I had a chance to talk with Ms. Huffman about her career and the exciting things that The New Paradigm Theatre is doing.
You’ve had an incredible career that has not only put you on the Broadway stage but also operas and symphonies all over the world. What inspired you to become an actress and musician?
My parents. They are both singers and performers (my dad is a Lutheran minister/professor and singer, my mom is a singer and music educator) and we performed shows/concerts for non profits and groups together as a family. I remember singing on stage with them as early as I could talk. It was something that gave me confidence and that my parents encouraged me to do. I found that the creativity, the act of creating something, was addictive. But even more than that, I saw, modeled in my parents, the concept of using your gifts not just to please yourself, but also in ways that benefit others. My platform at Miss America was along those lines too. Getting folks to use their talents in an altruistic way. Supporting and encouraging an altruistic attitude. It’s very tempting to go “inward” as a performer. I was lucky to have parents that encouraged the “outward” approach.
Kristin Huffman in “Company”(2006)
You played the role of Sarah in the 2006 revival of “Company”, which I have to say I absolutely loved, Being that it was a John Doyle show, not only did you act but you also had to play the flute, alto sax and piccolo. Had you ever had to do something like that on stage before? How was it working with Mr. Doyle?
I actually wrote a whole series called “Actorquest” on Broadwayworld.com that outlined the experience starting at Cincinnati Playhouse right through the Broadway show. It’s often humorous. I had never had to play and sing at the same time and while I was a flute and voice major in college, I had to learn the sax. The whole experience was the most challenging and rewarding experience I have had onstage. John was great and very supportive of his actors. He is a role model for me on how to have a vision and follow through on it, even if it’s different that what has gone before you.
Tell me about “After School at the Klein”. It sounds like a fantastic opportunity for young performers.
It is extremely rewarding for the teachers as well! Part of The New Paradigm Theatre’s (NPT) mentoring mission is the development of young talent. Not just as artists but also as leaders. NPT collaborated with The Klein (also a non profit) in creating After School at the Klein (video created in the Video Production class (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ute6y-kvA_o) last year. Helping with the growth of these students through the art (it’s all free for students in Bridgeport) is such a rewarding experience.
NPT”s MO is that we fit into or customize ourselves for other programs or non profits with our professional Broadway/Film/TV/marketing pros and allow the students the chance to learn from folks who are doing what they want to do. Right along side of them! An example of our teachers are Scott Bryce (TV and Film star) teaching the Acting for the Camera class. Mark Holleran (Professional Video/Commercial Producer) teaching the Video production class. I teach the voice class. Jerold Goldstein (Broadway performer/musical director) teaching Acting and Chorus, and Andy Reimann (Professional Designer) teaches 3D set design. It’s free for the students in Bridgeport. This year NPT was able to keep working with ASK because of a generous grant from The Hubbell Foundation. It’s great to have business like this supporting our efforts to educate the next generation of artists and leaders. http://theklein.org/ask/
We are also creating a short documentary that will follow three of the students through this semester to show how they grown through the arts.
You’re currently serving as Producing Artistic Director of The New Paradigm Theatre, which looks like an exciting and new type of performance venture. What can you tell our readers about it?
I founded it with my husband Andrew a few years ago and the concept was that the “If you build it they will come” idea of how to start a professional theatre (non profit) is very difficult in today’s climate. You have to work from the inside out instead. Think of “producing shows” in a way that involves and benefits a community and lets them rub elbows with the stars. Let them tell you where to locate by their involvement and input. Then when you open actual doors, you already have your audience because they have had a hand in developing what you do. I use a lot of Seth Godin’s (Best selling author) marketing concepts. But truly, you can produce shows almost anywhere and so we have been doing that for the last three years.
I also folded in all the things I have been doing my whole life into this theatre. Teaching, performing for non profits and then doing actual shows. We are lucky enough to have Mark Holleran (Holleran Media Productions:http://www.holleranmedia.com/) on our board and he does all our video work.
We are creating a new template in a few ways. We focus the arts on developing young artists and leaders by putting them next to our pros in both theatre AND film and TV. As an “incubator” of new talent and leadership. I always stress leadership or problem-solving skills through the arts because the reality is that most of the students are not going to become Broadway stars. And even if they do, some folks would be surprised to learn how hard that is to make a living! But to use the arts to create the next generation of leaders using all the skills that you learn through studying is very exciting to me. We have not only an adult board of directors, but we also have a Youth Board of directors who attend their own meetings each month, assist and appear in the shows, and learn about fund raising. It’s made up of 15 teens from all over lower Fairfield. Learning to become altruistic individuals as well as artists.
It’s also obvious to me that a theatre company that can combine stage and screen will be able to stay on top of the market. Social media and the active engagement of our audience, sponsors and students is one of our specialties as well. And of course our youth board is great at this.
We are super lucky to have just hired Executive Director, Basil Hero, who brings a ton of fund raising and business sense to us as well as having the most engagedBoard of Directors who are behind our mission statement 100%. Our annual Gala (where we will feature Celebrity Chefs from the Food Network and Broadway “sous” chefs singing will be April 30th.
Coming up on Jan 25th, New Paradigm Theatre is hosting Sunday Spotlight. What can you tell us about this event?
Sunday Spotlight is A FREE educational webinar (you tune in from your own computer!) that features guest stars from Broadway, Film/TV as well as Voice Over Artists, Producers, Directors, Casting and all walks of the Entertainment industry. These pros give you their time so that you can learn about the business of the Performing Arts from the experts! We have had folks like Randye Graff, Scott Bryce, Renee Lawless, Alan Rust, Christine Dwyer, Randye Kaye and more!
This month’s topic: The era of “Pick me” is over! “I will create my own!” is here! NPT selected six successful college graduates to participate in a Round table discussion regarding their experiences in the “outside” world. “Creating your own Career” using what each of them has learned in the arts, will be a big theme this evening.
Tune in from your own computer (it’s a free webinar) and hear successful grads give you advice and answer your questions in a thoughtful manner that will get you thinking about your own mission. Presented by The New Paradigm Theatre Company-NPT (a non profit) as a part of their mentoring mission to create leaders through the arts. http://www.nptheatre.org
(You will then be sent your own link to use on the day of the webinar which is: Sunday, Jan 25th. 9pm EST)
Given your involvement with The New Paradigm Theatre and After School at the Klein, not to mention that you are also a professor at The Hartt School, is there an area in music or theatre that you’re still looking to get involved in?
I love producing. I think that is what I have been heading for all my life. Creating things. Projects that are topical, progressive, fundable and marketable. I think it’s a big theme now in the arts “Creating your own….” And it’s so much more possible than it was even 10 years ago. I will keep performing and teaching…but I think the producing side of theatre, new educational ideas and also video and web production work is where I am focused. Not just for myself, but for NPT. As a template for a progressive way to use theatre. I have a blog that follows the “Making of NPT” too called www.theatreringleader.blogspot.com.
Finally, what is the best advice you can give someone who is either looking to get started in theatre or music, or possibly looking to give it up?
Be Relentless! Not just persistent. Not just passionate. There are tons of those folks. You have to be able to take rejection and pick and roll around it. Remember that being an “Artist” can show up in many careers so don’t overlook any opportunities that come your way even if they aren’t what you originally planned. Perfect your craft and then remember that this is a business. Show. Business. Treat it like that and you can create your own career using your particular talents. But mostly, BE RELENTLESS.