GTA is delighted to introduce Michael D. Jablonski, Assistant Professor of Musical Theatre at Brenau University. Michael will be teaching courses in dance, directing and musical theatre. He has been a successful musical theatre artist for over 20 years, and has taken his experience on the stage and has transitioned it into the classroom.
Michael performed on Broadway in Cry-Baby, The Book of Mormon and the 2009 revival of West Side Story. He toured the world with 8 different National Tours including Matilda, The Book of Mormon, West Side Story, Saturday Night Fever, Doctor Dolittle, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas starring Ann-Margret, Victor/Victoria, and Brigadoon. Michael also performed with the Radio City Rockette’s in the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. On film, he can be seen as a featured dancer in the movie version of The Producers starring Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane. Michael also performed at many prestigious theatres across the United States.
Michael is an award-winning Director and Choreographer. His credits include Fame, Edges, Mamma Mia, We are Proud to Present a Presentation about the Herero of Namibia…, Wildwood Park, Another Day (Devised), Grease, The Producers, Hello Dolly, Eurydice and multiple productions of West Side Story. He created additional choreography for the National Tour of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas starring Ann-Margret. He supervised 4 national tours and multiple regional productions as their Dance Captain.
Michael holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and Dance from SUNY at Buffalo and a Master of Fine Arts in Directing from Florida State University. He has been a Guest Lecturer and Master Instructor of dance & Musical Theatre technique at many universities and academic programs across the U.S and Canada. His previous academic appointments include Elon University, Florida State University and is thrilled to be joining the faculty at Brenau University this fall as an Assistant Professor of Musical Theatre.
Michael is a member of American Actors Equity Association, American Guild of Variety Artists, Society of American Fight Directors and Canadian Actors Equity Association. He serves as an Assistant Faculty member of Theatrical Intimacy Education. Visit Michael’s website at michaeldjablonski.com.
What drew you to Brenau University and Gainesville Theatre Alliance?
As a professional actor, I always enjoyed the artistic community in and around the Atlanta area. I came across Brenau University and Gainesville Theatre Alliance while in Graduate School at Florida State University by the recommendation of one of their professors. As I was researching possible academic institutions, GTA and Brenau kept floating to the top of my list with the incredible collaboration that is present, with facilities of the highest professional quality and a focus on honoring integrity in the artistic process. Although, what truly won me over was the incredibly supportive and welcoming community that I was able to engage with during my search.
How did you first get involved in dance and what keeps you involved?
I was an athlete my whole life and played almost every sport imaginable in some type of organized fashion. When I was in 7th grade, the news reported how many NFL and NHL professional athletes were taking dance to help with the coordination. This led me to taking a jazz class at a dance studio in hopes to help me in my agility on the ice playing hockey. Unfortunately, it was your typical story where I was made fun of by “friends” at school and I chose to quit. Fortunately, that did not stop my journey as I have supportive parents that introduced me to theatre and dance at a young age and I never lost that interest as I grew older.
In my undergraduate days at the State University of New York at Buffalo I fell into the dance program. I initially went to UB to study mathematics and compete in division 1 athletics on their track & field team. Because of my interest in theatre, I was able to minor in acting. During an acting class a professor said “you should take a dance class to loosen up your body for acting, plus it would help with flexibility and stretching for track & field.” Because of my many years of playing sports, dance felt like an extension of that training. I fell in love with the euphoric energy of performing. I realized that the life of an artist and athlete runs many parallels of hard work, discipline, and emotional expression. The many years of being an athlete helped me transform into the artist I am today with the passion and drive that not only do I love the arts, but that I need the arts.
What is a memorable project you have worked on that you felt made a great impact or moved you in a significant way?
To be honest, it is difficult to pinpoint one project as every project I work on lives with me forever. I will share a couple that stick out in my mind. First and foremost, as a professional actor, I will never forget being in rehearsal for Dreamgirls here at the Atlanta Fox Theatre, starring Jennifer Holliday. One day during that process I received a phone call from my agent that I was receiving an offer to make my Broadway debut in NYC in the original musical Cry-Baby. I will never forget that moment the rest of my life, as our Atlanta cast had many Broadway veterans, they created an energy circle and started improvisational singing to celebrate this wonderful opportunity I had on the horizon. It went on for like 20 minutes and the supportive energy in that moment still lives with me today.
Second, I will have to say playing Riff in the Broadway revival of West Side Story. Currently to date, I have performed in 10 productions of West Side Story and worked on the creative team in three professional productions. But this experience of the Broadway revival allowed me to gain an intimate knowledge of every aspect of that show directly from the original writer Arthur Laurents as he directed this production. The one-on-one conversations I had with him during rehearsals were priceless. I never tire of that show, and it has become a passion of mine to pass on this priceless knowledge.
Finally, I have to share that directing We are Proud to Present a Presentation about the Herero of Namibia… by Jackie Sibblies Drury during my graduate school directing program had a massive impact on me personally and professionally. It is a difficult play that confronts tough racial issues through a devised format. Because of my research and training with Theatrical Intimacy Education we were able to build a community of trust and empowerment to bring that production to life. The performance was impactful but the journey toward that performance was life changing.
How are you preparing for your new position with GTA?
Currently I am continuously prepping our production of 9 to 5 for the Fall. It is a massive show that is going to take the entire team working in collaboration to bring this to life. I also am working on the foundation of each class I will be teaching with a focus on how to create the greatest learning outcome for each individual artist.
What is your theory of teaching and theatre education?
My main goal as an artist and teacher is to enlighten young minds. I want to prepare students for every possible opportunity. As a professional, I believe that integrating theory and practice in the classroom, as well as on stage, is very important to succeed as a professional artist. I want to help each student develop their confidence, both intellectually and ethically, to develop talents and abilities to achieve their goals. Exploring many different styles and techniques helps prepare the artist for the multitudes of various art forms they will eventually encounter.
I believe that it is important to build a foundation of trust with a consent-based practice revolving around a praise-correct-praise methodology. The professional world is not easy so we must build the confidence necessary now with rigorous training so that our students can succeed in the competitive professional market. I also believe in building the professional work ethic from day one with our students. In my eyes, the academic world we live in must be the road leading to professional success. That success is different for every individual artist and bringing that professionalism into our studio work and productions will set our graduates up for a lifetime of growth no matter what path they choose.
What message would you like to share with Gainesville Theatre Alliance students?
I just want to say Thank You for welcoming me with open arms into this community. I am here for YOU and I will do everything in my power to support your journey as a young artist. My only success is when you find success.