There was only one thing Jessica Borenstein, a rising star, needed for her NYC debut: Her two front teeth. But that didn’t stop the pint-size performer from Livingston from shining on the stage of the Laurie Beechman Theatre as part of a summer showcase of talent presented by the Musical Theatre Conservatory.
Over the past three weeks, aspiring actors studied the craft of musical theatre with New York City talent, including Dwayne Clark (Spiderman, In the Heights) and Steven Beckler (The Producers, Beauty and the Beast); casting director Cindi Rush; and South Orange’s Mary Brienza (Comedy Central).
Randy Kravitz Elman of West Orange said the “students really get inspired by working up close with someone succeeding in the way they hope to some day.”
On Saturday, those dreams came true when the conservatory’s three-week intensive workshop culminated at NYC’s Laurie Beechman Theatre. Professional musicians – and Graham Cohen, a 13-year-old composition major at Julliard -- backed the cast. The South Orange student wrote all the arrangements that he played for violin, viola, piano, bass and oboe.
“Our goal is quality instruction in a positive, nurturing atmosphere,” said Brienza. “We have a faculty who are working artists as well as being highly skilled instructors.” The bonus, she added, is that all the various classes that a versatile performer needs -- voice, acting, dance, stage combat, comedy improvisation, TV commercial acting, make-up and audition techniques -- are all in one location.
That’s a big difference from when Brienza and Elman, the conservatory’s artistic directors, were young, aspiring performers. Learning from the best in the business meant riding a train into New York City, transferring to a subway, then walking some long city blocks to get to a dance studio or voice or acting coach. So when they launched Musical Theatre Conservatory they were determined to give students -- and their families -- the best of both worlds.
Elman served for 25 years as artistic director for Performers Theatre Workshop, a performing arts training program for young people. Brienza has held faculty positions at American Theatre Dance Workshop and Broadway Dance Center and is currently teaching at New York City’s High School for the Performing Arts.
“Our goal is to pass on the love of theatre in a supportive and nurturing environment,” Elman said.
On Saturday, they also provided a chance for their students to perform on New York’s theatre row, an exciting evening for the young actors, from the “rising star” with the missing teeth to the summer intensive students from a variety of the region’s middle schools and high schools. (See the actors in action in the photographs by Hal Stern).
Learn more about classes and enrollment @ MusicalTheatreConservatory.com; (973) 868-6259 or firstname.lastname@example.org