Drama & Dance


The Upper School program offers both curricular and extracurricular opportunities for students to explore Drama. Through performing, students learn to use their voices and bodies expressively, to analyze and enliven a text, to think and create on their feet, to physicalize abstract ideas, and to present themselves confidently in front of an audience. Recent alumni have continued their performing in college, where their theatrical adventures have included acting, directing, designing, and stage-managing in productions as well as completing majors and minors in theater performance and production.

Two year-long acting electives are offered each year in the Upper School. Introduction to Acting is offered every year; advanced acting electives rotate so that students can take a four-year sequence with a different emphasis each year.

Extracurricular offerings include two major dama productions each year and an Instant Theater Festival.

The extracurricular Upper School drama program seeks to

  • involve interested students in a variety of aspects of the drama;
  • expose its audiences, actors, and technicians to a wide range of dramatic styles, periods, and playwrights;
  • expand the range and develop the skills of its participants; and
  • promote drama as an enjoyable and thought-provoking art form.


Two “mainstage” non-musical plays are produced in the Upper School each year, though some of the productions incorporate music and dance. In addition to performing, students build the sets, participate in design decisions, hang lights and configure audio equipment, and run the show during performances, with a student stage manager calling all of the cues. Rehearsals and tech sessions are held after school and on occasional weekends. Recent productions have included works ranging in style from Shakespeare to science fiction, with cast sizes ranging from ten to 25. Holley Hall’s flexible performance space provides the opportunity for stages customized to each production, including varied stage configurations and design styles.

Instant Theater Festival

Each May, starting in 2003, Rutgers Prep students have produced and organized an Instant Theater Festival (ITF). The ITF is a fast-paced adventure compressing the entire play production process into a little more than 24 hours. Student playwrights are assigned to write a script for a small group of student actors. After scripts are submitted one Saturday morning, directors and actors arrive to begin rehearsing. A team of students finds and makes props and costumes as others configure lighting and sound effects. That evening several world-premiere short plays, all related to the festival theme, are performed for an exhilarated audience.

Recent Achievements

Recent drama productions include “A Wrinkle in Time,” “Much Ado about Nothing,” and “Almost, Maine.” In 2015, Rutgers Prep produced a world-premiere adaptation of “The Two Princesses of Bamarre” by Gail Carson Levine, who attended a performance. Students from Rutgers Prep have performed in McCarter Theater’s production of “A Christmas Carol,” and as part of the Show Choir at Paper Mill Playhouse.

Faculty Professional Development Activities and Achievements

Department Chair Cora Turlish was a Directing Fellow in the 2014 Directing Workshop for Theater Educators at The Juilliard School. Her recent workshops include acting intensives with the Fiasco and Red Bull Theater Companies as well as “Making Theater without a Script” with Elevator Repair Service. She has also studied Improvisation with The Upright Citizens Brigade and Playwriting at Primary Stages.


Whether motivated by a curiosity to try something new or by a continuing interest in the discipline, at Rutgers Prep students can explore several different aspects of dance and performance.

The Upper School elective Topics in Dance welcomes new as well as experienced dancers to explore multiple dance forms, including hip hop, contemporary, concert and international forms. Offered through a special partnership with Rutgers University, Mason Gross School of the Arts, the program gives students access to resources at the college as well as the opportunity to dance with live percussion and music accompaniment. The Spring Dance Concert showcases student work from the program.


The Spring Dance Concert is designed as a celebration of the students' talents, showcasing forms of dance studied inside and outside of school. Student performances include works in the genres of Modern, Ballet, Hip Hop, Theater Dance, Indian Dance, and Classical Chinese Dance. The dancers also have the opportunity to present their own movement studies, demonstrating their choreography skills and creativity.

Additional opportunities for students to explore the art form are theatre productions,
some of which incorporate dance, and the school’s Diwali celebration, which includes dance performances by students from all divisions of the campus.

Faculty Professional Development Activities and Achievements

Olivia Mode-Cater serves on the adjunct faculty of the Dance Department at Rutgers University supervising graduate student teaching interns and teaching several courses at the undergraduate and graduate level. She has presented on dance education at various conferences including NJAHPERD and NJ Charter Schools Conference and will be presenting at this year’s National Dance Education Organization Conference in San Antonio, TX. She has earned several recognitions for her teaching: 2012 Nancy Higginson Door Award, 2012 New Jersey Distinguished Student Teacher Award, and 2013 Union County Superintendent Round Table’s Teacher Excellence Award.