SOUTH PLAINFIELD - The South Plainfield Summer Drama Workshop auditions for “FootLoose” took place Monday, May 13th and Wednesday, May 15th at South Plainfield High School. Due to the high volume of participants, auditions were extended to Monday, May 20th at Grant Elementary School with callbacks the following day. “FootLoose” will be performed at South Plainfield High School and run August 1st, 2nd and 3rd at 7p.m. as well as August 4th at 2p.m.
“This year we are doing the classic, ‘Footloose,’ which is about a city boy coming into a conservative town that has banned dancing,” said Rocco Severini, President of the South Plainfield Summer Drama Workshop Board. “But he tends to stir things up. We can’t wait for the students to have a great time performing this classic show.”
The production will be led by Director Kelly Kline, who performed in Summer Drama for many years before she went on to study Television and Digital Media at Montclair State University.
"I'm an alumni of the South Plainfield Summer Drama Workshop, so I could go on and on and on about how much this program means to me," said Kline. "I began when I was going into the eighth grade and didn't stop until I aged out of the program (going into sophomore year of college). I am so excited to start getting to know these students!"
Choreographer Hallie Kaisand, will be orchestrating the vibrant dance routines, assisted by Jillian Roche. Vocal Director for the production will be Music Teacher Joan Stasio.
“I have been involved with summer drama on and off for the past forty years,” said Stasio. “I started as a student in the productions, then I played in the pit orchestra. I conducted vocally or instrumentally for several years and then I was on the board for many years. I am happy to return as Vocal Director.”
This year marks the forty-eighth performance of South Plainfield’s Summer Drama Workshop, a program that evokes fond memories for thousands of the workshop's alumni over the years, many of whom are still involved.
“I grew up with the program, so it’s something very close to me and being able to be the president and working with a great group of volunteers who value and teach the importance of theater and the arts is amazing,” said Severini. “I work with very dedicated parents/board members who give so much time to make this program successful.”
Each year, over forty participants take part in the production as actors, stage crew and musicians.
“This is my fifth year doing Summer Drama,” said Marylee O’Dell. “I’ve been doing it since I was in fifth grade and it’s an amazing program so I’m really excited. Last year, they didn’t have summer drama and I was very upset, but I’m so glad it’s back.”
Due to school renovations, it was not possible to hold the workshop last year. Participants say they are eager to begin rehearsals, which begin on June 27th and take place three times a week for six weeks.
“I’m really excited to do Summer Drama this year because ever since I was really young, I’ve been watching it and I’ve been waiting for the time when I’m actually allowed to do it,” said Gabrielle Ettore, Sixth Grader. “This is my first year. It was fun trying out. It was very nerve wracking, but it was still fun.”
All of those who tried out learned a brief dance routine before their audition. Those auditioning for the main cast were asked to also perform a song for Kline and Stasio.
“As Vocal Director, I have to be at auditions to make sure that the students we have in mind for a particular part can handle the vocal range and challenges of their character,” said Stasio.
The Summer Drama Program is open to any student entering seventh grade through the end of their first year in college and is not limited to South Plainfield residents.
“This will be my third summer doing a show,” said Adam Casaliggi, Ninth Grade student. “I’ve missed this. You get to bond with your cast mates. Each show pushes you to improve for another show. It’s a whole long circle that I really enjoy. I put my heart and soul into this and I love it.”
“We try and teach kids about the arts and not only things they are interested in,” said Severini. “In my own experience, I loved acting, but because of this program I learned to love dancing. We want kids to have that experience to either realize they love something new or learn something more. We think this program and the whole theater community is something very important and South Plainfield has been a great and very receptive community to the arts.”
"There was a sea of personalities at auditions and they all seem like fantastic people," said Kline. "There's something about students involved in the arts, they want to be seen and they want to be heard. They want a place to express themselves. It's very important to me that the students know that SPSDW is a safe space for expression and that their artistic abilities and every day personalities are appreciated and respected."
The South Plainfield Summer Drama Workshop has an active parent’s association and board, who have organized a TGI Fridays Fundraising event on Wednesday, May 29th, located at 1315 Centennial Avenue in Piscataway. Those dining at the restaurant between 3p.m. and 10p.m. can present the fundraising flyer and the program will receive twenty percent of the sale. The next meeting is scheduled for June 10th at 7p.m. in the South Plainfield High School Chorus room.
"The Summer Drama Workshop Board truly cares about the students," said Kline. "From what I understand, there's been a lot of hurdles that they've had to jump through to make this year's production happen. This is a non-profit organization, so all of the board members are doing this out of the kindness of their hearts and I thank them for allowing me to bring this year's production to life."
The excitement mounts as the cast has been selected and students prepare for what has been a South Plainfield tradition for nearly half a century.
“From the peeks of the audition with the choreography, it seems really fun and really upbeat,” said O’Dell. “I haven’t done an upbeat musical in a really long time and it’s a classic, which is really exciting. Summer Drama always puts on really great performances and show, always has great kids and always has versatile talent.”
“I was extremely nervous auditioning,” said Casaliggi. “I’m looking forward to another great season and another great summer. I’m ready to work with my fellow cast mates because I recognize more than half of these people and more than half of them are my friends. I’m ready to get FootLoose!”
Although the main cast has been decided on, organizers of the workshop say anyone interested in taking part in the production as stage crew, pit orchestra or as part of the ensemble can visit the South Plainfield Summer Drama Workshop Facebook Page for more information.