Morris Hills Thespians Compete at Montclair State University

The Speech and Theatre Association of New Jersey (STANJ) Competition took place on Saturday, January 6th at Montclair State University. Lavin and 27 of her students attended the competition, along with her husband James and colleague Harold Fahrer. The students mainly competed in two categories: Dramatic and Comedic. These were divided into three subcategories: monologue, scene, and duo scene. Improvisational duo was an additional category that students competed in.

It was a tough grind for both Lavin and her students. After selecting pieces to compete with, they worked to perfect their characters, staging, and emotional connection to the piece. With the help of her husband and Fahrer, Lavin worked with each student to ensure that he or she would perform to the best of his or her abilities. The students entered the competition with confidence and delivered outstanding performances.

Although none of the students took home a trophy, they walked away with something of much more value: experience. Lavin describes her students as “gracious losers”, whose “confidence, work ethic, vocal and physical expressivity, real relationship connections, and moving performances” made them winners in her heart. The adjudicators rewarded her students with high scores, sincere praise, and encouraging words.

All of the students enjoyed the competition, and were thrilled just to have been able to attend. Junior Frank Mastras, who performed a group scene from Midsummer as well as a duo scene from Gruesome Playground Injuries, describes the experience as, “an excellent way for an aspiring actor to prepare for theatre after high school.”  He said, “Performing alongside some of the best actors/actresses from New Jersey allows the students from Morris Hills who competed to pick up new techniques to better them for the future. Even though memorizing, staging, and performing can be stressful, anyone can do it and should take advantage of STANJ if given the chance.”

Lavin and her students had an extremely rewarding experience.  They experienced the joy of performing their pieces, got a chance to watch and meet fellow actors from around the state, and  walked away knowing they gave it their all. And if that was not enough, they bumped into Stranger Things star Gaten Matarazzo at the competition.