News Column

Aspiring Broadway actress gets a break from 'Book of Mormon'

August 8, 2014

By Casey Fabris, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Aug. 08--A few months ago, Alina John had no idea what she'd be doing this summer. Now, she's spending a week working alongside Broadway professionals.

And it's all thanks to the generosity of a group of Mormons.

More accurately, a group of actors who play Mormons.

John is one of 180 people participating in an intensive summer workshop at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts taught by the Broadway Dreams Foundation.

John, 21, of Burlington County, a recent graduate of the University of the Arts, was given a scholarship from the cast of the national tour of The Book of Mormon that allowed her to attend the workshop for the second summer in a row.

On Thursday afternoon, a few days before the weeklong workshop will culminate in a performance, John got a chance to meet Josh Daniel, an actor in the current staging of the nine-time Tony-winning musical at the Forrest Theatre.

Though she's auditioned for it, John has never seen the show. When she learned cast members would be paying the cost of the workshop -- $995 -- she was excited. When she heard she'd get to meet one of the actors, she freaked out.

"I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I'm meeting them?' " she recalled, laughing. She is familiar with The Book of Mormon, which gently pokes fun at the Mormon faith, and wants to be cast in it some day.

Although the show, from the creators of South Park, is very much a comedy, it has an uplifting message about communities coming together, Daniel said. He called it "hopeful."

That's something John picked up on as well.

"I heard amongst all the comedy there was so much meaning in it," she said. "And I heard that in the music."

Daniel led the charge in raising the money to fund John's scholarship. His roommate from freshman year of college, who works for the Broadway Dreams Foundation, told him about the opportunity to pay for a scholarship.

Often, Daniel said, when he's on stage he'll think about all the people who helped get him there. He still finds it unfathomable that he's now in the position to help someone else, he said.

The main piece of advice Daniel gave John: Figure out who you are and what you alone can bring to the stage.

"Who you are is your No. 1 asset," he said.

It's a lesson John is still learning. Unlike many of her classmates at the University of the Arts, John hasn't been acting since childhood. Her high school didn't offer much in the way of the performing arts. She's been singing her whole life, but musical theater is still relatively new.

But her confidence has grown over the years and she's ready to take the stage Saturday as Sarah from Ragtime in the scene she's been working on all week.

There will be agents and casting directors in the audience, and John will get a chance to meet with them.

She hopes she'll be able to get an agent and, eventually, make her Broadway debut.

That's something Annette Tanner, executive director of the Broadway Dreams Foundation, knows John can do.

"She's in that league," Tanner said. "Without question."

215-854-5607 @CaseyFabris


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Source: Philadelphia Inquirer (PA)

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