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Students Learn to Express Themselves

Passion and energy vital for performers as Paper Mill concert approaches.

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

Every teacher in the conservatory wants the student to tell a story whether it be through song, dance or acting scene.

If someone is auditioning for a show, that person must tell a story through a 16-bar song. This may be a short amount of time to tell a story, but it must be done.

In song, people must tell a story by "going on a journey," according to Sara Lazarus, the musical theatre teacher and one of the directors for the New Voices Concert.

In dance, one must show expression and personality while dancing because the moves alone can only take a dancer so far. And lastly, in acting, a person must have an objective in the scene. The journey to reach that objective is just as important as the objective itself.

In the third week of the conservatory, my master class was Rock the Audition, a class where students learn how to audition for pop, rock and R&B musicals.

The teacher of this amazing and energy-filled class is the brilliant Sheri Sanders. She gave each of the students a song to learn and we worked on them individually while the rest of the class observed.

Sanders' energy filled the auditorium each day. The most important information I learned was to feel your emotions in a song. Do not tell the emotions, but feel them in your body and soul. Rock is very different from the regular musical theatre. 

At the end of the day, students went into section rehearsals for the New Voices Concert. There are five sections. Seniors are distributed into three of the sections, the Juniors and Junior Plus have their own section and then there is the dance section.

My section leaders are John Housley, the acting teacher, and Michele Mossay, the dance teacher. The hard work accomplished in all of the sections pays off once we perform on the Paper Mill stage at the end of the month.

Lastly, a topic no one regularly talks about is lunch. During this time, students typically sit, eat and gossip with their friends, but lunch in the conservatory can be different. Students play their guitars and sing at lunch, making the experience more fun.

The one quality that I absolutely admire about the conservatory is the similarities students have with each other.

At school we are surrounded by many people who do not consider musical theatre to be challenging or hard work and who believe our profession is a joke. But at the conservatory, you are surrounded by people who share in your passion.

This makes the experience worthwhile!

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