By Rachel Katz, Special to the Independent
Amid a large cast of veteran and emerging actors performing in the hit musical “Hairspray” are three local young women delighted to showcase their talent for audiences of Laguna Playhouse.
Marlena Becker, Jayden Goodman, and Siena Yusi, all under 20, are cast in supporting roles of the main stage performance. All three have managed to become
engaging actresses at a young age, and also demonstrated that plays are more than just memorizing lines.
Jayden, who depicts Brenda in “Hairspray,” is 15-years-old and is the second youngest member of the cast. She attends Tesoro High School in Ladera Ranch. Jayden’s acting pursuits began with a role in a community theater production of “Pinkalicious.”
“I love how we can tell a story from a different point of view,” Jayden said.
For the past three years, she’s improved her acting skills with challenging roles while enrolled in the Laguna Playhouse Youth Conservatory Program. “I wouldn’t have had the ability to compete for a main stage role against college students and adults if it wasn’t for the Laguna Playhouse Youth Conservatory Program,” Jayden said.
Auditions and interviews are required to enter the program, which splits students into four classes depending on age and skill. Students attend weekly classes to learn acting techniques and technical theater skills. The students are required to perform in two showcases each year. “The program is where you can go and be confident and make your weaknesses your strengths,” Jayden said.
What she likes best about the program is the opportunity to take the stage and tell a story through her own eyes by going beyond regurgitating lines.
“I can find what I like and have a new story to tell,” said Jayden, who intends to keep performing in theater while in high school and study acting afterwards.
Siena Yusi, cast as Lou Ann in “Hairspray,” is also a student of the Playhouse Conservatory. The 17-year-old previously won roles in other shows, including “Footloose” and “All Shook Up” at the Playhouse.
The Laguna Hills resident discovered her love for theater when she went to “Hairspray” camp at age 9. Afterwards, she told herself, “this is it, this is what I want to do,” said Yusi. Her first main stage performance at the Playhouse, “A Christmas Memory,” was at age 13.
Yusi will continue to pursue her passion for theater this fall at New York University. She has been accepted to the competitive Tisch Program as a drama major. She aims to continue with acting, but also learn more about other aspects of theater, such as directing.
Marlena Becker, Shelley in “Hairspray,” is a 19-year-old theater student at UCLA.
The Laguna Beach native first got interested in performing as a child when she would dress up and sing along to Disney tunes.
She progressed to singing and writing her own songs. It was no surprise to her family when she fell in love with a middle school drama class and decided to move forward with acting. She decided to audition for “Hairspray” as a summer job and way to keep herself in the theater scene.
Becker looks towards the future, “I definitely want to travel and do theater,” she said. After college, she hopes to teach English or yoga while still being able to participate in the theater. Her love for theater is fueled by how a performance can change people’s lives by providing a new perspective. “ ‘Hairspray’ has a really great message about loving everybody,” said Becker, “it doesn’t matter what you look like, which still carries over to today.”
Laguna playhouse conservatory program under the direction of Donna Inglima is fantastic and our youth are blessed to be under her guidance!
[…] look along. I think it worked well, especially for that time. Also notable, in a similar vein, was Marlena Becker (FB)’s Dora Foster, whose dance partner was Olympic Champion Johnny Adel (Justin Baker (FB)). […]