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Paramount master classes in auditioning, sets, props on tap Mondays; Corti to lecture

Artistic Director Jim Corti to lecture

Paramount Theatre's Artistic Director Jim Corti will give a free master class April 27.
Paramount Theatre's Artistic Director Jim Corti will give a free master class April 27.

Paramount School of the Arts in downtown Aurora has launched a free, live, virtual series called Master Classes Mondays, taking place from 5 to 6 p.m. Mondays until May 18.

They are broadcast on Facebook Live. Each class is taught by Paramount artists, staff and the school’s teaching artists, a news release announced.

Students are encouraged to log onto the school’s Facebook page – – every Monday at 5 p.m. and get their questions answered live online while continuing their arts education as they stay at home.

The series kicked off April 20 with a live tutorial on navigating the college theater audition process, led by Matthew Silar, education and community relations manager, Paramount School of the Arts.

Following is the Master Class Mondays schedule for the next four weeks:

• April 27: Jim Corti on "The Director's Process"

Paramount Theatre Artistic Director Jim Corti will lead a discussion on the directing process.

Each production on stage starts in the mind of the director. From designs to casting, every decision has a director’s final OK. But how does a director even begin to start that process? Corti will give participants a unique peek inside his own process.

Corti, a Joseph Jefferson Award winning actor, director and choreographer, started Paramount’s Broadway Series with President and CEO Tim Rater in the fall of 2011. Subscriptions have risen to over 41,000 with a record-breaking 400,000 patrons in attendance last season. Under his watch, Paramount has earned 71 nominations with 20 wins, including three consecutive Best Musical awards for "Les Misérables," "West Side Story" and "Sweeney Todd," each directed by Corti. He also earned Jeff Awards for direction for Paramount’s "Once" and "The Producers."

A Broadway veteran, Corti appeared in the original New York casts of "Ragtime" and "Candide," joined the long-running "A Chorus Line," and appeared in the Broadway national tours of "Urinetown," "Cabaret" and "Bob Fosse’s Dancin’."

Click here for more information.

• May 4: Drafting with Kelly Steimel

Magic staircases, flying sleighs, giant cell phones – Paramount has certainly had some amazing set pieces over the years.

A lot of work goes into creating magic onstage, and Assistant Technical Director Kelly Steimel will show students part of how that process begins. Before it can appear onstage, an entire set must be drafted. Steimel will share why that's important and show some of her work live.

Steimel, Paramount’s assistant technical director since 2013, has worked in technical theater for over a decade, and her work has spanned seven states.

Click here for more information.

• May 11: "Auditioning for Kids" with Amber Mak

In the last few seasons, some of Paramount’s most magical shows have been directed by New Works Development Director Amber Mak. These include "Hairspray – The Broadway Musical," "Disney’s The Little Mermaid," "Elf The Musical!," "The Wizard of Oz" and "Disney’s Beauty and the Beast."

Each production featured children in the cast. If your kids are interested in auditioning for any future productions, Mak is the perfect person to break down what to expect and how to prepare.

In addition to her many directing credits and spearheading Paramount’s new works projects since 2016, Mak was Rachel Rockwell’s assistant director and associate choreographer for the 2014 smash hit "Mary Poppins," and she played Bombalurina in "Cats." She also staged Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s summer 2018 production of "Peter Pan" and many other regional shows.

Click here for more information.

• May 18: "Solving PROPlems" with Jesse Gaffney

How do you get hundreds of newspapers on stage, create a magical rose, a drivable china cabinet, build an accurate printing press from scratch or get a jump rope to freeze midair? Every show requires many different kinds of props, from simple pens and pencils (period appropriate, of course) to magical creations that boggle the mind. This requires a properties master to become an expert in each time period that a show is set in.

Paramount Properties Master Jesse Gaffney will share some of the tools to help get started. Where do you begin to look, and how do you find the time to do it? Research isn't just important to a properties master, but to each person who is a part of every production.

Gaffney has been the props manager at Paramount Theatre since May 2018. She previously worked as the assistant props supervisor at Goodman Theatre for two seasons. Gaffney also worked freelance in Chicago for six years as a props master with Victory Gardens, Silk Road, Theater Wit, Lookingglass, Northlight, 16th Street and Lifeline Theater among others.

Click here for more information.

About Paramount School of the Arts

Paramount School of the Arts ( is the state-of-the-art anchor tenant in the new $35 million John C. Dunham Aurora Arts Center at 20 S. Stolp Ave., right next to downtown Aurora’s landmark Paramount Theatre.

Follow the school on Facebook and Instagram at @paramountschoolofthearts and Twitter at @PSAAurora.

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