Chase Your Dreams
What does it take to succeed in the performing arts? For Lundstrum Performing Arts faculty and veteran performers Christine Fournier and Katie Wodele, the performing arts are far more than a career path, but a lifelong journey.
A longtime mentor and friend to the Casserly sisters, Chrissy Fournier got her start performing alongside some of the greats on Broadway—including Bob Fosse, Frank Loesser, Abe Burrows and Cy Feuer—and has now been teaching in Minneapolis for 20 years. Chrissy has a wealth of insight, having appeared on stages big and small, all the while maintaining her passion of giving back. Now, Chrissy is committed to sharing the lessons she’s learned, inspiring other artists to pursue a career in the performing arts. She sat down with us to share her views on important guidelines for young artists to keep in mind as they chase their dreams:
“The tremendous community spirit is what makes Lundstrum so unique.”
Be realistic about your skill level. Find and perform work that fits your personality and have the flexibility to handle what you’re given.
“Be yourself. When you walk into the audition, we want to see you.” Chrissy explained how important it is for performers not to lose sight of what makes them unique. While she believes it’s important to respect the source material, in the creative arts, what makes you different makes you special. Chrissy stresses the value of looking into the subtextual life of the performance. “What is it you’re trying to convey?” she asks, adding “Authenticity is important.”
Pick the right material. Chrissy stressed the importance that finding the material/performances that fit you. Finding the material that best highlights a performer’s strengths and ability can make all the difference in the audition room.
“Get perspective. Go see other productions, support your community.” In speaking with Chrissy, it was clear that the performing arts is as much about connection and community as it is entertainment. As we talked about her work with young artists, Chrissy mentioned the vibrant support students at Lundstrum Performing Arts show for one another. “It’s the tremendous community spirit that makes Lundstrum so unique.” she said. And it’s true—if you were to walk the halls of Lundstrum during classes especially on a Saturday afternoon, you would see a flurry of students and families in every direction: talking, laughing, supporting one another and learning together. While Lundstrum values technical triple-threat training in musical theater, we are also aware of the part we play in lives of young people from across Minnesota. For some, Lundstrum is a place to grow as an artist and take vital steps into a professional career; for others we’re a home away from home. And for more still, we’re both. “Artists are like otters,” Chrissy cheerfully shared during our conversation, “we play all day!
“Artists are like otters, we play all day!” — Chrissy Fournier
Katie Wodele, Minnesota actor and educator, sat down with us for a discussion about her work in the performing arts, her teaching and more. Katie is a long-time member of the faculty at Lundstrum, teaching every age from Sing and Dance to the Broadway Arts Conservatory, and has performed in theater productions all across Minnesota.
As an actress, Katie mentioned the importance of understanding her character, as in her recent show, “God of Carnage” at Lyric Arts in Anoka, Minnesota. In the play, Katie plays Veronica Novak, a mother forced to defend her son when a playground accident pits him against neighbors. A dark comedy, the play won a Tony Award in 2009.
For Katie, keeping up on her triple-threat training has been a constant journey. “You’re always trying to strengthen each muscle. While ‘God of Carnage’ is a dramatic play, you bring all your skills to the role and it’s great to have multiple skills to offer.”
To keep her performances fresh and keep learning, Katie recommends broadening your perspective. "I think as many performances, whether a movie or TV show, as you can get out and see, do it. Watch and listen, seeing other performers do different roles and different settings is important [to get that perspective).]”
Whether onstage or off, Katie is a walking example of the depth, talent and technique required for a successful career in the arts. Her advice for young artists? “Even if you don’t have the bulk of the lines memorized, there are multiple opportunities for the student to be creative and be imaginative. The more that kids can contribute, and take what they’re given, even if it’s one line, the better. Put your imagination in it to do even more with it. Rehearsals are time for being creative, for giving, thinking and not limiting yourself.”
In her own work, Katie pays close attention to the subtextual layers of her characters—understanding their perspectives, wants and relationships to others. By taking a character’s point-of-view into consideration, artists pave their way to an authentic performance. When it comes to auditioning, Katie echoed Chrissy Fournier’s advice of letting the “real you” shine. She said,
“If you’re seeking audition opportunities, be at ease, be who you are. if you can share the essence of “you”, it can go a longer way than any monologue or song selection.”
At the end of the day, we couldn’t end our conversation with Katie without one last question. Of all the roles throughout her career, which would she love to play again?
“Hedda Gabler,” replied Wodele, “a role I played in college, and would be great to do again.”
Chase your dreams! Our Spring 2019 session begins on January 5th. Katie and Chrissy will both be returning as instructors: