SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - The next few months are looking to be busy ones for the South Plainfield Summer Drama Workshop (SPSDW). Currently in its 43rd year, the non-profit program has two exciting programs planned for May in addition to gearing up for its highly anticipated annual summer production.

Initially established to keep kids engaged during the summer, SPSDW has, since 1972, put on dozens of sell-out plays and musicals. 

The program is volunteer-run and staffed by seasoned professionals dedicated to uncovering one’s hidden talents while, at the same time, building confidence and teaching teamwork and responsibility.

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“The South Plainfield Summer Drama Workshop is a great organization, especially for those who are considering going into the industry. It’s a great opportunity and learning experience,” said co-President Rocco Severini, noting that previous SPSDW participants have landed small roles on television shows and in movies while several others have been cast in various Broadway and off-Broadway musicals.

While auditions are held for lead roles and key parts that may involve singing and/or dancing, all who join the program are given the opportunity to participate in every aspect of the show, including but not limited to, set and costume construction, make-up, stage crew, lighting, ticket sales and fundraising.

“The program is open to anyone who has a passion or who wants to learn about and experience the theater,” Severini said. “No one is turned away. Everyone who joins gets to be involved in the production some in some way.”

Beginning this year, enrollment will be open to any student, including non-residents, entering sixth grade in September through 25 years of age; in the past, the program was restricted to South Plainfield residents in seventh grade to those completing their first year of college. “The age change gives students more of an opportunity to be involved and will add more diversity to the program,” said Severini, noting that mixing younger and older students has its advantages. “Younger participants respond well to the older students involved and tend to look up to them.”

Run under the auspices of the South Plainfield Adult School, SPSDW is tuition-based and the fee of $110 per student covers the cost of costumes and props for the summer production, cast parties and workshop admission, among other things. “We offer a great opportunity at a great price. Comparable programs in New York City range from $300 to $500,” said Severini.

Last month, SPSDW announced that this year’s summer drama production will be The Wizard of Oz. Auditions will be held the end of May with performances taking place South Plainfield High School Thursday, July 30 through Sunday, Aug. 2. There will also be a special Breakfast with the Stars event before the Sunday matinee.

The Summer Drama Workshop, in an effort to keep things exciting and attract both old and new participants, will also be welcoming several new professional staff members this year. “We are spicing things up a little bit,” Severini said. “We want to give the students a chance to take part in all different opportunities and, to do so, will be bringing in all new staff. These new faces will provide for new opportunities and offer students the chance to learn from different professionals and experts in their fields.”

Experts will also be on hand for some of SPSDW’s workshops. The organization’s is planning an Audition Workshop in May with actor Arbender Robinson as a guest speaker. Robinson, who is currently starring in the Broadway production of Les Miserables, will provide valuable information on the audition process and experience as well as demonstrate fun exercises that can help them prepare for a big audition. The date of the workshop has not yet been finalized but will most likely take place at South Plainfield High School (information will be posted on SPSDW’s Facebook page as it becomes available).

Additionally, at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 2 at South Plainfield High School, SPSDW will team up with the South Plainfield Cultural Arts Commission and the South Plainfield Public Library for a special fundraising production of Macbeth presented by the Shakespeare Group of New Jersey. Tickets for Macbeth are $5 for students and seniors and $7 for adults and proceeds will be split between SPSDW and the South Plainfield Library.

Over the past four decades, former SPSDW members have remained active with the program, volunteering their time to the non-profit’s board or assisting with productions. Severini is among them. A student at Middlesex Community College, Severini first became involved with SPSDW when he was in sixth grade.

Following his graduation from South Plainfield High School in 2009, Severini remained involved with the program, serving an intern for three years and handling fundraising until being named co-president, along with Will Mott, earlier this year. The SPSDW board also includes: Gina Birath, vice president; Terry Pipolo, treasurer; Marianne Petritsch, secretary; and members Michele Kenny, Vicki Patsourakis, Anna Petritsch, Manny Santiago, Carla Scala, CJ Seesselberg and Terri Veit.

For more information on the program and upcoming events, call (908) 705-1968, visit www.SPSDW.org or “like” South Plainfield Summer Drama Workshop on Facebook.