Actor/director/producer/teacher Joshua Finkel does not let CoViD-19 get in the way of his work. In our discussion he gives us examples of the projects he is most proud of and is totally insistent on marching forward in spite of the odds.
Don Grigware (DG): Are you still working during CoViD-19? If so, for whom?
Joshua Finkel (JF): Right now I’m just working for California Lutheran University. Everything else that would be extracurricular or master classes or whatever has shut down so this is my ongoing semester gig.
After I get over some work pile with that, learning how to segue all that info online– which is a definite trial-and-error learning curve, I might do some free online classes for clients just to keep people creative, because I know people are out of work and they can’t afford to pay me for stuff like this most likely. So it’s a really tricky catch-22 and I’m grateful for the University right now.
But that is the only place I work aside from New Musicals Inc where I am not doing master classes because we have to maintain social distance, plus there is no reason to need to audition for anything right now because everything is shut down.
My directing projects at California Lutheran also got shut down. If we can, we will remount those shows in the fall if some of those people are still available. It’s a weird bubble as you know.
DG: When you work with a client, do you encourage a new interpretation of playing a role or adding something innovative?
JF: If I am teaching my cabaret class or I am working with a client to build a one person show, it’s always about finding a fresh angle or finding a subject matter that is less explored, but that they have a very close and personal relationship with.
One of my favorite results of that was with Roslyn Cohn, who let us know that she had been a member of the church of Scientology for 27 years and had gotten out. This was a few years back, before the Going Clear film had come out and really no one had a clear understanding of the breakdown and blow-by-blow of the Scientology organization
So we built a cabaret act that she had filmed at Sterling’s Upstairs at the Federal. I helped with everything from the poster design to the title to the choreography to the structure and the content.
Her goal was to make it accessible via YouTube and inform folks who are considering going into the church that they should not, as well as inspiring and supporting those trying to get out of the church.
After she posted it, she received many international invitations to perform it at festivals and venues around the world.
Because it is such a painful journey for her to go through emotionally, though of course it has a lot of comedy in it, she turned the invitations down. But she was thrilled that it has gotten all of that attention and is helping folks around the world.
DG: That’s a great story. Ros Cohn is a talented lady, and I am sure she made the right decision for herself at that point in her career. Any other cabaret clients with interesting happenings to relate?
JF: Yes, another set of cabaret clients not only did their show in Los Angeles but also at 54 Below a New York, and that was an exciting journey. Two Broadway teens who knew each other during their year on Broadway working in separate shows Matilda, and Annie, came together at last.
DG: What do you feel are your most effective strategies in coaching your students?
JF: I often try to help people give the best possible audition: best vocals in the correct style, clear emotionally full acting choices that also stay within the genre. But if they are going ‘outside the box’ we practice those choices as well, so in case they are asked for an adjustment, they are ready because they have explored those options.
Many times when we are building a part that a client booked after coaching/callback coachings, we go through the role and I give them the system to look at it not only as an actor, but also as a director to help come up with the smartest and most well rounded choices.
I did that with Sandy Bainum prior to playing Mame back east and also with Talya Sindel to build Esmeralda in Hunchback, which of course got postponed/cancelled due to Corona.
So, right now, I’m weekly coaching my students at California Lutheran University on Cold Reading and Acting and Monologue Prep, plus teaching some voice lessons online and also teaching Tap to my online dance students at CLU.
I am doing live teaching with supplemental training videos I created so the students can drill from those as well as between our sessions. I record the sessions, upload them and share those with the students and also for further study.
Whether already accomplished or yet to come, the projects of Josh Finkel are never ending. For him and his students, creativity most definitely goes on…
For upcoming projects, visit https://ccactingstudio.com/director/#upcoming_director