A former Union City High School salutatorian who is on her way to Broadway recently landed a leading role in a community theater production.
Allison Strong, 18, who was graduated from the north campus last year, is playing Jo March in Little Women at the Studio Playhouse in Montclair, N.J. The show, which is geared toward kids, opened on Saturday, March 28 and will run again today, April 5, at 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Tickets are $8 and can be reserved in advance by calling (973) 744-9752.
Directed by Laura Byrne-Cristiano, the play is an adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s book, which tells the story of four young sisters growing up in the Civil War era.
“It has a lot to say about a girl’s journey through life and how things change, how little girls change into little women, and the moral lessons they learn through their childhood while they are blossoming,” said Strong.
She plays the second oldest sister, Jo, who takes over her father’s role in the family while he is away at war. Strong said that though she is not quite the tomboy Jo is, she does have a few things in common with the character she plays.
“Jo and I are very similar in the ways that we view a lot of things,” said Strong. “For one, Jo is not very into relationships. She is very much independent, and I would definitely view myself as independent. She has her dreams in mind, rather than what other girls at the time are thinking of, like boys and relationships. She is thinking about how she can further pursue her dreams, rather than getting married at 16 years old, which was very common during the Civil War.”
“She is extremely talented. She has brought a great deal of energy and life to the character of Jo.” – Bob Caruso
“She is extremely talented,” he said. “She has brought a great deal of energy and life to the character of Jo.”
Out of her shell
While improvising at rehearsals, Strong said, it was a challenge for her to remember to speak like women would during that time.
“Obviously, the speaking is so much more proper than what we find our high school students in Union City saying,” she said. “There is no ‘Yo, what’s going on?’ You have to be careful when you improvise. You have to watch what you say.”
Strong said she also had to greet people on stage as they would during the Civil War.
“We have to realize that at this time, women were just starting to become a little bit more equal to men, and it wasn’t even very much so at the time,” said Strong. “Women and men didn’t really shake hands.”
Acting for an audience of children, she said, was also different for her.
“You have to find the humor in things,” said Strong. “You have to be careful with your pacing because children get lost very quickly. If you speak too slowly, if you have pregnant pauses, children can get lost.”
Strong said she started acting in second grade, when her mother decided she was too shy and signed her up for lessons at a nearby arts school.
“She sent me there with just the intention of me climbing out of my shell,” said Strong, “and I ended up wanting to pursue it.”
Strong is now studying musical theater at Montclair State University, in addition to going to auditions about twice a month in New York City.
“I have been very fortunate to have been given so many opportunities and to live so close to New York,” said Strong. “Going to auditions in New York is like being in a classroom for any actor because there is no professor who can teach you how to audition and how it is in the real world. You have to go and experience it for yourself. It is not always pleasant, but auditioning is such a necessity in an actor’s life.”
She also recently landed a part in a commercial airing on the Women’s Entertainment Network for a new reality series, I Want to Change Your Life.
Before going professional, Strong appeared each year in the student musical at Union City High School North Campus. She had also served as the assistant director for the school’s production of Bang Bang You’re Dead and as the president of the drama club.
Strong said that she will continue to pursue her acting career and that her goal is to appear on Broadway.
“The stages of New York are definitely where I would expect to see myself in the next six years, at most,” said Strong.
Amanda Staab can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.