Mason Gross Gives High School Actors the College Experience

By Maddie Orton
Arts Correspondent

Delaney Barbour is a high school senior from Portland, Oregon. She’s an aspiring actor, so where to study after graduation is a major life decision. At Rutgers’ Mason Gross School of the Arts Summer Acting Conservatory (RSAC), she can give life as an acting student the good old college try.

“This has really given me a big insight into what a BFA-style/conservatory-style training is like,” says Barbour.

For four weeks, students take in professional productions and train morning until night with Mason Gross faculty. Marshall Jones is director of the program. “It’s kind of like a boot camp for actors,” he says.

Conservatory life means living in a dorm, eating in a dining hall, performances and back to back to back classes.

“We go to acting class, and then we’ll go to playwrighting and stage combat and creative writing and audition prep,” rattles off student Anna Jamieson-Beck from South Carolina.

“This is a lot more intense than I thought it was going to be,” first-year RSAC student Thomas Booker says.

The idea is to not only better acquaint students with the art form, but also with themselves. That way they can decide what path is right for them.

“There are just some days I’m just like, ‘I’m tired,’ but you know, as soon as I get into the class I’m like, ‘This is why I do it,’” Booker shares.

“They’ll go to a Broadway show, and it’s two and a half hours, and they say, ‘Wow, I want to do that!’ without really understanding the depth of work and training that it takes to get to that point,” explains Jones.

Not everyone leaves wanting to be an actor, and students are taught there are other roads to Broadway. “We also look at some other careers, perhaps in entertainment law, perhaps in marketing of theater, so that there are lots of opportunities for the students,” Jones says.

Those who do plan to go on to a conservatory program will be better prepared for what’s ahead.

“College apps — that’s the last hurdle that I have to get over. And then after that, once I’m in college and I’m situated, I’ll be fine,” says Booker. “I’ll be wonderful.”

Students will show off what they learned in their time at Rutgers this weekend in a final showcase for family and friends.