New York actor Wilson Jermaine Heredia, who won a 1996 Tony Award for his performance as Angel Dumott Schunard in the Broadway musical “Rent,” plans to stick to the basics in the acting master class he’ll lead Friday afternoon at McLennan Community College.
“(The lessons) for a new generation of actors is the same as for the old generation,” said the seasoned actor in a phone interview Thursday. “Always go back to the text and see what the text is trying to say. All the information they need is right in front of you.”
His advice for actors in two-person scene work: Focus on the partner through eye contact and listening.
“I think I saw this from someone in the cast of ‘The Catch,’ but it’s always more interesting to see what goes on between two people than just one person talking on stage,” he said.
Heredia comes to Waco to lead a master class in acting through the Straight From New York organization, which lines up teaching opportunities for Broadway actors to share their experience with young actors across the country.
The Waco Civic Theatre, which will stage its own production of “Rent” in May, secured Heredia’s appearance, with McLennan Community College providing workshop space at its Music and Theatrical Arts theater. The acting class is full, but tickets to watch rather than participate in the 2 p.m. Friday workshop are still available online or at the door.
Heredia, 45, is impressed with the caliber of young talent he sees in master classes across the country.
“At a base level, this generation is far more talented than my generation,” he said. “I’m blown away by every master class I’ve done. . . . The arts are alive and well, and we have nothing to worry about.”
At the same time, the actor has noticed, in high school actors and younger, more is often attention paid to fame and popularity than the material making that person famous, as well as the work required to perform on a high level.
Heredia would know: He was only 22 when he landed the role of the transgender drag queen Angel in “Rent,” the Jonathan Larson musical that started off-Broadway but which became a landmark production and one of the hottest shows in the 1990s.
He won a 1996 Tony Award for best performance by a featured actor in a musical, but eventually found life in the limelight a bit tiring.
“We love all the attention when we’re performing, but some people are shocked to hear it when I tell them I’m really an introvert,” he said. “I like spending time at home with my wife.”
“Rent,” however, did more than become a best-selling box office property. The story of an eclectic bunch of young artists sharing a New York apartment in the 1990s with AIDS/HIV, with its theme of multicultural tolerance and community, also made social and political waves.
“It was a show in which we definitely started a conversation about LGBTQ equality and seeing that community as the same as any other community. It was purely about love. . . . ‘Rent’ wasn’t just a pop phenomenon. It was a political and social phenomenon that started a conversation,” he said.
Since then, Heredia has mixed stage, film and television acting. He reprised his role as Angel in the 2005 film adaptation of “Rent.”
The explosion of digital media has multiplied Broadway’s exposure to fans and also created new opportunities. Heredia finds himself directing short YouTube pieces and is aiming to expand into a world driven by Netflix and Amazon.
“In my 40s, that’s where I see myself: working on projects of my own,” he said.
Viewing tickets for Friday’s master class are $20 and $40, available at www.wacocivictheatre.org and at the door.