NEW YORK — Job security on Broadway is tenuous in the best of times. Unless you’re a star, roles may be few and far between. So most performers look for a fallback job to pay the rent between theater gigs.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the best of times became the worst of times. According to The New Yorker magazine, the Actors Fund — which provides financial assistance and other emergency services to members of the entertainment community — received 15,000 requests for aid in the first three months after Broadway shut down in March.
Those who already had an off-Broadway job were the fortunate ones. They could shift to it full time. But for others, it was a scramble to hook up with a paying enterprise.
Henderson’s Kelsey Aycock has been on the New York scene for a couple of years. She’s had some success but no big breakthrough. She had a role in a film called “The Photograph” and was a principal stand-in in an NBC production.
Non-performing jobs have included stints as a production assistant and a performance apprentice, both valuable learning experiences.
During the summer of 2019, she spent her summer “vacation” as a dancer in “The Lost Colony” in Manteo, North Carolina, where she also played the lead in the family musical, “Wanda’s Monster.”
But even opportunities such as these faded when the pandemic closed
Broadway down. Aycock looked in other directions to find opportunities to use her varied talents. At her alma mater, Western Carolina University, she had earned bachelor’s degrees in both Musical Theatre and Spanish. Sharing her experience and expertise was a logical direction to move.
Aycock signed onto Outschool, a platform where teachers conduct live online classes. The website claims that Outschool connects more than 30,000 students with some 1,000 teachers in the United States and 35 other countries.
Since September, “It’s been my full time job,” Aycock said.
Through Outschool, she offers courses in dance and acting to students ages 4 through 18. From “Creative Movement — An Intro to Theatre Dance!” to “Musical Theatre Dance Bootcamp for Teens,” she guides her students through the intricacies of jazz and theater dance.
Acting students of different ages can enroll in a Drama Club and participate in theatre games and work on playing scenes.
Schedules are flexible. Some classes meet once a week for eight or 12 weeks. Some (such as “Frosty’s Holiday Dance Party”) are one-shot deals.
She also offers a weekly adult class via Zoom, not on the Outschool platform which is for 3-18 year olds.
Aycock brings solid credentials to the job. She began singing at an early age in the Children’s Choir at First United Methodist Church in Henderson. During her tween and teen years, she trained with the N.C. Theatre Conservatory, working toward becoming a professional actor and dancer.
She gained valuable experience by participating in Henderson Rec Players productions every summer.
After graduating from Kerr-Vance Academy, Aycock studied at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City before completing her formal education at Western Carolina University.
This background provides the foundation for her online teaching.
Acock said she enjoys the opportunity to share her knowledge with others. Online teaching has some distinct advantages, she said. “You don’t have to go anywhere, and you can do it anywhere in the world.” So she is pursuing it as a career.
But what if an opportunity opens up on Broadway?
Her answer is to the point: “I will be there.”