Corbin Bleu visits UD campus, theatre students

Corbin Bleu

By: Erin Callahan – Chief A&E Writer

Let the speculation end here: Corbin Bleu was indeed on campus Feb. 2.

He visited the University of Dayton to talk to a group of students, mostly music and theater majors, about his experience in the world of performing and offered valuable advice for those pursuing their passion in the field.

In case anyone somehow missed all of your middle school years between 2006 and 2008, Bleu starred in the “High School Musical” movie trilogy on Disney Channel. More recently, Bleu reached the final round of Dancing with the Stars in 2013. He has been in Dayton for the past five weeks performing in “Family Shots” with The Human Race Theatre Company.

On New Year’s Eve, he crossed paths with Linda Hartley, professor and music education [program coordinator] while at a party with their mutual friends. As a mother of a 20-year-old daughter and an owner of three “High School Musical” DVDs, Hartley was thrilled to meet him. She knew of a few others that may be excited to meet him too, so she invited him to UD.

He happily agreed.

Much of our generation grew up with him during his Disney days, but Bleu has since made a name for himself with a career on Broadway and  the release of two albums. Hartley said his down-to-earth personality and the drive for his career could be very inspiring for the audience.

More than 70 students attended the question and answer session with Bleu at Fitz Hall. Bleu provided them with insight on the industry from his 23 years of experience in modeling, singing, dancing and acting for stage and film.

The best, and first, advice Bleu said he ever received came from his father, actor David Reivers, who told him the No. 1 rule for an actor: to listen. Listen to fellow actors on stage, listen to the director, listen to everything that comes at you – not just in the acting world, but also in life.

Students were given the opportunity to learn just by listening to the themes that resonated in Bleu’s responses throughout the session: to stand out in an audition, make a good first impression and make unique choices when reading the material; when struck with performance anxiety, know it’s not a hindrance – trust in your work; to transition between singing, dancing and acting for different platforms, bring something new and different to the table each time and take on as much as you can.

“[In life] we should be trying to take in everything and take on everything we can do, and it’s the same way you should be in your projects,” he said. “I know what I’m great at, but I’m always trying to build up everything else at the same time. It’s a juggling act.”

Among the multiple projects Bleu has been juggling in the recent months, he told the audience of one cause he’s especially passionate about – the movement against bullying.

Bleu said he was bullied in middle school and early high school, though he had a strong support system of family and friends he could lean on. However, he knows others may not be as fortunate.

“A lot of kids don’t have [a] support group or someone to even vent to about it,” he said. “And nowadays, because of social media, there are so many kids out there that get bullied and you don’t even know who the bully is, because everybody hides behind a computer screen.”

He has joined the movement with the “I Was Bullied” campaign to create a support system for other victims, and is also working on a film called “The Day I Died,” which he described as a very realistic and raw take on bullying in high schools. He said he hopes to show victims of bullying they are not alone.

Bleu’s words were well received by the audience. More than half the students lined up for the chance to meet him personally and ask questions after the session. One student, first-year theater and psychology double major Alexandra Damiani, was particularly moved by Bleu’s advice.

She has dreams of being on Broadway, she said, and she came all the way from Puerto Rico to start her life here and work her way to success. After having an especially stressful week, Damiani said Bleu gave her the motivation she needed.

“He was able to speak about his career with such [allure] even though he [had] struggles in the industry and things pushed him to his edge,” she said. “He inspired me to keep moving forward toward my dreams.”