For Family Weekend 2022, Muhlenberg’s Office of Student Transitions invited actor, singer and dancer Corbin Bleu to campus for a question-and-answer style talk. Bleu is best known for his role as Chad Danforth in Disney’s movie franchise: “High School Musical.” Bleu has also been on Broadway for his role as Lucentio/Bill Calhoun in the recent revival of “Kiss Me Kate.”
The talk was moderated by students, Dylan De Magistris ‘24 and Sarina Bell ‘24. The opening question asked Bleu to tell the audience about his journey as an actor. To this, Bleu discussed that he had begun working as an actor at only two years old, describing how he practically grew up in the business. De Magistris stated, “Corbin provided great insights about his career and the performing arts industries. Being a musician, I found his comments to be very impactful and inspiring as I desire to be in the music industry. I was also very lucky to receive some personal feedback from Corbin after the event since I was the moderator.”
“‘High School Musical’ was one of the first musicals I did as a kid and now I’m graduating with a theatre B.A.”– Sydney Holliday ‘23
Bleu detailed how his father was an actor as well, so he followed in his father’s footsteps. He also talked about growing up in an arts focused household, stating “Acting was always a passion.” This followed into the next question, which asked what his favorite form of art was—music, dance or acting. To the crowd’s surprise and interest, Bleu answered with “dance.” “Dance is always my first love. When I need to blow off steam, I will dance by myself. I don’t care. Still to this day, dance is king for me.”
The questions and talk shifted from Bleu providing insight about his own journey and passion, to advice for aspiring performing arts students. Bleu was asked what advice he would give to the students in the audience that are aspiring for positions in theater, film or dance. Bleu responded, “Your first part is getting the job. Do something different. You are competing against so many people doing the same thing. Don’t make the obvious choice. Little things, like dressing the part, make such a difference. After you get the job, be kind. Be respectful. Everyone—including you—is just trying to do their job. Have a good time. Everyone there wants you to succeed. People are behind you. People are rooting for you.”
There were a few questions centering around Bleu’s role in “High School Musical.” Bleu discussed how the entire experience of “High School Musical” was so rewarding at the time, but even more after the fact. He detailed how he was able to return to the original high school due to being on the current spin-off show, “High School Musical the Musical the Series,” and how gratifying his time on the show has been. “It’s so surreal,” described Bleu, as he later provided anecdotes to the audience about his time as Chad Danforth, including how his favorite songs to film and record were “I Don’t Dance” and “The Boys are Back.” Sydney Holliday ‘23 stated, “‘High School Musical’ was one of the first musicals I did as a kid and now I’m graduating with a theatre B.A. so it was really nice and a nice full circle thing.”
The audience was given the opportunity to submit questions, and some were asked during the Q&A. One anonymous audience member inquired what it means for Bleu to be a Black actor today. Bleu responded with gratitude to the person who asked, stating “Growing up, I did not see many people that looked like me. Real representation is extremely important. I’ve gone up for and played the token many times. Especially now, regarding the LGBTQ community, there are so many roles that try to fit their checkboxes in one character. I feel like we are finally at a place where that is finally starting to change. After one of my performances, where the entire cast was people-of-color, a girl came up to me, so happy and said, ‘I love my people.’ That captures it all for me. I’m happy to say that I am a working Black actor.”
“My favorite part about the conversation was listening to what it’s like being in the theatre and production business while also being a person of color.”– Britney Jara ‘23
“My favorite part about the conversation was listening to what it’s like being in the theatre and production business while also being a person of color. As someone who’s in the same position, I’ve always struggled finding my place and listening to someone else talk about the impact they’ve made and the inspiration they’ve become to other people of color,” stated Britney Jara ‘23.
The audience was engaged and lively throughout the talk, applauding and reacting warmly to what Bleu was saying. Audience member Victoria Brady ‘25 stated, “Even though I am not a theatre major, Corbin [Bleu] still left advice that is valuable for everyone, to be kind. Respect each other and represent each other. Be yourselves because that is the best version of you you can be.” Whether a hardcore fan of Bleu’s work or just a casual attendee, those at the event seemed engaged and enlightened by the event.
Eva Vaquera ‘23 discussed, “I honestly wasn’t a big “High School Musical” fan growing up. It wasn’t ‘til quarantine that I actually sat down and watched all three movies. So, I came to the event not knowing a lot. I am glad to say that I genuinely enjoyed the event. Corbin [Bleu] was such an engaging speaker, filled with insight. I’m definitely a fan now.”