The bass of Jennifer Lopez’s “Dance Again” pulsates from a room to the right. Twenty steps ahead, the beat fades away, only to be replaced by a group of dancers discussing a certain combination. Around the corner, an unseen belter knocks out 16 bars of Jekyll and Hyde’s “Someone Like You” behind closed doors while a line of young performers wait on the other side, clutching books of their own. There are more waiting outside, the line wrapping around the block.
The halls of RWS Studios contain several different projects at any given time, bringing the never-sleeping energy of the theatre district to the otherwise more relaxed Long Island City, Queens. It’s a labyrinth of theatricality, and Ryan Stana is the maze keeper.
“I always know who’s involved in all those rooms,” Stana, CEO of the namesake RWS, says while sitting down in the space’s new film and TV casting studio. That alone is a feat, especially after RWS’ recent expansion, adding said casting studio and going from five to nine more rehearsal spaces at the start of the year. Administrative offices, conference rooms, designer workspaces and more are nearby. “I want this to be the hub of creativity, so we can create synergies together to create more entertainment.”
RWS Entertainment’s consolidated approach means savings, both for their own properties (consisting largely of cruise, resort, and theme park attractions) and producers renting space. Costs can lower between 15 and 20 percent, according to Stana, thanks to its ability to have under one roof a bank of creators and artistic leaders, including designers, dancers, and casting directors.
As part of the development of its theatrical department, RWS acquired Binder Casting in 2016. Just as the partnership promotes the synergy of the properties under the RWS umbrella, Stana finds that Binder’s presence “creates a trajectory for performers’ success.” While performers might come in to audition for a cruise line show, they’re also being seen for theme parks, resorts, or any of Binder’s accounts, including City Center Encores! or Broadway’s The Lion King.
During Playbill’s visit, a general call perused talent for Postmodern Jukebox on Deck (a cruise show inspired by the popular YouTube channel), though with four senior casting directors from Binder in the room, auditioners could be considered for a number of projects. Meanwhile, rehearsals for two ship productions were taking place in studios down the hall.
In Studio 1, Step One dance company walked through a hip-hop routine that would be featured in a new show that would tour various cruises lines. Next door in Studio 2, a company of dancers and singers showed up their moves and pipes, respectively, on the aforementioned J. Lo track, as part of the show 1000 Steps, featured on Holland America’s Zuiderdam cruise. Aerial and acrobatic apparatuses—unused for the moment—hung from the ceilings.
Both shows were developed by RWS Entertainment, though the rehearsal studios are often leased to others, such as the NETworks-produced tours of A Bronx Tale and The Sound of Music, corporate events, or celebrities looking to prepare for their latest gig outside the hustle of Times Square.
Moving forward, Stana hopes to develop the RWS brand beyond hospitality and attraction entertainment to included ticketed events and national tours of their own. Meanwhile, another 11,000-square-foot expansion will add an additional audition space, conference rooms, and administrative offices in the coming months, further increasing the one-stop shop’s inventory.
“We want producers and creatives to come together and know that we can help them in any way possible,” says Stana. “That synergy is what we create, and what’s the most exciting to us.”
Take a look at the expansive space in the gallery below.