Scholars, artists, curators, activists, local historians and members of the public will convene at Syracuse University Oct. 6-7 to discuss the rightful place of monuments in our society and the increasing complexity they represent today in terms of their cultural,…
Syracuse to ‘Shucked’: Newhouse Alumnus Makes People Laugh in Tony-Nominated Musical
VanAntwerp, a member of the show’s ensemble and understudy to two of the leads, and the rest of the cast performed at the Tony Awards on Sunday, June 11. “Shucked” was nominated in nine categories, including Best Musical, and castmate Alex Newell won the award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical.
“The best part is listening to 1,000 people laugh together,” VanAntwerp says. “I’ve done big comedies before and something about it now hits differently. In such a divided world, ‘Shucked’ gets people who come from all over the country.”
He began working on the show in 2022 while earning a master’s degree in television, radio and film (TRF) from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. VanAntwerp had already been acting for about 15 years, including the longest-running portrayal of the character Bob Gaudio in Tony Award-winning musical “Jersey Boys” and recurring roles on TV shows, including “The Affair” and the critically acclaimed “Better Call Saul.”
But in evaluating his career during the pandemic, VanAntwerp decided he was ready for something new. The TRF program offered an opportunity to sharpen his storytelling skills. A year later, he’s working a grueling eight shows a week in the Broadway hit, but had fun getting ready for the Tonys.
“All the lead up to the Tony Awards, doing promotion with other shows and rehearsing for our performance at the awards, is almost just as much fun as the event,” he says, “which are kind of the perks that nobody tells you about.”
01Can you describe what it’s been like working on “Shucked”?
I started working on “Shucked” about 18 months ago while I was at Syracuse in grad school. I would go away for about a month or six weeks at a time to work with the cast and create the show. It’s the first time I’ve ever had an opportunity to create a show from the beginning, and although it may not be as glamorous as or as well known as other shows I’ve worked on before, it’s been my favorite creative experience thusfar.
02What is the best part of your job?
The best part is listening to 1,000 people laugh together. I know that sounds like a basic answer, but I’ve done big comedies before and something about it now hits differently. In such a divided world, “Shucked” gets people who come from all over the country. Many come in hesitant, but by the end of the show, people leave with their chemistry changed and that’s something that I’m most proud of from what we do in the show.
03Do you have a preference for being on a film or television set versus being on a Broadway stage?
I have a lot more experience being on stage and it’s such a pleasure to perform on stage every day, but there’s something wonderfully unique about a film set. There’s a ton more pressure on set, a ton more payoff if it goes well and a lot more stakes if it doesn’t, too, because it’s forever. You can’t blow an entrance, or if you do bad work that day, you don’t get to do it again tomorrow.
And I think that’s one thing that’s beautiful about theater is that if you were at an incredible performance, that’s yours; the next day it won’t be the same. But there is something beautiful about making a film and having it be forever, feeling like you always have it, whereas with theater, it’s gone. It’s fleeting in the wind.
04How do you use your Newhouse education in your career?
Newhouse really helped me develop the skills to match this new ambition to be my own writer and storyteller, and in a supported and safe way. Everything I wrote and the short films I worked on really changed my mindset and confidence in myself. My time at Newhouse broadened my horizons in a way that I was yearning for when the pandemic hit, and it’s something for which I am incredibly grateful.
[The most valuable thing I learned from Newhouse] is that the most important part of storytelling is to tell it. Newhouse gave me a license to be ambitious and to know my own value that I could do something like that. I learned how beneficial it is to be surrounded by a community of storytellers that are empowering each other to go after their individual stories and interests.
05What current independent projects are you working on?
I’ve been producing this short that was written by a friend of mine from “Jersey Boys.” We had a bunch of recent TRF graduates on the project, so I’m excited to see the final edit.
I also have a bunch of scripts I wrote and was advised on by professors at Newhouse that I’m taking meetings for. Newhouse has such an amazing network! If you have a good idea that you think is good for HBO, there’s somebody at HBO who went to Newhouse that you could talk to and has the exact thing you’re looking for. The Newhouse family is everywhere.
Story by Alexandra Lobel, a senior in the television, radio and film program in the Newhouse School