Whether they love putting on a show — or just reeeally need a creative outlet these days — your quarantined kids can now learn dance, cartoon voice acting, and improv from the pros.
Founded by Wayland native actor/entrepreneur Harley Harrison Yanoff and Newton native and Broadway actor Tess Primack, Broadway From Home offers virtual theater classes from teachers hailing from Broadway’s “Hamilton,” “Aladdin,” “Lion King,” “Wicked,” “Frozen,” and more.
“We want to keep the joy and love of theater as alive as ever, and provide … a kind of arts gymnasium where [kids] can keep learning,” Yanoff said. The Brandeis University alum also runs Spotlight Summer Theater Workshop for kids in Weston.
When the world crashed, Yanoff — whose gigs include playing a seaman alongside Oscar-winner Casey Affleck in the Boston-filmed “The Finest Hours”— saw theaters shutter, and his catering company’s event bookings plummet to zero.
Thinking fast on his feet, he called his childhood pal Primack to help shape his next big idea: An online theater workshop, akin to his Weston camp, where isolated kids could channel creativity — and out-of-work actors could make some dough. Win-win.
They launched the site in late March, and it’s now a full-on digital theater workshop running about 10 classes a week aimed at kids ages 8-18. Classes start at $19 per session. A portion of proceeds benefit The Actors Fund and City Harvest.
Upcoming workshops include Cartoon Voice Acting with animator Alex Salsberg of Waltham (May 29); Monologues with Brandon Flynn, star of Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why” (May 26-27); Dance with choreographer Tiger Brown (May 28); and Improv with Perry Sherman, whose credits include the Tony Award-winning Best Musical “Fun Home” (May 28). Registration is available via www.bwayfromhome.com.
Broadway’s “Mean Girls” star Erika Henningsen recently ran a master class, as did Brookline native Nik Walker of Broadway juggernaut “Hamilton.” Other locals involved include Boston-born technical director Jonah Camiel and Northeastern University theater/communications student Julia Chase.
“It’s a Boston-born company without a doubt,” said cofounder Primack, who cut her teeth at SpeakEasy Stage, Huntington Theatre, and New Repertory Theatre. More recently, the Newton South alum starred in Broadway’s “Fiddler on the Roof.”
Broadway From Home’s aim, she said, is “to give kids an outlet to be creative” during a time of isolation. “Seeing how communicative and supportive they are of each other in class has been an absolute joy.”
Yanoff, who acted at Lyric Stage Company of Boston, said the site has had some 500 unique global participants, from France to South Africa.
“We have a ton of Massachusetts kids attending regularly from Wayland, Weston, Wellesley, Newton, Concord, Needham, Cambridge, Boston, Chelmsford, and more,” he said. “It’s amazing to see them acting alongside kids from all around the world.”
For a sample of the insider knowledge offered by Broadway From Home, we asked Yanoff — who’s done stage, camera, and voice-acting — for some tips:
On acting for the camera:
“Your eyes are so important. What you’re feeling, thinking, and your internal conflicts — the camera can get all of this right through your eyes … You don’t need to make such big physical choices — the slight look or adjustment of your eyes will tell a whole lot.”
On making a character come to life:
“Don’t act, react. It’s much more interesting to watch a character react to a situation or line than to act it out. It’s not going to look real if you’re just waiting to say your lines. Listen to other characters in your scene and react to them.”
“Use your body just as you would acting in a scene onstage or on camera. It’s impossible for your voice to sound authentic if you’re not using the physicality of the character. … And for lines that are happy: smile. You can’t fake the sound of smiling.”
On being funny:
“Don’t try to be funny — we’ll see right through you. Some of the funniest scenes in movies come from characters who are being earnest and serious. And just because it’s a funny scene doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be thinking about the circumstances, relationships, and conflicts.”