LIVINGSTON, NJ — Livingston’s own Jayden Declet, an eighth grader at Heritage Middle School, recently added the Old Library Theatre's award for Best Youth Actress in a Lead Role to her growing list of accolades after receiving praise for her performance in the musical “Parade.”
Declet’s character in the Old Library Theatre production of “Parade" is at the heart of the musical’s plot. Following her performance at the Fair Lawn-based theatre company, Declet was honored for her portrayal of the dramatized version of Mary Phagan, a 13-year-old girl who was murdered while working for a Jewish factory in 1913 Georgia.
For a young Livingston teen with aspirations to someday grace the hallowed stages of Broadway, each new accolade is a step in the right direction.
According to Declet, her first yearning to be on stage occurred when she attended a live performance of “Matilda” on Broadway. She had always loved singing, but as a young girl sitting in the audience captivated by “Matilda,” Declet said she realized she wanted to be on stage.
At six years old, Declet and her father auditioned to be in a production of “Willy Wonka” with the Livingston Community Players—and so began her illustrious acting career.
The multitalented actor, singer and dancer enrolled early on in the Children’s Theater of Livingston, where participants take classes and act in productions, and has also studied acting at “A Class Act NY” drama school in New York City.
In addition to performing locally, including last year’s Heritage production of “The Little Mermaid,” Declet has also performed in three off-Broadway plays.
She said she loves acting because it gives her “an opportunity to try on different personalities and to explore other types of lives.” She also said she enjoys the comradery “of rehearsing and performing with other actors because they all have a passion for acting,” and her favorite aspect of being in theater is “seeing people in the audience smile and making them happy.”
Declet is currently rehearsing for a production of “Les Miserables” in Rahway.
During the summer, she attends the coveted Paper Mill Playhouse Summer Musical Theatre Conservatory, which only accepts select performers who audition from throughout the state. Declet describes the summer program as “a great experience where everyone is very supportive of one another” as the attendees hone their acting, singing, and dancing skills.
Those who participate in the five-week Summer Musical Theatre Conservatory are featured in a fully produced, original concert at the culmination of the program. Paper Mill also takes the act on the road to perform at special education schools as well as some community centers, where many senior citizens can enjoy their plays.
According to Lisa Cooney, Paper Mill Playhouse Director of Education, the summer conservatory involves rigorous musical theater study that allows students to enhance their individual performance potential while developing a broad base of theater experience and knowledge.
Being selected for this program puts Declet in the same company as prominent conservatory alumni such as Academy Award winner Anne Hathaway, Tony Award winner Laura Benanti and many others who have gone on to appear on Broadway, in regional theater productions, in film and on television.
In between school and play rehearsals, Declet has also been active for several years with “The Homeless Bus,” an organization that brings food, socks and personal-sized toiletries to homeless individuals in New York City every Saturday night.
Most recently, Declet was featured in a “Girls Against Bullying” public service announcement written by “No Bully” teen ambassador Carrie Berk, which can be seen below.