A friend of Monica Sampson once joked that every movie she watched was about a young Jewish girl who dreamed of moving to New York and becoming a Broadway star. Sampson, a local actress, couldn’t miss the irony.
“I was like, ‘Yes, that is my life,’” she said during a recent interview, breaking into a laugh.
Thanks to her drive and passion, Sampson, 22, has already packed a lot into her budding career. Set to graduate this spring, Sampson is double majoring in broadcast journalism and theater. She has interned with the local affiliates of NPR and PBS, among other outfits, and hosts a morning show on KASC Blaze Radio called “Mojo in the Morning.”
Though passionate about journalism, it’s the stage that really lights her up. This summer, Sampson will travel to London to study at one of the most famous theaters in history: the Globe.
Sampson will be the first Arizonan to study at the Globe Theatre with Performing Arts Abroad, a nonprofit that facilitates international study programs for performance artists.
Sampson and her cohorts will be training in London with practicing theater professionals, said Reynolds Whalen, the founder and executive director of PAA. “They’ll be studying movement and text analysis, and how to perform Shakespeare and how to interpret his works for the stage. They get to do a final performance in a candlelit indoor theater space on the premises of the Globe called the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse,” Whalen said.
Though Sampson said conducting the Skype auditions for the program was “terrifying,” her extensive experience in broadcasting and acting clearly served her well. She not only secured her spot, but also received a scholarship covering most of the program’s cost. None of this was surprising to the professors who have worked with her.
“Monica has always gone above and beyond in her classes,” said Gene Ganssle, a lecturer at Arizona State University’s
Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. “Once she showed up to our screen acting class with her own camera equipment. She used our green screen to shoot a standup [report]on a story before class began. She was able to multitask like crazy.”
Rabbi Mitch Goldstein, the ASU campus rabbi for Jewish Arizonans on Campus, recalled Sampson using her gifts to help JAC, such as when she wrote the script for the organization’s murder mystery dinner or when she made an award-winning documentary about her own journey of discovery regarding her Jewish background.
“She took those skills and merged them into this beautiful project which highlighted her journey through Judaism and what Judaism meant to her,” Goldstein said. “I think that was an amazing testament to not only her skills as a person in the entertainment arts, but also a personal testament to her depth of understanding and connection to her Judaism.”
Participants in the Globe program will spend most mornings in workshops and lectures and afternoons in rehearsals. They will also have a substantial amount of free time, which they are encouraged to use to sightsee and explore London.
“One really neat thing is the weekend they go to Stratford-upon-Avon, which is where Shakespeare was born and is buried, to visit his grave and to see the Royal Shakespeare Company, which always has some really cream-of-the-crop actors,” said Whalen, who studied at the Globe Theatre in 2006. “I saw Patrick Stewart there.”
Sampson said visiting Shakespeare’s birthplace was one of the aspects of the program she was most excited about. She has also enjoyed working with her program mentor and adviser, Joe Dulude II, a makeup artist and designer best known for his work designing the makeup for the Tony Award-winning musical “Wicked.” Each participant is paired with a theater professional who helps them through the audition process, in addition to serving as an adviser and connecting the participant with additional opportunities.
“I’m really glad that I got matched with Joe and he got to be my adviser, because he’s probably been the best part of this whole process this far,” Sampson said. “One time we were on the phone and we were talking about stage fights and that kind of stuff and he was helping me figure a lot of this out. He was like, ‘Actually, Monica, can I let you go? I need to go touch up Sara Bareilles.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, sure.’”
Sampson said Dulude was also helping her line up opportunities to work and learn on London’s West End after completing her time at the Globe. She said she hoped to work on shows such as “Wicked,” “The Lion King” and “Matilda” after the formal program concludes.
When Sampson returns, she is planning to put her new skills and knowledge to work serving her Valley community.
“People from all around the world apply to this, but it’s very rare that you get to uplift your theater community as you’re doing this,” Sampson said. “That’s really my plan with this. I’ve been working with Gammage and other local theaters in the Valley to talk about maybe doing a workshop when I come back.
“I was born and raised here. This is where my acting career started,” she added. “I want to serve my fellow thespians and actors who deserve to get the same training that I’ve had. I really believe in the theater community here in Arizona.” JN