The Professor Is In: JV Mercanti
Associate Director of Musical Theater JV Mercanti sits down with Opportunitas to talk personal teaching strategies, Pace Performing Arts, the Britney Spears jukebox musical, and his dream dinner party.
Is there anything you’re working on that you’re particularly excited about?
I’m about to start rehearsal for a Broadway-bound musical called Once Upon a One More Time—it’s the Britney Spears jukebox musical. I directed the first reading of it about two years ago. Now I'm serving as the associate director. We’re doing another workshop of it this month, and then an out of town tryout in Chicago in the spring. It’s scheduled to open on Broadway next summer.
What is your favorite thing about working at Pace, and with PPA students in particular?
I love how diverse our students are—I mean that every way—ethnicity, religion, gender, identity, culture, etc. They teach me every day how world works outside my own limited experience. I love how they bring that diversity to their interpretation of extent works, such as the plays we study in acting class, or the musical numbers they perform in their musical theatre classes. They’re not only diverse, they’re unique performing artists.
What’s something you previously didn’t know about yourself until you started teaching?
I didn’t know how patient I was until I started teaching. I have very little patience with myself in my own creative process, yet now when I teach students, I realize that I have to teach them to be patient with themselves because the answer doesn’t always come right away, or in a way you expected it to.
What is something you currently teach to your students, that you wish you knew when you were in their shoes?
To not take no for an answer. You have to keep pounding on doors. Just because one person isn’t a fan doesn’t mean the rest of the world isn’t a fan.
You’ve published a number of articles on Backstage, providing excellent insight on the musical theater and acting worlds. Do you have a process for creating and writing these articles?
A lot of those spring directly from questions that come up in class. That means there’s a larger audience, more people than just my students have those questions. A lot of people think this business is a mystery. I try to take that away, teach that it’s super practical, that people behind the table want you to get the job, and there are practical skills that you can use in order to get the job. I also like writing, so it’s a nice outlet for that too. I try to write the way I teach. I try to be super succinct and direct, and active and engaging. And it’s a nice challenge to do that in 750 words. It’s an honor to be included as a Backstage Expert.
You are hosting a dinner party for any four people, living or dead. Who would you invite?
Marilyn Monroe: She’s one of the most fascinating film actors of her (or any) generation.
Tennesee Williams: His use of language to define character is almost unparalleled.
Lillian Hellman: I love her work. The issues of class and gender that she wrote about 60 years ago are still timely.
My Grandmother: I think about and miss her every day and she would cook the dinner!
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