N. Caldwell Student's Journey to the Crescendo

West Essex rising-sophomore details first weeks of Paper Mill Conservatory.

Editor's note: Marisa Malanga is a North Caldwell resident who will be a sophomore at West Essex Regional High School. She is participating in the Paper Mill Playhouse's Summer Musical Theatre Conservatory at Montclair State University. The five-week program culminates with the New Voices: Pure Imagination Concert on July 30 and 31 at the Paper Mill Playhouse.

Here's the first in a series of Malanga's experience at the conservatory:

This summer I am blessed to be a part of the Paper Mill Playhouse's Summer Musical Theatre Conservatory at Montclair State University.

The conservatory is an intense five-week summer program. Students in the conservatory spend this time auditioning, taking acting, dancing, monologue and musical theater classes. Students also take part in master classes, including Callback Advantage, Rock the Audition and Improvisation. These classes are taught by skilled teachers from throughout the country.

The program prepares the students and leads up to the New Voices: Pure Imagination Concert.

The First Week 

The first week of the conservatory was packed with auditions and the beginning of work in all classes. On Monday and Tuesday, all of the Senior Division students auditioned for the five directors of the New Voices concert, followed by dance auditions on Wednesday.

Callbacks were done on Thursday before the seniors had a course on Friday with Sheri Sanders for Rock the Audition where we learned how to properly audition for a rock musical. 

All the classes have been efficient with no time wasted. In Musical Theatre class, the students who wanted to work on their audition pieces, sang them in front of the class and for our teacher, Sara Lazarus. She tremendously helps you tell a story and travel on a journey through your songs while helping you better understand them.

In dance class, we developed character building while walking across the floor, stretching, turning and learning our dance audition combination in class on Wednesday.

For acting class, we were assigned to bring in our favorite childhood toy and we had to become those toys in class through a series of exercises.

Lastly, in Monologues class, we began to interpret our monologues and determine our objective.

We had fun in each class, but worked hard—like having your cake and eating it, too! 

The Second Week 

The second week of the conservatory was even more intense than the first. In Musical Theatre class, the seniors had to prepare two contrasting songs. We worked on them with our teacher and the rest of the class.

In dance class, we worked on the audition combination a little more, and other combinations, such as a polka dance, which was extremely fun!

In acting class, the students worked on a scene from the movie "Enchanted." Each couple performed the scene with John Housely, our acting teacher who coached each of couple, while the rest of the class observed their work.

In Monologues class, we began performing our monologues, which our teacher coached us through.

Lastly, my skills class was Callback Advantage, where my class and I were instructed what to do in a musical theatre audition, an audition for screen work and a dance audition. At the end of the day, all of the seniors had a rehearsal where we learned songs from the New Voices Concert and the cast list was given out on Friday for the order and parts of the concert.

Observing other students' work in the classes, and doing the work yourself, has given us, the students, the best of both worlds!


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