Since graduating from UC’s College Conservatory of Music, Katie Johannigman (BFA Musical Theatre, 2012) has worked in New York and started a non-profit, after-school musical theatre training program in Connecticut. She returns to her alma mater to share some tricks of the trade with current students and choreograph They Were You: The Songs of Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, a new musical revue that runs Wednesday, Oct. 5-Sunday, Oct. 9 in CCM’s Cohen Family Studio Theater.
CCM graduate student Alexandra Doyle got in touch with Johannigman to talk about how it feels to return to CCM and her experience working on They Were You.
What’s it like to come back to CCM as a teacher after having spent so much of your educational experience here as a CCM Preparatory student and then as an undergraduate?
It is so wonderful to come home to CCM, where I first started coming when I was 9 months old and my sister was taking ballet classes. It’s fun to reminisce about all of the exceptional training I had from fabulous CCM Prep teachers over my years here, starting when I was three with Jonnie Lynn Jacobs-Percer in the ballet department and continuing on to Dee Anne Bryll and Ed Cohen in the theatre department. I feel so lucky that my parents knew to send me to CCM Prep, and that I then moved on to such an outstanding college program in my own backyard — with so many fantastic professors from whom I learned so much. I also feel lucky to have the chance to pass on to the students what I learned both from going to school at CCM and from having spent a long time working in the business in New York.
When you were in school here, what did you gain from your experiences working with visiting professionals?
I think it was one of the most important parts of my training at CCM, because they kept us up-to-date with the trends in the business. Aubrey Berg and the rest of the faculty supplied us with strong acting, singing and dance training, and guest teachers taught us how that training is relevant and can be applied in New York today. I hope to do the same for these students.
What do you hope to pass along to the students who are currently in the same position that you were in not so long ago?
I hope to teach them that there is not one single definition of success in this business. We get really caught up while in school and are sometimes led to believe that you’re not successful unless you’re working on Broadway, but I have learned in the past four years that that is not true at all. There are so many ways to be successful in the arts, to use your training, to make an impact in the lives of others through the arts and to be a happy, healthy person working in the arts. I have participated in the arts in many ways in the past four years by performing professionally, choreographing shows and, most satisfyingly, helping to start a non-profit, after-school musical theatre training program with my fellow alumnus Connor Deane in Connecticut called Broadway Method Academy, where I am the artistic director. I wouldn’t have been able to do these things without my CCM training and connections.
What’s it been like to choreograph a new work? Have you felt more pressure to create a refined product that will set the show up for success and future productions, or do you feel freer because the audience doesn’t have any preconceived notions about how the show will look?
It has been both challenging and liberating. We are working with material that is mostly unknown, so people have no idea what they are about to see. It’s been very exciting and freeing to work collaboratively with Aubrey Berg, Steve Goers and the cast to decide what we want this show to be, since it can be anything we want it to be. Focusing on the process and not final product is something that I find very exciting. We have an unbelievably talented cast, so I know the audience will love it. We will see what Tom Jones thinks!
Are you borrowing choreography or dance styles from shows by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt or other cabaret-style works? What influenced you while you were creating this piece?
I have made sure not to watch any videos from Jones and Schmidt productions so that our staging and choreography can be completely original. We are using some standard conventions of revue-style works, such as the use of props to illustrate different scenes and styles. What really influenced me was Aubrey’s clever, smart and creative way of linking these vastly different songs together to make a show that reflects the human experience. I tried to focus on the lyrics, texts, themes and telling of stories in order to bring all these gorgeous songs to life. It has been so fun to work collaboratively alongside a professor whom I look up to and admire so much. Aubrey is really pushing and challenging me to become a better choreographer, so I am grateful and honored for this opportunity to come home to CCM. There is still so much learning to do inside this building!
Devised and directed by Aubrey Berg, the Patricia A. Corbett Distinguished Chair of Musical Theatre, They Were You runs Oct. 5-9 in CCM’s Cohen Family Studio Theater. It features songs from some of Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt’s most beloved musicals including The Fantasticks, Celebration and 110 in the Shade, with musical arrangements by CCM faculty member Stephen Goers.
Admission to They Were You is free, but tickets are required. CCM’s Studio Series productions often sell out quickly, so visit our guide to Studio Series tickets for tips on how to secure your seats.
THEY WERE YOU: The Songs of Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt
Lyrics by Tom Jones
Music by Harvey Schmidt
Aubrey Berg, director
Stephen Goers, musical director
Katie Johannigman, choreographer
- 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 5
- 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6
- 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7
- 2 & 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8
- 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 9
Cohen Family Studio Theater, CCM Village
University of Cincinnati
Admission is free. Reservations are required. Tickets are now available. Please visit the CCM Box Office or call 513-556-4183 to reserve. Limit two tickets per order.
Parking and Directions
Parking is available in the CCM Garage (located at the base of Corry Boulevard off Jefferson Avenue) and additional garages throughout the UC campus. Please visit uc.edu/parking for information on parking rates.
For detailed maps and directions, please visit uc.edu/visitors. Additional parking is available off-campus at the U Square complex on Calhoun Street and other neighboring lots.
For directions to CCM Village, visit ccm.uc.edu/about/directions.
CCM Season Presenting Sponsor & Musical Theatre Program Sponsor: The Otto M. Budig Family Foundation
Story by Alexandra Doyle