Rutgers High School Musical Theater Academy Classes Return Next Month; Register Today!

"The second I stepped foot into the Rutgers High School Musical Theater Academy last year, I knew it was going to change my life," says Steffi Heim, a South Plainfield High School sophomore.

Heim was one of 20 students selected to participate in the inaugural year of the Mason Gross Extension Division's Rutgers High School Musical Theater Academy. The academy, which launched in fall 2013, aims to provide talented high school students from the tristate area with the skills necessary to excel in the professional world of musical theater. Director Alistair Williams, a team of conservatory-trained instructors, as well as several New York City theater professionals, lead the program, in which students undergo rigorous training in dance, voice, acting, and stage performance.

"You feel safe and free to express yourself as much as possible, and you improve so much," Heim says. "I was so surprised about how much I didn't know."

At the end of the semester, students perform in an original showcase and received feedback from casting directors Scott Wojcik and Michael Cassara, as well as talent agent Eddie Rabon.

"Before parents spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on collegiate musical theater training, we encourage them to invest in this experience first. We redirect the student's focus from desiring Broadway stardom, to skill development and process oriented work", explains Alistair Williams, director of the Rutgers High School Musical Theater Academy.

"Alistair is wonderful. He's very tough on us at times, but we need our teachers to be tough on us if we want to succeed in this industry. I never doubt his love for his students. He taught me so much, not only about performing, but about life as well", says Margaret DeLucia, rising junior and returning RHSMTA.

Kylie Craft, another returning RHSMTA student, hopes that incoming students leave behind their high school mindset before arriving in the fall. "[We've learned] what real musical theater is, and [it's different from the experiences] back at our high schools. [You have to love] the artistry behind it; not just the spotlight and the attention the industry brings. I hope [the new students] learn what it is to be an artist and not just a performer. I hope they learn the importance of the process in all stages".

In addition to the process-oriented work at the academy, students forge strong friendships.

"What made me the happiest during this experience was that I was with people who understood and loved me," Heim says. "I gained alliances with the most amazing individuals."

The Rutgers High School Musical Theater Academy begins classes again in September. This semester they plan a performance at 54 Below in New York City.

Auditions are scheduled for Saturday, September 13th from 10 am to 2 pm. Click here to register!

Heim's advice to new students: "Work as hard as you can, and be grateful that you've made it this far. Several kids around you would kill to be in this life- changing experience.

"If you don't work, it shows," she adds. "Be prepared for tears, exhaustion, and a new set of eyes on life."

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