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Preparing to Take the Stage

A Westfield student talks about the process of going on stage.

Students at the Papermill Playhouse Summer Musical Theater Conservatory are doing what all musical theater performers aspire to do – be a part of the creation of a new musical.

 The 'new musical' is "New Voices 2010: Pure Imagination", which opened lastFriday at the Papermill Playhouse. The "New Voices" concert is a tradition at the Papermill Playhouse but every year, students are challenged by different material. This year's concert is focused on imagination. The production weaves together musical numbers and dance pieces inspired by creativity, fairytales, and dreams. Students will showcase material ranging from classics like "Cabaret" and "Finnian's Rainbow" to Broadway blockbusters like "The Wiz" and "Miss Saigon" to recent hits like "Shrek" and "Wicked". Though the material is certainly diverse, all of the musical numbers explore how theater, music, dance enchant us and transport us to magical places.

Though I may make it sound like nothing but fun, putting together the concert is a daunting task for the performers and directors alike. Directors are faced with the obstacle of staging musical numbers that can feature up to 120 young performers as well as stretching the students to new heights by treating us like true professionals. While the professionalism of the program is one of the most rewarding aspects of the concert and the program in general, it is something that challenges us students every single day. We are taught songs and are expected to know it by the next day.

We are taught choreography and are expected to polish it before it is seen on stage. It sounds basic but when you are learning a vast amount of material in just a couple of hours, it is everything but simple. To add to the confusion, choreography undergoes changes, songs are shortened, and costumes are being prepared. We rehearse for long hours with few breaks. There is simply not enough time. Essentially, we have just over a mere two weeks to put together a new musical.

Just when you think it gets easier, it doesn't. This week's challenge has been moving to the Papermill Playhouse. It is a completely different game now. Now, it is not about learning the vocals or reviewing choreography, it's about putting on the final touches to the show: sets, costumes, lighting, sound, and sometimes reworking the staging for the mainstage. It is not about the actors anymore.

We are expected to know exactly what we are doing and how to do it. This week has been focused on working with the Papermill Playhouse stage management and directors who will help us transition from concert to full-scale production. Despite the chaos, everyone knows that the diligent work will be pay off in a major way. It is thrilling to think about being among such a talented group of young students as well as professional directors and artists and imaging the magic we will create on opening night.

The entire conservatory student body should feel truly blessed to be involved in such a professional, enriching experience. It is thrilling to think that we are doing the same thing as professional actors in New York City. Even more thrilling? Imagining the possibilities that each and every student has in this industry and looking at the stars already born at the Papermill Playhouse Summer Conservatory.

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