When a dream becomes a reality – Zachary Denman (Interview 43)

Ed: Zach Denman is a young man just beginning his career in one of the most challenging of all for a performing artist – the musical theatre.  Like many of those ‘triple threats’ – singer, actor, dancers – he has his eye firmly set on Broadway. Recently, he had the opportunity to get a brief taste of what that life could be like. I asked Zach if he would write a piece for Greenroom. He graciously agreed. Here he is, in his own words.

“Many say that life is all about going after what you want most in this world.  However, the problem most have is that, when they finally discover what it is they really want, they think it’s far too extraordinary thus unachievable and so it remains an illusion, a dream. Well my dream was to sing, act and dance on Broadway and over the last month that dream has become a reality.

“I graduated last year with a BMus majoring in musical theatre from Griffith University’s Conservatorium of Music where, over three years, I experienced intensive training in singing, acting, and dance. After graduation, I signed with BMEG Management and went straight into work with bookings from ArtsCouncil Queensland in Sarah’s Heavy Heart and with QPAC in the development project Rolling Thunder Vietnam directed by David Bertold and Chong Lim.

“I was recently sent to New York as a result of my selection by JOIP On Broadway. This is a nation-wide organisation that brings professional directors and teachers to Australia to workshop and audition musical theatre performers. Twelve finalist are selected; their audition videos are then sent to the US to be judged by a panel of distinguished professionals including Todd McKenney, Lynn Ruthven and Kelly Aykers. Two performers are then chosen to be trained at New York schools like Broadway Dance Centre. They also meet with interested agents, sponsors and producers with the intention of establishing a career on Broadway. JOIP also provided sessions with Stir Studios to create a professional demo reel and customised website, a $500 gift voucher courtesy of Capezio and numerous other media and endorsement privileges.

“Everyday in New York was a huge adventure! Within two hours after touch-down in New York we had an agent meeting with CESD to talk about representation, then a media call and sign-up at Broadway Dance Centre. That night we were treated with comp tickets to the incredible Broadway musical After Midnight where we had the privilege of a backstage tour and a chat with the cast. (ED: One way to deal with jet-lag.)

“In the month I was there I attended over twenty professional dance classes, toured the world-renowned Juilliard  School, had singing lessons with Broadway vocal coach Susan Eichhorn Young as well as with Joan Lader – the vocal coach for Hugh Jackman, Madonna, Ann Hathaway and many others. I attended two Broadway auditions for a new musical Band Stand, had seminars  and a one-on-one with New York casting agents from BLOC, as well as a session with VisaPaq to organise my USO1 working Visa.

Apart from the working visa, things you need to organise before you fly-over are contacts, your profile, and financial stability.

“I had mentoring sessions with the future director of TAFTA in LA and a meet and greet with Todd McKenney. I was treated to a $500 shopping spree at Capezio, given subscriptions to online dance classes with Danceplug, and presented with a free website design and showreel care of Stir Studios. I saw over thirteen Broadway shows and met so many wonderful industry people all wanting to help my Broadway career in any way they could. What’s really crazy is that I haven’t listed everything. I did all of the above and more. I felt truly blessed to be granted this incredible experience.

In building an online profile, a website with a showreel has the strongest impact. Also get a Twitter account going. Business cards don’t hurt either.

“So what did I learn? A LOT! More than I can fathom. I experienced what I can only be described as a tidal wave of information and knowledge. So I’ll rephrase; What did I learn that is useful for a fellow performer? Well, if your dream is also a Broadway career, then there are a couple of things I’d love to share with you: First obstacle is the Visa, this has proved to be the biggest hurdle to overcome and prevents most from getting over to the US. Fortunately for me one of JOIP On Broadway sponsors was a company called VisaPaq that specialises in helping performers with US working Visas. I highly recommend using them for your Visa application, they have a wealth of knowledge and have a very high success rate.

Biggest advice I can offer with regards to getting a Visa is keep original documentation for everything you do that involves performing.

“No matter how small the project keep everything: photos, programs, any advertising, and so on, and keep originals! It is all essential for your Visa application. Once you tackled your Visa there are three other things I highly recommend having before you fly over:

Contacts: Even with the huge benefit of JOIP’s sponsors, and pre-arranged meetings with agents and industry professionals, I sent emails to everyone I could think of. I had most success with teachers and training institutions. You may have to pay for a lesson but often the pathway goes like this:  impress the teacher/coach; get the agent meeting; get the Broadway audition. The sought-after teachers are the ones that casting agents trust. The Broadway vocal coach I had one lesson with wanted to get me in front of the Book Of Mormon casting people asap. Unfortunately I didn’t have the working Visa (gah!)

Profile: This was the area in which I personally needed a lot of work and JOIP was there for that. Before you go over have a strong online profile that shows off your skills coupled with some references. A website with a showreel has the strongest impact. Also get a Twitter account going and business cards don’t hurt either.

Financial Stability: If you haven’t sat down and put together a budget, and saved enough to last at least three months I guarantee you’ll be borrowing money from your folks for a plane ride home before you know it.

The last things you need – and probably the most important – are focus, determination and belief.

“Yes its a cliché  but, while full of possibility, New York City is overwhelming for most, so believe in yourself and be very clear about what it is you want.