morgan not only managed to get cast in the musical, but he got cast in the frontline role as Curly. Since then, he’s been singing, dancing and acting his way through each of the performances, which ended on Oct. 20. The show featured a cast of 35 and an orchestra from Temple’s Boyer College of Music and Dance. And although Morgan was the only non-theater major in the cast, he said he didn’t feel like the odd one out.
“People were constantly just sharing their knowledge with me to help me be a better actor,” Morgan said. “I loved the fact that no one looked at it like, ‘Who is this guy coming in from Boyer?’ I wish I got to know these people sooner. Everyone’s so down to earth and friendly and fun to hang out with.”
Josh Kachnycz, a senior theater major who played opposite Morgan in “Oklahoma!,” said the feeling was mutual.
“Gosh, I’ve loved working with [Morgan],” Kachnycz said. “He’s a really professional guy, and the training he’s had is really evident in his performance. The rest of us from the theater program have been inspired by his ability, so we’re trying to get the best vocal performance we can.”
The Center for the Arts, which officially opened in July 2012, is a reorganization of the art schools within Temple, combining Boyer College of Music and Dance, Tyler School of Art and the Division of Theater, Film and Media Arts.
Though non-theater students have always been allowed to audition for productions, the Center seems to be creating a space for a more collaborative relationship between the schools, and some students, like Morgan, said it has encouraged them to have a new outlook on their art.
“There’s this attitude with vocal performers and musicians in general where all they can talk about is their performance life, and where they’re going and what they’re doing,” Morgan said. “[And] there’s this stereotype of actors being backstage and doing ‘to be or not to be’ — but it’s not that. They’re prepared and ready to work, but they know their down time and it doesn’t get too uptight.”
There have been plenty of first-time collaborations since the Center was formed — one was theater and non-theater students gathering last year for Broadway performer Barbara Cook’s master class. Another has been the use of full orchestras in musicals. “Oklahoma!,” for example, featured a full 30-piece ensemble. Peter Reynolds, the head of musical theater at Temple, said he is excited about the new collaborative efforts.
“Bridges seem to be built every day,” Reynolds said.
The new opportunities have, however, created some dilemmas for students like Andrew Shaw. Shaw, a sophomore vocal performance major, accepted a role in “Oklahoma!” but later had to drop it due to his casting in Boyer’s upcoming opera, “Albert Herring.”
“As much as I would’ve loved to have done both, rehearsals for one were at the same times as the performances of the other, so I had to make the hard decision,” Shaw said. “Either way, being a part of the Center of the Arts community is definitely an amazing opportunity. Whereas some schools build walls between the two programs, Temple has brought them together, allowing for increased performance opportunities for both colleges. In addition, this cross-experience and intermingling of the two disciplines allows for increased understanding of art as a whole. By working together, we make the best of the arts at Temple.”
For Morgan, who graduates this year, the new exposure has also put him at an unexpected crossroads.
“[Theater] performance threw me for such a loop that I’m considering it for an option for life, for a career,” Morgan said. “Now I’m considering graduate schools for acting, and auditioning for various theater companies, even though this was never part of the original plan.”
Nathan Landis Funk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.