Nathan Brewer Makes It Work
Nathan Brewer’s passion for the theatre is contagious. Ask him about a Broadway show or a local children’s summer theatre production, and he’ll share his thoughts on the cast, the music and every critical detail about the staging with equal enthusiasm.
Perhaps it’s in his blood. His father, who served for 20 years as the pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Zelienople, Pa., earned a master’s degree in music before attending seminary and wrote musicals for church camps for 40 years.
Recalling his first experience directing when he was in the seventh grade, Brewer says, “St. Paul’s had a stage they never used. I asked my father if I could direct a play and he said yes, with supervision. I directed a children’s Christmas pageant and it was a success, and I just continued directing plays. The group became the Christian Youth Productions with about 150 members, and they continue to perform at the church and in the community.”
Recognizing his talent, his high school music teacher suggested that he enroll in Westminster’s Summer Vocal Institute, which he loved and inspired him to enroll as a music education major in 1999.
“I really wanted to direct musicals, but I didn’t know the path to get there,” he says. But he bristled at the administrative side of teaching. “I really loved the school, but I couldn’t see myself in a public school setting forever,” he says. As he was preparing to transfer, the Westminster Players, a student theatre organization, asked him to direct Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
“I loved doing i so much and I was good at it,” he recalls. “So I switched to the Bachelor of Arts in Music program and decided to stay.” (Westminster didn’t offer a musical theatre program at that point.)
He quickly carved out a niche for himself, establishing The Actors Company, a theat class at Westminster Conservatory, Westminster’s community music school, and leading summer theatre summer camps for middle and high school students. After graduating in 2003, he continued with those programs, and 17 years later those programs continue to be a huge success for the Conservatory.
“Nathan Brewer encourages and demands: exactly what budding actors need in order to have success in their local school theat programs during the school year,” one parent wrote about his Conservatory summer camp. “My son has thrived under Nathan’s tutelage for six consecutive summers, and he looks forward to his last summer at Westminster before attending Ithaca College for usical heatre.”
Based on his success with these programs, he was accepted into Penn State’s prestigious MFA program in directing, which only accepts two students every other year.
Since then, his career has continued to blossom. Building on his summer camp experience, he established Rex Arts, which offers programs in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York through a town’s recreation department and has received rave reviews.
One mother wrote, “After attending one of Nathan’s usical heatre programs at the age of five, my daughter’s interest for the stage grew into a passion. These arts programs have been the highlight of my daughter’s summers for the past five years. The final performance is always a treat for the parents!”
He’s also had plenty of experience on the directing side, most recently serving as assistant director for productions of Aladdin in Seattle, Toronto and on Broadway, as well directing Piaf: A Centennial Celebration at New York’s Town Hall and the national tour of Seussical The Musical.
He’s also in demand as a director and producer of large special events, such as the Lincoln Center Education Gala, the Washington National Opera Gala and the Standing Ovation Awards at the Kennedy Center.
He’s also on the faculty at New York University’s Tisch School for the Arts and New York Film Academy. This past spring he taught The Singing Actor class at Westminster Choir College and directed Westminster’s productions of Die Fledermaus and Zmire et Azor. This fall, he’ll direct Rider University’s production of Oklahoma.
Reflecting on his journey in the theatre, he says, “I tell my students that you’re only going to get what you give – from any school, program, class, production. If you wait for someone to roll out the red carpet, you’re going to be waiting forever. I came to Westminster and I loved the school, but I didn’t know why it was right for me. So I found a way to make it work for me. Later, if I found something that didn’t work for me, I found a way to fix it and make it better.”
Quoting Project Runway’s iconic Tim Gunn, with whom he’s collaborated on several projects, he concludes, “Make it work.”
Learn more about Nathan Brewer at nathanbrewer.net/