As he sat across the table from the anxious group of aspiring performers, Brock Kannan smiled. He had always thought he would be in the group auditioning for a part in a Broadway show — not giving the parts away.
This past summer, Kannan, 24, a senior from Virginia majoring in music/dance/theatre, moved to New York City to work as a casting director intern at Tara Reuben Casting. Reuben, known as the “Queen of Broadway,” is known for being in charge of the long-running shows such as “Mamma Mia.”
Kannan received the Mary Lou Fulton Chair grant to support his internship work in New York. According to Shauna Kalua’i from the office of Fine Arts and Communications, the music/dance/theatre major is a highly competitive program, with limited spots available.
Kannan also did free-lance casting work and was hired as the casting director assistant by Duncan Stewart and Company. While working for Stewart, Kannan helped to cast shows like “Chicago,” the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular” and “Jersey Boys.” Kannan’s time in New York helped him confirm his love for casting.
- Brock Kannan, a BYU senior, is living the dream of being on Broadway – but behind the scenes.
“I saw ‘Jersey Boys’ with the original cast in 2005,” Kannan said. “To remember that experience, and to be able to find new people that can recall those memories, and to watch people bring those back to me and say, ‘yes, that person needs to be in this show,’ was just awe-inspiring. There are few moments in life when you know what you want to do, and that was one of them.”
Between the lights and Broadway glamour, most of Kannan’s work in the Big Apple was strenuous. Kannan casted more than eight shows at one time, began casting the “Jersey Boys” second national tour, spent a month finding the right woman to play Mary Poppins, and met with people he had read about in his musical theater history textbooks. However, between the moments that at times seemed stressful, Kannan thrived on being able to make the dreams of performers come true.
“These people who major in musical theater dream of a life in the theater,” Kannan said. “They spend their whole lives auditioning and going to lessons and learning and practicing, for maybe a six-month contract. But the casting director gets up each morning, and his life is the theater. You’re immersed in the music every day, you’re immersed in the characters, you know your shows — you love them. It was beyond words, it was so much fun. You get to make other people’s dreams comes true. I got to call and tell these people, ‘this is Broadway, you got it.'”
One of Kannan’s goals upon graduating from BYU and becoming a theater industry professional is to put a positive light on BYU’s music/dance/theatre program and the LDS Church.
“If I didn’t have the training that I got at BYU, I couldn’t have done what I did,” Kannan said. “To further BYU’s name on Broadway was really something. I feel like everyone knows the problems of our programs, but doesn’t know the good things the program is doing.”
Sarah Porter, 20, a junior from Clinton, is studying music composition, and hopes to head to New York University to study musical theater after her time at BYU. She has also written her own musical through the help of the Experimental Theatre Company at BYU.
“We’ve got great programs to train us and be successful out in the real world,” Porter said. “Not only do we have the skills to succeed, but we have the testimony of the gospel. I’ve loved talking about the arts in a gospel sense. When we go into the real world, we’ll be able to be an example in the way we perform and carry ourselves.”