Actor Jason Gotay ’11 Returns to MMC to Teach New Musicals in Process Class
Since he graduated from MMC in 2011, actor Jason Gotay has led an impressive career, starring in projects such as Bring It On: The Musical, Max’s Gossip Girl reboot, and his autobiographical Off-Broadway show, Where You’ll Find Me. But this semester, the Brooklyn native is embracing a different kind of role: Gotay is teaching a new theatre class at the College, titled New Musicals in Process, that walks students through the development and performance of original material. We caught up with him to talk about the course and his upcoming projects.
Tell us about your new role as instructor. What brings you to the classroom?
I’ve been pursuing my acting career since I graduated, and it has been amazing and busy—I’ve been very fortunate. But arts education has always been a huge passion of mine as well. It’s something I’ve done for a long time and want to continue cultivating because I love working with young people. In 2012, when I closed my first Broadway show, Bring It On: The Musical, I went back home and taught some workshops and master classes at my local community theater in Brooklyn. Later, I started a theater company with my best friend that offered similar classes and workshops, and I was also being asked to teach master classes across the country.
I first came back to MMC during the pandemic, to teach a master class to rising seniors over Zoom. After that, I was asked to teach two more master classes last semester. Then, the College came to me and said they wanted to create a Theatre course that’s all about developing new work, which I’ve spent most of my career doing. I thought it was an amazing idea. It has felt very full circle coming home to MMC and giving back to the program that gave me my start.
Where does that passion and joy for teaching come from?
Giving back and sharing your experience is an important part of being an artist in our field. So many people pave the way for you as an actor. So many people open doors for you. I would not have the career that I have if people hadn’t done that for me. And so, I get immense fulfillment from passing that on to the next generation—it fills my soul to be able to help the next wave of theatermakers come into their own. Also, selfishly, I find that being in the classroom—articulating technique and returning to the building blocks of our process as actors—helps me grow as an artist and sharpens my skills.
There’s so much to be learned from young people, especially coming out of the pandemic and Black Lives Matter. They’re at the forefront of these conversations about inclusion, diversity, and equity, and I am bowled over by their insight and how savvy they are in articulating where the industry should be going and the changes they want to see in the business and in the world.
What was your own experience at MMC like as a student?
I owe so much to my training at MMC. I was a BFA Acting major with a minor in Musical Theatre. Between the Musical Theatre faculty, the Acting faculty, and our guest teachers and directors, I got to work with so many incredible artists, all of whom had a different approach to their craft. It exposed me to a wide variety of creative perspectives, which has helped me to be flexible and malleable as an actor.
What can we expect to see from your New Musicals in Process class?
The name of the piece we’re workshopping is Tomorrow the Island Dies. It’s a beautiful, dark, and exciting new piece. We’ll be presenting it in November, with three performances at a studio in midtown and one on campus, so the MMC community should definitely come check it out.
Are there any other upcoming projects you can share with us?
Next year, I’ll be doing an off-Broadway musical called Teeth. I’ve been developing it since 2017, and it will have its world premiere next spring at Playwrights Horizons. It’s this really wacky and thought-provoking piece that’s based on a cult horror film. It was written by my friends Anna Jacobs and Michael R. Jackson (writer of A Strange Loop) and is being directed by Sarah Benson. I actually brought the show’s creators to our class for a Q&A, where students got to ask questions about what it means to take a new show from page to stage. I’ll begin rehearsals in January, and I’m so excited about it—it’s a bold, daring, exciting new work that I think the MMC community would appreciate.
Is there any advice you can share with students?
Yes, there are two pieces of advice that I always offer, and I really do believe in them wholeheartedly. When I was starting out, there were certain boxes in musical theatre that I felt I had to fit into to succeed. But today, as an industry, we’re much more interested in exploring a range of people, personalities, and identities. And so I encourage students to harness their own authenticity and find material that speaks to that and allows them to shine. People are more interested in the essence of an artist and less in how they fit into any mold.
The second is about taking advantage of any opportunity to learn and grow. I worked my butt off at school. I entered MMC as a transfer student and tried to take advantage of everything the College had to offer. I was involved in the Musical Theatre Association, I took a directing class, I auditioned kids and put together a cabaret, I got my equity card working in a professional theater over the summer. I was nonstop. I had an insatiable hunger, and that’s what this requires. The resources and opportunities are there if you want to learn. So always be on the lookout for those—they will ultimately be your path to success.