Rob McClure and his puppet

Each year, the Janus Players gather for a pre-season filled with camaraderie and traditions. Typically, the theatre ensemble gathers for a chance to meet and mingle with new and returning theatre students, as well as learn more about the upcoming productions. And this year’s first ever virtual pre-season not only did just that, but it also included guest appearances from two Broadway stars: Rob McClure and Jelani Remy. 

Rob McClure has been on Broadway for the past twenty years, starring in productions such as Avenue Q, Something Rotten!, Beetlejuice, and currently, Mrs. Doubtfire. Jelani Remy is most known for his role as Simba in Disney’s The Lion King. He has also starred in Disney’s High School Musical, Smokey Joe’s Cafe, The Apple Boys, and is currently preparing for his role in “Ain’t Too Proud”. 

With Broadway shows currently on standstill, the performers are more accessible now than ever before, and Bill Esher, director of Performing Arts and Josh Robinson, faculty in the Performing Arts department, knew that providing the Janus Players’ an opportunity to meet with these stars would greatly benefit them as they head into preparing for a completely virtual production. 

Mr. Esher notes that both Mr. McClure and Mr. Remy not only have impressive Broadway credits, but they have both navigated the online medium during this time and would be able to provide the Janus Players helpful skill modifications for a virtual production.

And to no surprise, Mr. McClure and Mr. Remy both prepared an engaging, entertaining, and out-of-your-comfort zone experience for the Janus Players. 

Mr. McClure’s session included a Q&A, a crash course on puppetry, a brief explanation of voice acting, as well as an advice portion, where students had the chance to ask about confidence on stage, pre-show rituals, and character development. Mr. Remy used his session to conduct icebreaker activities and improv exercises to get the Janus Players comfortable with singing, thinking on their feet, and for the first time, performing virtually. And between the Q&A’s, crash courses, improv exercises, and laughs that two sessions offered, the sentiment of each of their visits was the same: be yourself. 

Both guests explained the importance of being unique in the industry and Mr. Remy said it best when he told students, 

“You do not want to be a carbon copy in this industry or in the world, you want to be the one to break the mold.” 

Before pre-season, Alexander Li ‘21, a returning Janus Player, was worried that the challenges of a virtual production would discourage new members from joining, but after attending the weeks worth of events those worries were no longer a concern. 

“I was wondering if people would still be attracted to the Janus Players if they couldn't physically meet the members of the group, and I began worrying that we would suffer from a lack of new members,” Alexander said. “So it was great to see that, despite the current situation, there were many students still interested in doing theatre. I think it really proved that even with social distancing, our theatre community remains strong.”

Lauren Fleisher ‘24, a newcomer to the Janus Players leaned into the opportunity of a virtual preseason and enjoyed all of the lessons that Mr. McClure and Mr. Remy taught her. 

“My favorite part of virtual preseason was learning the traditions that the Janus Players do,” she said. “I also really enjoyed learning from the guests, Mr. McClure taught us how to really get to know our character and Mr. Remy taught us how in this industry we have to stay positive and never be negative towards ourselves.” 

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