Audition season for our many summer conservatory programs are under way, and the Rutgers Summer Acting Conservatory is no exception! To give us more insight into RSAC and the Rutgers theater experience, I interviewed Kayla Votapek, the Assistant Director of RSAC this past week! We hope that the following interview answers some burning questions about the RSAC experience!
Kayla Votapek is a senior studying Theatre Arts and Psychology with a minor in Education as a Social Science at Rutgers University. During her undergraduate career, Kayla has directed nine short plays at Cabaret Theatre and Dunellen Skylight Theatre Productions, and has held various roles within the student theatre community: assistant stage manager, stage manager, costume designer, light and sound board operator, and creative team coordinator. She has served on the Cabaret Theatre general board as press secretary and Directors’ Showcase coordinator, as well as serve on Cabaret Theatre’ executive board as Director of Finance.
Currently, Kayla is the producer of Cabaret Theatre. She also serves as the President of Dunellen Skylight Theatre Productions, and is interning at the American Theater Wing for the Spring 2016 semester. This will be her third year at RSAC, having previously interned and worked as an assistant to the director.
What initially inspired you to go into the arts?
Ever since I was a little kid, I have always appreciated the arts. It wasn’t really until high school where I fell in love with theater. During my senior year, my dad passed away from a sudden brain hemorrhage and my mom, a recovering alcoholic, relapsed. My high school theater teachers and my theater arts friends helped me get through so much. The support they gave me and being able to be a part of a show inspired me to keep going. Without theater, I honestly would not be where I am today. It is the reason why I get up every day and continue to do what I love.
Was there a teacher who made an impact upon your development as an artist? How did they impact your own work as a teacher?
Yes. Both Jacqueline Mazza (Middletown High School South) and Marshall Jones (Rutgers University) have made a huge impact in my life. Jacqueline Mazza helped me get through a rough time. She was there to constantly listen to what was going on in my life and taught me ways to escape the stress by helping me find my love of theater and dance.
Marshall Jones, on the other hand, has given me so many opportunities to explore my passion of theater. He allowed me to intern at RSAC my sophomore year and has guided me as I applied for internships in New York. Marshall has been so influential with all his supportive advice he gives as well as constantly challenges me to continue to be the best leader/artist I can be.
What is the most rewarding part of teaching for you?
The most rewarding part of teaching is being able to connect with the students and be able to help them throughout the process. Seeing their eager faces the first day of camp and seeing them develop into amazing artists by the last day is so rewarding. Just knowing that I played a role in their development means the world to me.
Have you seen a show lately that has completely mesmerized you? Why did it captivate you?
I am very fortunate and I have been able to see so many amazing shows such as Noises Off, Hamilton, The Humans, Finding Neverland, etc. All of them were amazing. However, when I saw The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, I was blown away. The concept of having a play that shed the light on autism without identifying it was phenomenal. Every detail in the way the actor acted was so true and the fact that everyone just accepted that the main character had autism is amazing. Someone dear to me has autism and I left the theater crying because of how powerful the show was.
What makes RSAC the nationally-recognized program it is today?
RSAC is a wonderful program that allows high school students to experience what it is like to study acting and musical theater in a conservatory style camp. It allows the students to get a taste of what college is like and helps them to figure out if this is what they want to do for the rest of their lives. Unlike other camps, this camp is 24-7, where the students live on campus, take classes with college professors, and go see shows every weekend. It is a once in a life time experience that I wish I knew about as a high school student.
As the Producer of Rutgers’ Cabaret Theater, do you have advice for incoming college students who want to participate in theater at Rutgers? How can they audition or produce work with the Cabaret Theater?
At Rutgers we have 4 different theater companies (including Cabaret Theatre) and an abundant amount of opportunities. As a freshman, I showed up to all of the theater companies general interest meetings and e-mailed the producers/ presidents at the time to find ways to get involved. My advice is to keep showing up to events and constantly give it your all. If you keep showing your support and are willing to constantly help out, the theater companies will welcome you with open arms.
Marshall Jones also gave me wonderful advice as a freshman. He told me to never take no for an answer. He said that if you aren’t getting into shows or being selected to do a show then create something to give yourself the opportunity you want. Rutgers is such a wonderful place where you can create your own opportunities. I wrote a show and directed it outside of the Rutgers theatre organization last year. I would encourage incoming college students to find other ways to do theater no matter what.
Thanks so much for speaking with us, Kayla!
For more information about the Rutgers Summer Acting Conservatory, as well as more information about auditioning for RSAC, please visit the RSAC website! The next audition and phone interview dates are April 2, May 14, and May 28, 2016, so there is still plenty of time to apply!