Fran Charnas

Professor of Theater
Affiliated Departments

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For my students, learning how to find one’s personal truth and individual voice with all its colors, quirks, and passions while developing the skills, flexibility, and versatility asked of today’s performing artist, creates a sense of independence, confidence, and belief in one’s own potential.

Fran Charnas joined the Conservatory in 1980 and is a professor of theater. She teaches Sophomore Musical Theater, serves on the Graduate Capstone Thesis Committee, advises graduate projects, and curates and hosts a series of workshops called The Business of the Theater.

Charnas has worked professionally as a producer, director, choreographer, writer, and teacher. At the Conservatory, she has served in a variety of capacities including coordinator of the graduate musical theater thesis projects, director and advisor of M.F.A. capstone cabaret performances, and teacher of senior and graduate musical theater courses.

Charnas designed the musical theater course sequence for the Conservatory, directed and produced the original New York musical theater showcases, and continued as producer for the 2016 first-ever Conservatory webcase. She created a business-of-theater program for graduating seniors by tapping her extensive industry contacts to bring in prominent New York casting directors, agents, musical directors, and other professionals, along with successful working Conservatory alumni, for a series of workshops and panel discussions. Every autumn, Charnas produces a Conservatory theater alumni report.

Her award-winning musical The All Night Strut! has played at scores of venues from Boston to Los Angeles to Monte Carlo, has been performed with the Boston Pops and the Glenn Miller Orchestra, and was nationally broadcast on PBS. The All Night Strut! !, along with a reimagined version, The All Night Strut: A Jumpin’ Jivin’ Jam!, are represented by Musical Theatre International, where they enjoy numerous annual productions throughout North America. Charnas has completed a sequel, In the Groove, as well as A Kool Yule: The All Night Strut! Holiday Show, and is coauthor/director of Sheboppin', a coming-of-age 1960s musical that premiered at the Wilbur Theatre in Boston, where it became the third longest-running show in the theater’s history. She is currently at work on a new musical based on the life of the legendary singer and actress Ethel Waters.

Among her Conservatory credits, Charnas has conceived and directed Too Marvelous for Words: The Magic of Johnny Mercer and directed productions of Cabaret, A Chorus Line, West Side Story, and The Club, as well as creating 12 musicals/revues and assisting with 43 original new works in collaboration with her students.

Charnas earned her B.F.A. from Ohio University and her master's degree from Emerson College, with early training at the Cleveland Play House.

Professional Awards and Recognitions

For The All Night Strut! and The All Night Strut: A Jumpin’ Jivin’ Jam!:

  • Best Production—Musical Revue (Joseph Jefferson Awards)
  • Best Musical Direction (Los Angeles Drama Critics Awards)
  • One of the Five Most Significant Local Theater Events (the Detroit News)
  • Top Entertainment Event (the Cleveland Press)
  • Top Local Production, Critics’ Choice, and Readers’ Poll for Best Local Production (the Boston Globe)
  • Best Musical Revue (After Dark Awards, San Francisco)

Recent Engagements

For The All Night Strut!:

  • Meadow Brook Theatre, Michigan (April–May 2018)
  • Portland Stage Company, Maine (August–September 2017)
  • San Luis Obispo Repertory Theatre, California (August–September 2017)
  • Theatre in the Circle, Ohio (September 2017)
  • Oregon Cabaret Theatre, Oregon (April–June 2017)