Miller Place alums return to stage

Originally from Village Beacon Record, TBR News Media

February 19, 2015 |

By Julianne Cuba

Nine years ago, Matthew Matura and Lauren Svoboda stood on the Miller Place High School stage together during one of Godspell’s most powerful scenes. Though nearly everything went comically wrong — according to Matura, the necklace Svoboda’s character was supposed to give to him got caught on a microphone and neither of them could get it loose — today, they stand on that same stage as directors of the school’s Drama Club.

This year, the club is putting on the musical, “Grease: School Version,” which is scheduled to open on Saturday, Feb. 28 at 8 p.m.

“We wanted to do a musical that would bring in as many people as we could possibly get, to meet the needs of each group … and just bring everyone together and get them really excited about it,” Svoboda said.

This year’s production marks Svoboda and Matura’s first production at the high school. From 1989 until last year, longtime music teacher David Kramer — who began working in Miller Place in 1975 — ran the club, and grew it into what it is today: a close-knit group of enthusiastic, motivated, and theater-loving students.

During his 39 years at Miller Place, Kramer directed everything from “Almost, Maine” to “RENT” to “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

In June 2014, Kramer retired from Miller Place and took a job at Mount Sinai High School as the director of their fall play. This spring, he is directing “Monty Python’s Spamalot.” The show will open on March 26.

Into Kramer’s legacy stepped Matura and Svoboda, as director and assistant director, respectively. On the side, Matura and Svoboda give private music lessons.

“I’m very excited that they have positions at Miller Place and I think that they’ll do a fantastic job in their roles as theater directors,” Kramer said. “They certainly have enough background from being in the program. They’re wonderful actors and passionate about theater.”

Matura graduated from Miller Place in 2006. He went on to receive his bachelor’s degree in music from Susquehanna University and his master’s degree in music from Stony Brook University.

In 2009, Svoboda graduated from the district and went on to study music at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music.

Though Matura and Svoboda overlapped in the drama program for just one year, they developed a friendship that brought them back to the stage where their theater careers began.

“It was always something that I wanted to do, no matter where it was, because of the incredible experience that I had here,” Svoboda said. “But coming back here and continuing on what I loved so much and what has had such an impact on me, it was the dream, it really was.”

The directors said they’re incredibly excited to see the show come together on opening night. As Miller Place alumni, their own pride for the show — and for all its actors and actresses — is that much greater.

“I’m excited to see the kids flourish, because going from the chorus room into the auditorium, their energy levels have spiked; and being on stage, knowing that people are actually going to be in the audience, will only make them that much better,” Matura said. “I’m just waiting to see the final product. I’m not nervous at all; these kids are great.”

Shannon Quinn, a science teacher, is also the musical’s choreographer.

Though she has been dancing since she was four years old, Quinn said, this is her first big choreographing project.

“The most exciting part of this experience has been working with students outside of the classroom doing something that I love to do,” Quinn said.

Miller Place High School’s Assistant Principal Joseph Zito said he knows the duo will put on a great show.

“It was good for us as a district to replace Mr. Kramer with two former students that knew the expectations and what was going into each performance,” Zito said. “We knew they would live up to those expectations and put in that same type of work.”

Matura said not much has changed in the club; the energy levels and enthusiasm have only grown. However, he did say the closeness of the group has definitely grown.

“We do a lot of family kind of exercises and it really has helped to get a great morale amongst the group,” he said. “They’re excited to come every single day, almost a little too much sometimes. We’re just one big, dramatic, happy family.”

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