Jersey City Drama Teacher Learns from Broadway's Best

August 25, 2017

By Kristen Keller
The Jersey Journal

A Jersey City teacher was given the opportunity to work with some of the best in the business, and now she is ready to bring those lessons back to her students.

Nicole Oliver of Conwell Kidz Drama Program at School 3 in Jersey City was one of eight teachers selected from schools and performing arts centers around the world to participate in the eighth annual Freddie G Fellowship.

The teachers worked one-on-one with Broadway directors, choreographers and performers over four days with workshops in choreography, music direction, lighting, sound and acting.

"My favorite workshop was probably lighting," said Oliver, the Jersey City school district 2017 Teacher of the Year. "Everything I know about lighting was self-taught, so it was nice to get formal training from someone on Broadway."

Each day started at 9 a.m. with Oliver and the other teachers attending one or two workshops before taking a break for lunch. After lunch, they participated in another workshop until 4:15 p.m. before preparing for the event of the night.

Each day, they were working on something from 9 a.m. until midnight.

The private workshops were run by some of the best in Broadway, including Tony Honors winning director and choreographer Jeff Calhoun, Tony Award winning director, choreographer and actor Christopher Gattelli, Tony Award winning lighting designer Ken Billington, sound designer Matt Kraus and musical director, musical supervisor, conductor and musician Dale Rieling.

Some of the nightly events included dinner on a yacht, the chance to see the Broadway show, "Anastasia," and a dinner at Chez Josephine in Manhattan with Music Theatre International, a company that issues licenses, scripts, musical materials and theatrical resources to schools, amateur theaters and professional theaters throughout the world.

Along with the other nightly events, Oliver and the other teachers observed a developmental workshop for "Matilda Junior" and experienced Broadway from the inside.

"It was inspiring to work with other teachers through this program," said Oliver. "I now have friends from all over the world that do the same thing as me every day. We still text each other and ask for advice."

The fellowship, created by Music Theatre International CEO and Tony Honors for Excellence recipient Freddie Gershon and Myrna Gershon, is aimed at helping drama teachers make a difference in their communities through musical theater productions and educational theater groups.

"Freddie and Myrna understand their legacy," said Oliver. "They want to give back to the community and the youth, which they do through this amazing program."

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