Naperville, IL

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Same Programming, New Name! Academy of the Arts is now Illinois Conservatory for the Arts

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impact musical theatre

Session 1: june 10–14 | Session 2: August 5–9

A performing arts education may build a good foundation for a career in the limelight, but the act of learning never stops. From singing in church to manipulating a puppet on Avenue Q, Zonya Love believes every experience is an opportunity to learn and share with others. Currently appearing in Beetlejuice on Broadway, Love was one of the performers at the Academy’s inaugural gala in February.

“I do think outreach is important, especially when you can make opportunities available to those who may not have access,” she said. 

As a child born in the South, Love had no plans to be a performer. She enjoyed singing in church where she took part in shows at Easter and Christmas, but it wasn’t until she joined an after-school program that she started to think about her future. The program designed shows about bullying and violence aimed to help younger children.

“Growing up in the South we were going to be teachers, lawyers or preachers, there was no other vision,” she said. 

After speaking to a leader at a local music workshop, she toyed with the idea of becoming a vocal coach. What she didn’t know was that she would have had to have been able to sight read for that, so as she couldn’t, she came up with another plan.

“In the end I majored in theatre to come out of my shyness and thought I could learn to sight read at the same time,” she said.

In graduate school Love says she felt “othered.”

“I was not the status quo, not the person who they were considering at auditions,” she said.

When she was finally offered the part of Celie in the original Broadway production of The Color Purple, she began the process of self-love.

“Playing Celie was a very personal journey for me,” she said. “I’m from the South. Looking at the climate in our nation I remember experiencing racism. I didn’t have the confidence I would have liked. Celie is the perfect example of someone who needs to love themselves. It was one of the major takeaways for me.”

As a member of the first national tour of Avenue Q, Love learned a more practical skill – how to handle a puppet.

“They auditioned people with no puppetry experience and then sent me to puppet camp so I learned on the job,” she said. 

Love says she chooses roles based on what they can teach her.

“I’m always learning. I desire work where I can learn a new skill. I don’t like doing a job that doesn’t challenge me,” she said. “Now I’m in Beetlejuice. I play different characters. It’s part of the joy of being an artist.”

Love says there’s no one role she aspires to play.

“My goal is to do good work and reach my full potential,” she said. “I don’t think my perfect role has been created yet. The creator in me wants to be part of that.”

session 1 • june 10–14, 2024

session 2 • August 5–9, 2024

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Tyler McKenzie / Dance

TYLER MCKENZIE has been a part of Hamilton since 2017. Other credits include – Broadway & National Tours: Matilda, Mamma Mia. He has a BFA in Musical Theatre from Western Carolina University and has served on many faculties and teaching staff around the country, including the Musical Theatre Faculty at Penn State University. IG: @tylrmckenzie

Melissa Foster / Voice

Melissa Foster is a Professor of Instruction in the Department of Theatre at Northwestern University, specifically teaching voice and topics in musical theatre such as Pop/Rock Vocal Style, and Pop Rock Musical Theatre. At Northwestern, she is the recipient of both the 2021 Galbut Outstanding Faculty Award and the 2022 Charles Deering McCormick Distinguished Professor of Instruction Award. She values her time inside the classroom just as much as she does outside, and simultaneously serves as 1 of 5 Faculty in Residence on Northwestern’s campus, mentoring students via their residential experience. When not at Northwestern, Melissa has been a Resident Vocal Consultant for LYRIC UNLIMITED (a division of the Lyric Opera of Chicago), and teaches for the CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute at Shenandoah University. She has been guest faculty for Broadway Evolved, Artsbridge, Broadway Breakthru, IHSTA, ArtsLink and NATS. She has also taught countless masterclasses around the world. Highlights include: co-teaching a live-streamed, sold out masterclass with world renowned opera legend Renee Fleming and recent talks at schools and conferences in  San Diego, San Francisco, New York City, Ithaca, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Madison, South Bend, Goshen, Milwaukee, Detroit, Chicago, Birmingham, Palo Alto, Xi’an, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. Foster has consulted for the companies of numerous National Tours, including Miss Saigon, Fiddler on the Roof, and A Bronx Tale, and has recently enjoyed consulting for pop/rock projects like working with the NPR Tiny Desk series and for the multi-Grammy winning band Coldplay. Her book, “Don’t Sweat the Technique; A Performers Guide to Hip-Hop and Rap” (Rowman and Littlefield Publishers) was released in November 2023. Foster currently lives in Evanston, IL, with her husband Matt Boresi, their daughter Vivian, and their 2 adorable bunnies, Cinna and Rue.

Kara Lindsay / Acting

Broadway: Wicked (Glinda), Beautiful (Cynthia Weil), Newsies (Katherine Plumber) Original Cast/ Fathom Events Film. NYCity Center: Once Upon a Mattress (Winnifred Standby for Sutton Foster). National Tour: Wicked (Glinda), Little House on the Prairie (originated Laura). Paper Mill Playhouse: Newsies, Jolly Holiday, Little House…Prairie. Sacramento Music Circus: Singin in the Rain (Kathy Selden). NCT: Mary Poppins (Mary Poppins).Kansas City Starlight: Cinderella (Cinderella). Kansas City Rep: Cabaret (Sally Bowles). 5th Avenue: Lone Star Love (Miss Ann Page). Geva: A Christmas Carol(Belle). TV: Murphy Brown”ABC’s “Schoolhouse Rock! 50th Anniversary Singalong”ABC’s “The Disney Family Singalong: Volume II”, Tony Awards, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. BFA Carnegie Mellon University. Huge thanks and LOVE to my friends, family, Stewart Talent/ Industry Entertainment. @karalindsay1

Brittainy Barattia / Casting

Brittainy joined the Gray Talent Group as an Associate Agent in July of 2015. She now heads up the Chicago tv/film/commercial/VO departments.  After earning degrees in Theatre Arts and Psychology from the University of Iowa, she began her career in theatre, working in the fields of fundraising and production and stage management. In tandem with her work in the field of performing arts, Brittainy worked in the aviation industry, during which time she learned that there truly is no place like sweet home Chicago. Brittainy is delighted to be part of the performing arts community and is thrilled to help showcase the amazing talents of the actors at Gray Talent Group.

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