MILLBURN, NJ — Jayden Declet, Brooke Lelia, Madison Lysek and Jonah Ruderman of Livingston were recently selected by Mark Hoebee and Michael Stotts, producing artistic director and managing director at Paper Mill Playhouse, recipient of the Tony Award for Regional Theatre, to participate in the Paper Mill’s prestigious Summer Musical Theatre Conservatory for 2019. 

This honor puts the four teens 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.

Members of the competitive conservatory, who earned coveted spots in the Senior (ages 15-18), Junior Plus (ages 13-14), and Junior companies (ages 10-12), are being directed and choreographed by Paper Mill Playhouse’s professional artistic staff in a fully produced, original concert entitled “New Voices of 2019: Learn Your Lessons Well.” 

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The concert—to be performed in on Aug. 2 at 7:30 p.m. and Aug. 3 at 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at 22 Brookside Drive in Millburn—is a culmination of the five-week conservatory program.

“From the first day of class all the way through opening night of ‘New Voices,’ we require our students to rise to the demands of this rigorous program,” said Lisa Cooney, Paper Mill Playhouse Director of Education. “We ask them to work harder than they ever have before as young performers, and we strive to build an incredible ensemble company, while each student hones their own individual performance skills.”

Cooney added that the faculty at Paper Mill Playhouse strives to build an incredible ensemble company, while each student also hones his or her own individual performance skills. Students are also encouraged to believe in themselves as professional artists.

“We find summer after summer that our students meet our expectations and more,” she said. “When they move on to college or the professional world, they are ready for the challenges they’ll face, and time and again they thrive and ultimately live their dream of being a professional performer. It’s gratifying when they make a name or themselves on Broadway or in Hollywood, but even if they do not, the skills they learn and the work ethic they develop will serve them in any field.”

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. Students participate in intensive classes over a span of five weeks, including musical theater performance, acting, dance and improvisation, while also attending guest workshops led by professional actors, directors, and casting agents. 

According to the Paper Mill Playhouse, this program offers a unique opportunity for gifted young performers to work at their own level, challenge themselves to achieve new goals and learn new skills. A goal of the curriculum is for the participants to develop self-discipline, respect, and a commitment to excellence that will serve these young artists throughout their lives.  

The final weeks are devoted to rehearsals for the “New Voices” concert, performed annually by the conservatory’s trained students.

“'New Voices' is an amazing opportunity to see the stars of tomorrow,” said Hoebee. “This fully produced, original concert features over 100 incredible performers. It is amazing to see these young performers grow into professional artists and grace the stage with an inspiring, heartfelt performance.”

Also appearing are numerous nominees of the 2019 Paper Mill Playhouse Rising Star Awards, presented by the Investors Foundation, who won scholarships to attend the Conservatory.

The Summer Musical Theater Conservatory and New Voices are supported by Investors Foundation. Paper Mill Playhouse Education & Outreach are proudly sponsored by The Goren Family & Harmony Helper.

Many of the students from Paper Mill Playhouse’s Conservatory have gone on to appear on Broadway, in regional theater productions, in film and on television.

Conservatory alumna Julia Knitel, who played the role of Carole King on the national tour of “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” said that she was always in the ensemble growing up, and that the ensemble was where she felt comfortable because she loved “being a team player.”

“That’s one of the things that was so great about being at Paper Mill Playhouse, because in their Conservatory, you had an equal amount of dancing, singing and acting training every day,” said Knitel. “I got a great foundation in being a team player and ensemble member and serving a production. The producers and creatives of ‘Beautiful’ saw in me something they couldn’t find elsewhere.” 

Broadway talent agents and casting directors have said they flock to ‘New Voices’ every summer—including Victoria Kress, Abrams Artists Youth Theatrical Agent, and Nora Brennan, casting director for “Matilda,” “Billy Elliot,” and “The Radio City Christmas Spectacular.”

“[I’m always] super excited to head to Paper Mill Playhouse for their ‘New Voices’ show,” she said. “Having trained some amazing performers, I know this night will prove to be no different. It’s one of my best scouting field trips of every summer.” 

Brennan added that “the kids were great, the show was fun and entertaining and the material was tailored so that each child shone.”

Paper Mill’s professional casting partner, Telsey + Company, also attends annually and often offers workshops to advanced students.