MONTCLAIR, NJ -- Union Catholic's Performing Arts Company received a great honor when it was chosen for the Outstanding Achievement in Choreography or Movement for its Fall Play, Peter and the Starcatcher, at Montclair State University's Theater Awards last Monday.
Ms. Jeanette Rudnicki, a 2009 graduate of Union Catholic, was the choreographer. UC senior Angeline Carlo, who lives in Avenel, and UC junior Calah McCombs were assistants to the choreographer and helped create some of the movement and choreography. Mr John Rotondo, the Director, and Mrs. Maryann Carolan, the Assistant Director, orchestrated the movements as the nature of the show required a unique, constant movement to tell the story.
PAC members Molly Bonner and Christian Nowicki accepted the award, which is known as a Foxy Award, on behalf of PAC at the awards ceremony, which was held in Montclair State's Memorial Auditorium
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UC PAC's production of Peter and the Starcatcher was also nominated for Outstanding Acting Ensemble of a Comedy, Outstanding Live or Original Music, and Excellence in Educational Outreach and Community Engagement. The Excellence in Educational Outreach and Community Engagement nomination because of PAC's work with UC's CRAYON Club to present an Autism-friendly performance.
"The Foxy Award is a great honor, and it feels amazing to be recognized,'' said Ms. Rudnicki, who has been a member of the PAC staff since 2014. "Peter and the Starcatcher was a unique show because our fall shows normally don't require any choreography or movement, so we were stepping into something brand new to us. I had so much fun choreographing the mermaid number, "Starstuff," and I knew the students would have a blast performing it. As a whole, the show's innovative and imaginative movement, also brought to life by Angeline, Calah, and the cast, attests to the hard work we all put in to make the show spectacular and something to remember.''
Ms. Rudnicki was very impressed with Carlo and McCombs.
"Angeline and Calah really shined this year,'' said Ms. Rudnicki, who currently work in New York City as an Associate Producer at A&E Networks. "They not only stepped up as leaders amongst their peers, but their creative work has been outstanding. If I couldn't attend rehearsals due to my job, I knew the company would be in their very capable hands (and feet!). I am so proud of them, and I know their futures are very bright.''
McCombs was thrilled with the award.
"It's an incredible honor to get this award,'' said McCombs, who also played Bill Slank in the play. "I was so ecstatic when I found out. It goes to show that our collaboration we can do anything we want to do. We are such an amazing family and it's so amazing to see everything come together. This award speaks volumes about what we do together at PAC.''
McCombs said working with someone as experienced and talented as Ms. Rudnicki has been a blessing.
"Ms. Rudnicki is so amazing,'' said McCombs, who lives in Plainfield. "She's a big reason why I love being a choreographer. I have gotten so much inspiration from what she has done in so many of her shows. I've learned so much from her and just love her so much.''
Ms. Rudnicki has been involved in dance most of her life and still takes dance and fitness classes to stay in shape.
"As a student of dance for 17 years, working on choreography was introduced in various advanced classes,'' said Ms. Rudnicki. "I studied at La Danse School of Performing Arts in Linden, the New Jersey School of Ballet, and other various workshops/intensives in the New York City area. Being exposed to so many great teachers peaked my interest in creating choreography myself.''
During her years at Union Catholic, Ms. Rudnicki was a member of PAC for four years, performed in every spring musical, various summer shows, and was the lead in a fall play. She also served on PAC's Executive Board in her senior year. She also choreographed short routines for the UC Dance Club.
In college, Ms. Rudnicki choreographed full length numbers as a member of the Rider Dance Ensemble, and choreographed several musical theatre and tap numbers, styles that she excels at.
Ms. Rudnicki said being the choreographer for PAC is very rewarding.
"Being the choreographer for PAC gives me an immense amount of pride,'' said Ms. Rudnicki. "The fact that I was involved in PAC myself allows me to relate to the students in a special way. It's incredibly rewarding to see their progress throughout a school year. I know how hard they work since I've been in their shoes. It feels great to be back in the auditorium where I learned so much - not only as a performer, but as a person - helping and teaching our students to be the best they can be!''
Ms. Rudnicki said PAC provides such a great atmosphere and environment for students to thrive.
"Union Catholic's Performing Arts Company is more than just a club,'' said Ms. Rudnicki. "It's a family. It's an outlet for expression, and for students to flourish. Besides the tight-knit family PAC provides, I love the fact that it allows students to develop skills and memories that are going to last a lifetime.''
Mrs. Carolan, the Director of UC's Performing Arts Company, was ecstatic with the Foxy Award and raved about her staff and cast.
"Being part of the MSU Theater Night Awards has pushed us to really explore different concepts of theater,'' said Mrs. Carolan. "Peter and the Starcatcher was a unique and collaborative effort that required the input and creative talents of the entire staff and cast. We are incredibly proud of Jeanette's choreography. She's been working with us since 2014, and every year we see her grow as an artist. Her ability to interpret characters through music and movement have really raised the level of what we can accomplish on the high school level. Her mentorship of Calah and Angeline has been instrumental in their ability to share their talents with us as well.''