Two years running Secaucus high school students nominated for Paper Mill Playhouse awards

After going unnoticed by the state’s theatric elite for many years, Secaucus High School’s student actors received best actor nominations from a renowned playhouse for the second year in a row.

Gina Sallustio, a junior at the high school, was nominated for outstanding performance by an actress in a supporting role for her interpretation of Tiger Lily in this year’s stage production of Peter Pan in March. In total, the cast received four nominations and one honorable mention in Paper Mill Playhouse’s Rising Star competitions.

Paper Mill Playhouse, located in Madison, N.J., gives awards celebrating achievement in musical theatre productions by New Jersey high schools. Recognition of outstanding accomplishments is made in the areas of: performance, direction, choreography, costume & lighting design, and overall production excellence. The awards are announced in a ceremony on stage at Paper Mill on June 11, during which excerpts from the nominated productions are performed.

Peter Pan was also nominated for Outstanding Work by a Chorus (Lyle Leeson), Outstanding Choreography/Staging (Jodi Jaron, and Outstanding Costume Design (Dora Marra and Marie Schriever). Freshman cast member Lauren Costello received an honorable mention for Outstanding lobby display.

“We were thrilled to hear of these nominations,” said Peggy Jones, the play’s producer. “It’s a tremendous honor to be recognized by the Paper Mill judges because this program is so competitive. Winning would be icing on the cake; but it’s just great to know that stuff and students involved in our drama program are appreciated for the high quality of work they do.”

Costello added his praise for the cast.

“We’re especially excited for Gina, who was one of our true leaders right from the start. She has a truly professional approach, a tremendous worth ethic, and sets a wonderful example for others to follow. She was among the best of a very talented cast in a terrific production, and we’re proud of all of them.”

Judges select candidates plays performed in 125 high schools. These judges attended two performances in Secaucus during the last weekend in March. The cast didn’t know which performances the judges came to see, only that the judges had not come during the Saturday performance.

“That was our best performance,” Sallustio said.

As a result of her nomination, Sallustio will attend a six-week workshop this summer at the Paper Mill Playhouse Summer Music Theatre Conservatory for free.

This marks the second year in a row that a Secaucus high School student received this scholarship. Last year, Lindsayann Collazzo received a nomination and a scholarship for her role as Maria in the play West Side Story.

Performance is in her blood

Sallustio has been performing in school plays since eighth grade.

“I want to become a nurse,” she said. “But I also want to stay involve with theater.”

She said she found it an enjoyable experience that allows her to work together with other people.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she said.

Although she has performed in other parts in Joseph and the Amazing Dream Coat, The King and I and West Side Story, Sallustio said the role of Tiger Lily came more easily than other roles she’d played in the past. “Tiger Lily is a happy and ditzy,” she said. “That’s kind of how I am. I’m a cheerleader, and I found Tiger Lily full of cheer.”

Sallustio said she found the dancing and singing challenging, and that she was shocked to find that she had been nominated.

Costello said the school had a hint of her potential last year when they inserted Sallustio into a challenging role in West Side Story a week before the performance, and she did well.

She said she was inspired by another actor, Kent Carigello, a friend with whom she worked closely.

“We really helped each other.”

The nomination has inspired her younger sister to seek theater

Sallustio said that her grandfather frequently talked about music being in her family, with a relation in Italy who had excelled in violin and piano. Sallustio plays clarinet for the high school concert band as well as the high school marching band.


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