Broadway veteran Jill Nicklaus recently got back in touch with the Justice for Jeff blog as she further processed what happened to Jeff Loeffelholz after his final, harrowing rehearsal with Chicago director Walter Bobbie and musical director Leslie Stifelman.
She also reconciled what happened to Loeffelholz with her own experiences as a Roxie Hart standby in Chicago and detailed how she had been treated by Stifelman as well in a previous post.
Thankfully, Nicklaus found the strength to walk out the stage door at the Ambassador Theater on 49th Street and has never looked back.
She says that as the dust of closure is trying to settle for her, she finds herself thinking of how easily one individual could confuse, hurt, and destroy the spirit of an actor.
“I now try to share and teach with positive realism. Hopefully, there will be a change. Teachers and creative leaders now know that they must be mindful and kind.”
“How did I not see the venue, the hole in my maturity or the crack in my wall of self care?” she ponders, adding that as young artists learning, falling, and getting back up again, “our teachers were often tough and seemed cruel during the growing process. Later, we somehow conclude that our greatness was due to them utilizing this dated teaching tool to better our craft.”
Nicklaus said that hopefully, in most cases this was done with the fuel of love and genuine desire for bettering the performer. “We learn to trust moments of pain or hurt feelings here and there because it feels reminiscent of tough love,” she said. “We ‘take the note!’ That is what professionals do.”
While often the sting of such moments of “tough love” can often be a platform that can lift the performer up, to rise to new heights. “But not in this case,” she said. “I realized that artistic bullies use this venue to slowly chip away confidence and rape through the door sweet souls leave ajar for growth and human connectedness.”
Nicklaus said that in the past, this technique was deflating and often paralyzing, “but I now try to share and teach with positive realism. Hopefully, there will be a change. Teachers and creative leaders now know that they must be mindful and kind.”
“There is a new style in town. Everybody is doing it!”
Now Nicklaus is a teaching artist for the BENJAMIN SCHOOL and Artstage in Palm Beach, Fla. “I just love working with young actors!” she says. “they get so excited to move! I help them to find and embody their physicality. So many young actors are stiff and don’t comprehend how movement informs their character work. I just finished finding Elvis in a boy who was doing Conrad Birdie. It was so exciting to see a non-dancer actually transform! I swear, ‘Elvis returned to the building!’”
They have truly put kindness, discipline, and inspiration into the pot of learning. It really takes a village to be successful on Broadway.”
She adds that she also teaches young dancers to sing and brags on her tiniest tots who are wailing Broadway show tunes and even hitting the high notes in “Let it Go” from Frozen.
Nicklaus credits her own work with Craig Carnelia in his acting performance class many years ago as helping her with her new generation of students. “It is truly amazing the power for healing and growth that studying music has,” she says. “I had so many great coaches – David Brunetti, Finis Jhung, Thomas Jones, Jacques d’Amboise. They have truly put kindness, discipline, and inspiration into the pot of learning. It really takes a village to be successful on Broadway.”
She adds that she still has that village, but it’s a combination the teachers she’s had throughout her career as well as her professional experiences that she now gets to share. “It is a true joy!”
Justice for Jeff thanks Jill Nicklaus for telling her story and hopes that her bravery will be inspire others to step forward, tell their stories, and make sure that the theater can be a safe place for everyone … on both sides of the curtain. We are thrilled
[Photos courtesy of Jill Nicklaus.]