PHS students learn from 'Hamilton' star

Brady Oltmans photo

PINEDALE – Even a small audience of adults snuck through the halls of Pinedale High School and behind the curtained stage for a glimpse at Broadway stardom.

Theater star Thayne Jasperson, known for his roles in plays like Newsies and mega-phenomenon Hamilton, came to Sublette County to teach theater workshops in Pinedale and Big Piney throughout most of the week.

Among the multiple workshops he hosted was one with Gregory Allen’s high school choir class on Tuesday morning. Students read clips from Hamilton’s script accompanied by their classmates' beat-boxing and rhythms. At one point Jasperson brought volunteers into the middle of the area backstage to encourage each other in a capella renditions of different Hamilton songs.

Students grew more enthusiastic throughout the workshop as Jasperson’s energy and appreciation for the craft grew contagious. Math teacher Camille Dudrey was among the adults gathered to watch. She volunteered for one of the a capella recitations and read through a verse of the hit Hamilton song “My Shot” before leaning into the chorus, bringing the students around to excitedly join in.

About half of those in attendance later admitted to knowing the musical’s soundtrack to varying degrees. Regardless of their exposure to Jasperson’s work or the greater musical genre, there was an undoubted acknowledgement for how unique it was to have a cast member from a record-shattering Broadway musical come to Pinedale.

“We live in the middle of nowhere so having someone that cool come to a place like this is pretty damn cool,” junior Rachel Essington said.

The backstage area was cleared of furniture and the piano sitting in the spotlight for the final section of the workshop, where Jasperson taught students choreography to “My Shot.” He had students switch positions and move throughout to get as many involved as possible.

“He moved like he had no bones in his body,” Mr. Allen said. “I was like, ‘How are you doing that, sir?’”

Some of the most excited students during the workshop leaped with confidence after hitting their marks. Each repetition brought confidence and muscle memory to achieve it again until they finally danced accompanied by the soundtrack playing on speakers.

A day later and with the novelty settled in, students said they found Jasperson’s late arrival to theater encouraging. The Broadway star said he started when he was 21, giving Wrangler students hope that it wasn’t left to only child prodigies.

Allen nodded at some of the boys gathered for class when he said it was good to see a Broadway star tell students men could dance too without sacrificing masculinity.

Students and faculty both thanked the Pinedale Fine Arts Council for helping bring Jasperson to the county for the workshops.

All of them understood opportunities like that don’t come to a town the size of Pinedale often. And they were not going to throw away their shot.

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