The New Jersey School of Dramatic Art’s mission is to provide a high-quality, comprehensive, multi-level training program that creates actors able to participate meaningfully within the industry.
We strive to inspire, empower and engage the creativity essential for the performing arts and life, encouraging each students artistic and personal growth, creating lifelong participants in the arts.
We foster a nurturing, inclusive environment accessible to all. We welcome aspiring actors from all backgrounds and circumstances, representing all racial, ethnic, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability and socioeconomic groups.
Since 2004, The New Jersey School of Dramatic Arts has been offering the best in formal acting / musical theater / improvisation and TV & Film training. Students learn in a step by step program in which each class builds upon the skills gained in previous levels. From the beginner to the advanced, students are placed in classes that match their experience and ability. Professional instructors offer generous one on one attention while emphasizing the development of a strong and proven technique. In addition to this, the New Jersey School of Dramatic Arts is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax exempt organization. All contributions are tax deductible and are used for scholarships and to further promote our theatre / performing arts programs.
NJSDA gives its students a head start on their professional careers because of our affiliations with outstanding professional organizations. The NJ Theatre Alliance has given our students exclusive audition slots for their Equity combined theatre auditions. We also partner with the highly acclaimed 4th Wall Theatre which has cast our students for their productions. Montclair State University’s film department partners with NJSDA and frequently uses our actors for their student films. Comcast Spotlight, Comcast cable’s local commercial division, “turns to our students first.”
Learn more about our NJSDA’s esteemed Board of Directors.
Anne’s career spans over 25 years as a Philanthropic Advisor within financial services and is a former Director of The For All Kids Foundation. Anne received a bachelor’s degree from Providence College and Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy® (“CAP®”) designation from the American College. She is a graduate of the New Jersey School of Dramatic Arts, The Howard Fine Acting Studio and is a certified yoga and Pilates instructor. She also serves as a Board member of the NJ Council of Charitable Gift Planners.
BROADWAY: A Man for All Seasons (Ensemble). With Frank Langella. Di- rected by Doug Hughes (Roundabout Theatre Company). OTHER NYC THEATER: Howard – Boy Gets Girl (The Seeing Place). West- cott – The Man Who Came to Dinner (Peccadillo Theater Company). Gov- ernor Davis – Stand Fast (Barrow Street Productions). Dr. Weitzner – We Call Her Benny (John Montgomery Theater Company). Uncle Murray – Moonchildren (Attic Theater Company). Preston – Private Disclosures, World Premiere.
REGIONAL THEATER: Martelleau – Tovarich; Marshall – The Little Fox- es; Basque – The Misanthrope (Shakespeare Theatre of NJ). Lyman – Other Desert Cities (The Company Theater Group). John – Lips Together, Teeth Apart (4th Wall Theatre). Sidney – Where!s My Money? (Rising Curtain). John – Baby with the Bathwater (Black Box Productions). George – The Actor!s Nightmare (NJSDA).
TELEVISION (USA): CBS’s FBI; NBC!s Law & Order: SVU, The Blacklist, The Mysteries of Laura and The Michael J. Fox Show. Regular on the award-winning Internet hit series Pioneer One. History Channel!s The Men Who Built America.
TELEVISION (ICELAND): Brúðkaupið mitt (My Wedding) – Series Regular; Jarðarförin mín (My Funeral) – Series Regular; Ráðherrann (The Minister); Ófærð 2 (Trapped 2).
FILM: The First Day – Nick Zafonte. Singularity – Brian Neuls. Cardiac Arrest – Jesse Ash. Deployment Strategy – Mark Cheng. Lof mér að fal- la (Let Me Fall – Iceland).
Michael McGrath has been a professional actor for over 40 years. He is a member Actors Equity Association, Screen Actors Guild and The American Federation of Radio and Television Artists. He has appeared in leading roles in more than 15 Broadway plays and musicals. His work on Broadway and off Broadway have garnered him major theatre awards including, The TONY Award, The Drama Desk Award, The Outer Critics Circle Award and the coveted Theatre World Award for Outstanding Broadway Debut in 1995.
Cissy enjoyed a long and fulfilling career as an actor in New York, performing in many Broadway productions, including the original Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Rags, the revival of Mame with Angela Lansbury, Evita with Loni Ackerman, and the original production of Les Miserables. She traveled in the National Tour of On the Twentieth Century with Frank Gorshin and Imogene Coca and opened the Boston production of Les Miserables. Off-Broadway audiences saw her as Della in Gifts of the Magi, and she was critically acclaimed in her favorite role as Agnes Gooch in Mame with Sally Kellerman at the Burt Reynolds’ Theatre in Jupiter, Florida. Cissy also appeared in concert at Carnegie Hall with the original cast of Broadway’s Chess, and in Canada in the original production of The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber. She entertained cabaret audiences in her solo debut, Don’t Laugh, at Danny’s Skylight Room, Don’t Tell Mama, and Steve McGraw’s, to excellent reviews. Her film credits include Ragtime, Heartburn, and Woody Allen’s Radio Days, where she was virtually unrecognizable as a 1930’s dancer.
Zakiya Atkinson is an arts education and community engagement leader committed to fostering artistic exploration and social change. Atkinson is Supervisor of Fine & Performing Arts for Cranford Public Schools and the Artistic Director of Zaman Dance Theatre Collective. Formerly a high school dance director/ educator for 10 years, Atkinson has developed programming for PK-12, communities, and private sector, along with facilitating local and international arts outreach. Atkinson holds an MA in Dance Education (New York University), BA in Communications & Theatre (Temple University) and a certificate in Holocaust & Genocide Education (Saint Elizabeth University). She has served on the faculties at William Paterson University, New York University, and Bronx Community College. Atkinson is a doctoral student and an Arnhold Fellowship recipient in the Dance Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University.
NJSDA Teaching Staff
At NJSDA, our teaching staff is here to serve and uplift. We are dedicated to pouring into actors of all ages, backgrounds and levels of experience.
Beth has been a professional actor and instructor for almost 40 years and has worked with such luminaries as Tommy Tune, George Burns and Lanford Wilson. She has performed in National Tours, Off-Broadway, Regional theatre and has done over 200 network commercials and corporate industrial films, as well as voice-overs and print. Beth has also been a theatre educator for over 25 years. She is a three-time “Honorable Mention” recipient for the Excellence in Theater Education Tony Award for her outstanding work with the award-winning MHS Performing Arts Academy. Beth has served as Co-Director of NJSDA for 15 years, creating a comprehensive multi-level program for actors unrivaled in N.J. She is one of N.J’s top college audition coaches with students gaining acceptance to the country’s top BFA Acting and MT programs. She is an adjunct professor at Montclair State University as part of the BFA Film program, teaching Acting for the Director. Beth has directed several productions throughout the state including the award winning original productions of Stand Up! and El Otro Lado and Dis-connect. She directed the independent film, REEL WOMEN. Beth received her BFA at the Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University and was selected to be included in that year’s “Who’s Who of American Colleges”. She was nominated for best actress by the LA Film Festival for her title role in the short film, Mother. Beth is the 2020 Montclair Theater Awards recipient of the JoAnn Fox Award. She is a proud member of AEA SAG/AFTRA.
A professional actor for over 40 years, Gary made his Broadway debut in the Original Broadway Production of Les Miserables, splitting time on the barricades between the roles of Jean Provaire and Inspector Javert. He originated the role of Sam Carmichael in Mamma Mia! for the North American and US Premieres, as well as the Pre-Broadway 1st National Tour receiving two National Broadway Award Nominations. He spent 4 years in the Pre-Broadway 1st National Tour of Dirty Dancing as Max Kellerman and most recently starred as Gyp DeCarlo in Jersey Boys with the inaugural international production for NCL-Dodger Theatricals. He has starred in numerous Off Broadway, Regional, Stock and International productions and has worked at many notable theaters including; Lincoln Center, Papermill Playhouse, The Lambs Theater, Musical Theater Works, Westchester Broadway and the York Theater. He is a former TV host for MTV/VH-1 Networks and has sung the National Anthem for over 20 professional sports teams including; NBA,NHL,MLB,NFL and NASCAR. Gary has taught all levels of the acting program at NJSDA over the last 15 years. He initiated the Black Box Project at the school and has directed numerous productions including; Baby with the Bathwater, The Dining Room, Bedtime Stories, Office Hours, Jenny’s House of Joy, and Hairspray and Brothers Grimm Spectacularthon for NJSDA’s Encore Youth Theater. Most recently he directed Almost Maine for Cranford High School. Gary is a Proud member of AEA SAG/AFTRA and is married to Co-Executive Director Beth Baur.
Bob Sapoff has been profiled on ABC News, CNN, NY 1 News and in the Star Ledger, Herald News, and Daily Record. A professional actor and instructor for over 30 years, his theatre credits include the role of Harpo in the Off-Broadway revival of “The Cocoanuts”, which was named one of the 10 best Off-Broadway productions of the year. Bob has appeared on Nickelodeon and in countless television commercials (including a Clio Award winner) and print work nationwide. He is the founder and executive director of NJSDA’s own professional improv troupes: “Nutty By Nature” (now in its 22nd year), which tours the NY/NJ metropolitan area and “On The Spot”. Since 2008 he has been an adjunct professor in the film department of Montclair State University where he teaches “Acting for Filmmakers”. Bob also leads corporate workshops in improv and acting. In his 30+ years as a teacher, Bob has taught over 2,000 students.
Ted Wrigley is an Equity actor who has been teaching improvisation and acting for over 17 years. He teaches the Intro to Acting and Improvisation classes for the tween and teen programs, as well as the Intro to Acting, Actor Prepares, Scene Study and Building a Character levels of the Adult program. Ted has directed Class Acts for NJSDA and currently directs NJSDA’s professional improv troupes Nutty by Nature and the teen troupe Sparks of Insanity. Ted is a graduate of the NJ School of Dramatic Arts acting program and is the artistic director of the recently formed Rising Curtain Theatre Company (made up of former NJSDA alumni.)
Straight from high school, Danielle interned with private acting coach Bob Luke in NYC and performed and toured with the off-Broadway production of Tony and Tina’s Wedding. Danielle earned a BA in theatre with a minor in musical theatre and an MA in Educational Leadership from Montclair State University. She worked as the Fine & Performing Arts Supervisor for The District of Hoboken where she has created an award winning K-12 Theatre Program over the last ten years. She received a Governor’s Award in Arts Education for Outstanding Theatre Educator of the Year and was awarded the District of Hoboken’s Teacher of the year in 2015. She currently serves on 3 statewide committees – NJ Core Curriculum Content Standards theatre writing team; NJ SEL/Arts Education Framework which intersects SEL standards with New Jersey Student Learning Standards in the Visual and Performing Arts; and the Arts Ed NJ Task Force. Ms. Miller serves as the current President of the Speech and Theatre Association of NJ. This organization is the voice of advocacy for inclusion of speech and theatre arts in education curricula. She teaches workshops at the NJEA Teachers Convention annually and has been a student of HB Studio studying Uta Hagen’s Techniques for 18 years.
Leigh Weinman is pleased to add her musical talent to the musical theater classes at NJSDA. In addition to her years of experience as an accompanist and music director, she has been teaching piano privately in Morris County for more than 25 years. Miss Leigh, as she is known by her students, enjoys nothing more than sharing her love of all forms of music, and she is especially passionate about collaborating with burgeoning young performers as they discover the thrill of musical theater while they develop and engage their talents. Leigh started her own journey in the theater during her high school years, which included a memorable opportunity to perform in the pit ensemble for a summer theater production of Pippin. It was this experience that instilled her longstanding love of the art and the joy of the kinship that musical theater inspires. She also performs regularly as both a sole accompanist and as part of a pit ensemble for full scale local high school and community theater productions, in addition to teaching and music directing for musical theater classes in the area. In addition to teaching at NJSDA, this past year that included music directing a Winter Showcase and playing for Working the Musical at Delbarton School and Lyndhurst Middle School, playing for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Livingston High School, and music directing a production of Lion King Jr. for Aspire Performing Arts Company. Leigh is proud to be a part of the NJSDA family.
Tatiana Bustamante is a Latinx actor, director, producer and teacher from Miami, Florida. She received her BFA in Musical Theater from the Chicago College of Performing Arts. Tatiana was most recently seen as the Little Mermaid in Disenchanted at the Womens Theater and Majorie May in Porchlight Music Theater’s production of Gypsy (2019 Equity Jeff Award Nominee). Tatiana has over 6 years of teaching experience including voice, acting and dance. She holds positions as a teaching artist at Manhattan Theatre Club, a dance instructor at Joann’s School of Dance and a camp director/teacher at NJSDA. Tatiana is represented by the Gray Talent Group.
Amber Smith is a graduate of Montclair State University with a BA in Theater Studies. Currently she is pursuing her teaching degree and is a para professional, working with special needs students. Amber started her acting and musical theater journey as a student at NJSDA when she was 12 and has been performing ever since. Acting credits include; Fiona in Shrek, Winnifred in Once Upon a Mattress and the Drowsey Chaperone in The Drowsey Chaperone. Amber loves the stage, but her true love is working with children. Her goal is to instill the love of the arts the way it was instilled in her.
Mick Gyure is a graduate of the acting program at NJSDA, currently teaches the TV Commercial program. Since completing the program, Mick has done over fifty TV commercials, promos, industrials, and print projects. Top spots include Tropicana Online Casino, Metlife, Geisinger, ION TV, Insight Cable, CNBC Mad Money, CNBC 360 and CNBC On the Money, The Wendy Williams Show, and many others. Mick has also recently been seen in various TV shows airing on Nickelodeon, Discovery Channel, Travel Channel and the Biography Channel, as well as a number of independent films and local theatre.
Heather Dilly has been a professional actor/writer/filmmaker for the past 20 years. Theatre credits include numerous Off-Broadway and regional productions working with such artists as Tony award winner Judith Ivey and Pulitzer Prize nominated writer Rolin Jones. She started the successful award winning film company Laurel Film (best actress award in the Long Island Film Festival for Sovereignty and Look Away Life). Heather teaches all of the Acting for TV & Film classes.
Paul Russell’s career as a screen & stage casting director, director, author of books for and about actors spans projects for major film studios including: 20th Century Fox, HBO; television networks NBC and CBS, Broadway, and regional theater. His work in casting includes working with leading Hollywood actors including: Denzel Washington, Annette Bening, Bruce Willis, Jennifer Aniston, Cynthia Nixon, Ileana Douglas, Lainie Kazan, Phylicia Rashād, Kevin Bacon, and Victor Garber. He cast the Drama Desk winning COBB produced in New York & LA by Kevin Spacey, the original productions of String Fever (starring Cynthia Nixon), Pera Palas (Sinan Unel), Woody Guthrie’s American Song (Drama Desk noms.) plus casting for the Asolo, San Jose Rep., the Barter Theatre (TONY recipient) and over a dozen more regional theaters.
Adi Zacks is currently pursuing a BFA in Acting at Coastal Carolina University (‘22). At CCU, she was featured in productions such as Dance Nation, Romeo and Juliet, and an original puppet festival called Puppapalooza. On the screen, Didi can be seen in the first episode of a new series called No Rest for the Wicked, which will be available for streaming on Amazon Prime in December 2021. She has also worked as a featured actor in the pilot for a new Nickelodeon series called Counting Stars (coming soon!). Didi has also acted in numerous short films, the most recent of which being The Wheel, written and directed by Sarah Krawczyk. In addition to acting, she has been trained in clowning and tight-wire walking. Didi is a photographer and runs her own business called Adi Zacks Photography, where she specializes in headshots and portraits.
Robert is a life-long resident of New Jersey, a spectacular cook and a seasoned veteran in the arts community. From 2005 to 2019, Robert served as Director of Programs and Services/ADA Coordinator for the New Jersey Theatre Alliance, the award winning service organization for NJ’s professional theaters. In 2014, Robert was awarded the Inaugural Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability (LEAD) Community Asset Award from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for his redesign of the statewide ADA plan submission and evaluation process. The LEAD® Community Asset Award recognizes the achievements of cultural arts administrators or organizations that continually demonstrate success with access initiatives, improving accessibility in their organization, city, state or region. Previously, Robert served as General Manager for the 12 Miles West Theatre Company. He called Writers’ Theatre home from 1998 to 2004 and in his professional career has worn many hats as producer, actor, director and teaching artist. He has also served on the faculty of New Jersey School of Dramatic Arts in Bloomfield. As a performer he has worked in many of the Alliance’s member theaters including 12 Miles West, The Bickford Theatre, The Growing Stage; The Children’s Theatre of NJ, Luna Stage Company and Writers Theatre. Currently, Robert is spending his days in the recording booth as a professional voice over artist. Robert’s clients to date include, Canon, Ragu, QuickBooks, AstraZeneca, Englewood Hospital, Hasbro, Altice, Rust-Oleum and the New York State Department of Health as well as many others. Carr is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association.
Mikaela Kafka is an Actor, Director, Playwright. She has been involved with The NY International Fringe Festival since its inaugural year as a Director and has continued involvement as either an actress, adjudicator, and\or producer in every consecutive year till the present. She is also an 8 year member of Centenary Stage Company’s Women Playwright series as an Adjudicator and Director. She has had the honor to work with such playwrights as Catherine Castellani, Michelle Aldin-Kushner, Sonya Sobieski, Sholeh Wolpe, Cheri Magid, and most recently Jennifer Fawcett. ‘Apples in Winter’ was produced this Spring during its Rolling World Premiere at Centenary Stage Company under Mikaela’s direction starring Colleen Smith-Wallnau. Mikaela also workshopped and directed Wendy’s Shadow by David Maglione at Hamilton Stages being awarded the NJACT PERRY Award for ‘Best Original Musical” 2016. Other directing credits include Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (Circle Players), Murder on the Nile, The Selfish Giant, and The Unexpected Guest (Players Theatre NYC), ENRON (GarageTheatre Group), Dragons Breath by Michael C. Oday (NYC Fringe).
Eden Mendez is a performer and educator who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education and a Master’s degree in Education. By day, Eden works as a music teacher for the Westwood Regional School District, where she teaches general music and chorus to students in grades K-5 and runs several of the district’s theater programs. She also teaches private voice lessons with a specialization in musical theater and audition preparation. Outside of teaching, Eden performs as the lead singer of a wedding band and as an actress in theater groups throughout NJ/NY. Some of her favorite roles she’s played include Belle in Beauty and the Beast, Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, and Elle in Legally Blonde!
Angelique is a professional Improv Comedian, actor, business owner and Mommy of 3. She has performed at many notable clubs; including Stonewall Inn NYC as Gail in Gail and Angela and has starred in several independent films, her most recent The Crab that debuted at the Garden State Festival. She is the founder and President of JESTR Comedy Company LLC producing Stand-Up comedy shows in the greater New Jersey area. Angelique is part of the teaching staff at the school specializing in the children’s programs and is the Office manager at NJSDA.
Iyonnah Cousins is a graduate of Centenary University with a B.A in Theatre Performance Studies and a minor in communication. Iyonnah is a New Jersey native that begun acting at the age of 13 as a student of the Paterson Public Schools and Passaic County Technical Institute. Her assistant stage management credits include: Juliet and her Romeo, a Shakespeare in the park program that debuted this summer in South Orange under the direction of Nathan Darrow. As well as Apples in Winter with the Centenary Stage Company. Acting credits include: The Merry Wives of Windsor; She Kills Monsters; 1984; and a reason to be pretty. She loves working with children of all ages, and looks forward to instilling the arts with today’s youth.
Alex Bernstein is the award-winning author of the Miserable series of books (Miserable Adventure Stories, Miserable Holiday Stories, Miserable Love Stories), and Plrknib. He’s written for Disney Junior’s P. King Duckling and is a staff writer for Discovery Kids’ The Dog & Pony Show. He’s co-founder of the Curtains on Fire writer’s workshop. His work has appeared at McSweeney’s, NewPopLit, The Big Jewel, The American Bystander, Yankee Pot Roast, Cincinnati Magazine, USA Today Magazine, Swink, Litro, Back Hair Advocate, Corvus, BluePrintReview, Hobo Pancakes, Gi60, The Rumpus, The Legendary, MonkeyBicycle, and PopImage, among numerous others.