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Behind the Curtain: Striving Toward Perfection

It was the final week of classes as the work got more intensive.

This week at the Paper Mill Musical Theater Conservatory was a busy one for the senior company. In addition to it being the final week for all of our classes, rehearsals for the New Voices concert became longer and more intensive with the performance in less than one week's time.

In Musical Theater we worked on performing duets and trios, which married the idea of a two-person scene to a musical performance. I teamed up with township resident Rebecca Van Voorhees to perform "I Think I Got You Beat" from "Shrek The Musical."

At the end of the week, the entire senior company gathered in the auditorium for a one-hour showcase featuring some of the best performances of the summer from Musical Theater class and Monologues class. It was great to see performances from students I hadn't seen perform since the initial auditions. The showcase reminded me of the immense talent of the entire company.

In our final week of dance class, we worked on a fun salsa dance and spent time cleaning full company numbers for New Voices

We explored a scene from "Twilight" in our acting class this week. Before diving into the scenes (in which Bella learns Edward can read minds), we explored the physical and behavioral differences between vampires and regular teenagers.

I think every student in the senior company would agree the final day of acting was the most emotional hour of the summer so far. We went back to assume the characters of our childhood toys we worked with in the first week and used the lyrics of "Pure Imagination," our closing number for the concert, to convince our future selves departing for college to pick us up off the shelves and take us with them.

My Skill Session class for this week was called "Callback Advantage." During the first two days, conservatory accompanist and professional music director W. Brent Sawyer gave us valuable tips for auditions and callbacks. Who knew accompanists prefer playing music on off-white cardstock?

In the final two days, teacher and former talent agent Jenny Carbone gave us a scene to perform in front of a camera. She gave us tips for auditioning in front of a camera, which is actually very different from a stage audition.

Now that all of the classes have ended, I can already see a vast improvement in my performance skills and confidence in front of an audience.

During the auditions in the first week and in countless occasions in class, I've had to perform in front of many people (sometimes 10, sometimes 80). A lot of my initial nerves when performing in front of an audience are gone, which is definitely something I will take with me to my future performances and auditions.

Before the conservatory, dance was always an area that I was weaker in and was not always excited about. But after taking classes in dance each day, I've seen so much improvement. I no longer feel like I have two left feet! I've also developed a strong liking for dance, which will make my future shows a lot more enjoyable.

Through this entire process, we've all made so many friends, who share the same interests. In fact, in our downtime during rehearsals we have a lot of time to bond with each other, which, being young performers, usually involves playing improvisational games.

My section for the concert, "The American Dream," directed by Sara Lazarus, is the largest section in the concert, featuring 29 seniors (40 percent of the senior company). We have finished blocking and choreographing all of our numbers. The next week will be spent intensely cleaning each number: making sure all character intentions are known and expressed, making sure nobody makes a wrong step or sings a wrong note or lyric and compiling the right costumes, props, and set equipment to make "the American dream" a phenomenal experience for the audience.

On Friday we paid special attention to the full company numbers, directed by Paper Mill Producing Artistic Director Mark Hoebee. The Act One Finale, celebrating the musicals inspired by the Wizard of Oz, is incredibly dance-intensive and a lot of fun while the opening number is extremely intricate and complicated. So far, the full company numbers are looking and sounding terrific, but even more progress will be made next week.

Next week, the last week for the Paper Mill Conservatory, will be a very long and tiring one. However, it looks like it will be a week I will never forget. Monday and Tuesday are our final days at Montclair State University. We will move our rehearsals to the Paper Mill stage on Wednesday. While I'll miss rehearsing at the university, the move to Millburn is especially exciting for me considering I've grown up in this town and gone to the Paper Mill hundreds of times for performances, voice lessons and Theater School classes. However, I have never performed on the Paper Mill stage, which will without a doubt be the biggest stage I've performed on in my entire life.

It's the same stage huge stars like Anne Hathaway, Nick Jonas, Bernadette Peters, Alice Ripley and Kristen Chenoweth have once performed on.

We also have complete access to the Paper Mill professional dressing rooms and stage management crew as we're treated like professional performers in the cast of any of Paper Mill's seasonal musicals.

I'm also very excited to introduce my new friends in the company to the town of Millburn.

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