It’s not every day that a high school theater student has the opportunity to be taught by a Broadway star.
When theater teacher Jay Jaski had the opportunity to direct a play at his alma mater, Florida State University last month, he knew exactly who to call in to cover his classes. Friend and former classmate - now Broadway star - Erika MacLeod enthusiastically jumped in.
Having played Fantine in the Broadway company of Les Miserables and roles on Doctor Who and The Vagina Monologues (alongside Jane Fonda and Margo Kidder), MacLeod had worked briefly with Peddie students last winter during the school’s production of Les Miserables.
“Last year, I got to work with them just on an after school level. I was only here for about four days total, and we were working so quickly that I didn’t really get to spend quality time with the students.”
MacLeod and Jaski are longtime friends, participating in FSU theatrical productions together as teenagers and even starring opposite each other as Tony and Maria in West Side Story. She was excited to return to Peddie.
“This time, I jumped in feet first.”
MacLeod worked with students at multiple experience and performance levels. In Theater Foundations, where freshman students often take their first steps into the world of theater, MacLeod found the opportunity to guide students and build their confidence. “It’s fun - even in just two weeks - to see the people who are realizing that they really enjoy acting. It’s exciting to watch the thrill.”
In addition, students speaking in the 150th annual Declamation Contest worked one-on-one with MacLeod as they prepared for their big night. The whirlwind production brought a dozen students a day to MacLeod’s office, and each student was completely focused on developing a powerful and deeply personal performance. MacLeod gave notes, encouragement and support to each contestant. “They all bring something individual,” said MacLeod, “and they’re all working so hard.”
She also applied her Broadway experience in Jaski’s Musical Theater Class with some of Peddie’s more experienced theater students. The impact of having a professional actor as teacher is easy to see. Just ask Sara Lougy ‘20: “Working with Erika has been absolutely amazing,” she said. “She brings a unique skill set and it’s clear she is very passionate about what she does. These past two weeks have been filled with unforgettable learning experiences and I feel so fortunate to have had the chance to learn from her. She has so much to teach.”
“Being able to work with such an amazing actress and person as Erika Macleod is something I will never forget,” said Cristian Rodriguez ‘18. “We will all miss her so much!”