While most students were enjoying a nice relaxing day at the pool this past summer, Westfield High School student Jon Lawlor went to a theater arts workshop in Hollywood, Calif., thanks to his Cappie-Award-winning performance in Westfield’s "Godspell." While out west, Lawlor absorbed more about the professional theater world than most students dream about getting in high school. Lawlor learned about auditioning, performing, and the stress and strain of preparing for live theater.
As a high school sophomore last year, Lawlor played Jesus in the musical "Godspell." Last June, he received a best lead actor Cappie award for his portrayal and with that award came the opportunity to participate in the workshop, spearheaded by Bill Strauss, the director of the Cappies organization.
During his three-week stay in Hollywood, Lawlor performed in three plays: "The Makiddo," "Freethemusic.com," and a review of Richard Rodgers songs. "The Makiddo" and "Freethemusic.com" were both written by Cappies founder Bill Strauss. Immediately upon arriving in California, Lawlor was cast in the lead role of Jack Smith in "Freethemusic.com" and he had just a few days to learn all of his lines.
During the workshop, a typical rehearsal began at 9 a.m. with workshop instruction with theater director Paul Gleason. Then the actors worked with their directors Allan Piper, Phil Lierness, and Jeff Urband all day and into the evening. The weekend after each show closed, the cast recorded the songs from the musical in Urband's professional studio. Though this sometimes kept them up until 2 a.m., it was still great fun for Jon.
"You get anywhere from two to 10 actors in a room together with a microphone … you do the math," said Jon.
His favorite show was Richard Rodgers review because the students performed alongside Broadway names such as Jill Van Velzer and Anne Runolfsson at The John Raitt Theatre and the Beverly Hills Civic Center.