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“Grease” may be a show about the 1950s, but A Work of Heart’s social media coordinator, Sophia Monte, is bringing technology into the mix.

Monte, a 20-year-old Early Childhood Education Major at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, creates Tik Tok videos for the company, and she also happens to be one of two actresses performing as Sandy. This is her first lead role with the company, but she is not a stranger to the production company. She has taken many masterclasses and played small roles in A Work of Heart’s 2021 production of “Legally Blonde.”

Monte has not formally auditioned for a musical since she portrayed Sophia in the jukebox musical “Mamma Mia!” back in 2019 at the YMCA in her hometown Wayne. “I was so excited, and I was relieved because I was really nervous,” she said about receiving the email from Angelo DeFazio and Nicole Lippey that she earned the role after auditions.

A young woman with brown curly hair in a blue dress with a brown crossbody purse
Monte as Sophie in "Mamma Mia!"

Monte said she finds inspiration for Tik Tok posts by keeping up with trends on the popular social media app as well as “making sure everyone is included.” Monte created a post introducing the cast of “Grease” along with the characters that they portray. She said that A Work of Heart’s next Tik Tok post will be a similar format but for the company’s junior show, “High School Musical.”

Check out Sophie's Tik Tok here!

Monte shared that her favorite songs to sing are “Summer Nights” because of the blocking as well as her solo in the second act, “Hopelessly Devoted to You.” “I like to sing slower songs usually in my life,” she explained.

The character of Sandy is often criticized by people because of her stark differences from the rest of the characters in the show. With this in mind, Monte says she is making her own connections to the character. “I feel like I’m like Sandy in ways especially when it comes to relationships,” Monte added.

She also explains how she admires Sandy for how the character interacts with Danny Zuko in the show. “When he starts treating her not the way he’s supposed to, she’s not afraid to stand her ground,” Monte said.

Monte said she has had a lot of fun rehearsing for this show. She added “reconnecting with a lot of people from high school or others shows and all coming together to put on a super iconic show.”

Monte’s advice for her fellow castmates are to enjoy each moment because the time of the show will go by quickly. “Taking in and savoring every rehearsal while learning everything and having fun” is what she suggests for everyone to do.

Monte expressed her gratitude for her friendships with her cast mates and the summer show. “Everyone getting along makes performing together so much better,” she said.

Watch all Tik Toks from A Work of Heart Productions!

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A Wednesday night in the summer for a woman in her 20s usually looks like staying down the shore with family or going out to a bar with friends. For Nina DaCosta, however, she is wearing a zip-up hoodie and leggings in the music wing of the College of Saint Elizabeth in Morristown, NJ. She is teaching dance numbers for a production of “Grease”.

DaCosta, 22, is a first grade teacher at Michelle Obama Elementary School in Newark, Jersey. She has been given the responsibility of choreographer for the performing arts company A Work of Heart Productions. Although this is her first time choreographing a show, she is not new to the world of dancing, or to the artistic director of the company, Angelo DeFazio.

DaCosta grew up in East Hanover, where DeFazio has directed shows in her middle school and high school. DeFazio reached out to DaCosta before auditions to offer her the opportunity, and she knew that she wanted to say yes. Not only does she know DeFazio, but she also has a connection to this musical because DeFazio directed a production of the show while she attended Hanover Park High School. “This opportunity was one I could not pass up because I am able to take my two passions (teaching and dance) and create numbers for a cast that is so enthusiastic, kind, uniquely special, and talented,” she said. Through this opportunity, DaCosta also works with founder of the production company Nicole Lippey, a teacher from DeFazio’s previously owned company, Theater Next Door. However, DaCosta met Lippey for the first time this summer, and she had nothing to say but positive things about both directors. “They both are two of the most incredible people I know, and I am glad that this production connected each of us,” she said. DaCosta researched for this position by educating herself on dance moves from the 1950s, which is the time period of the musical. She said that she also took the time to refamiliarize herself with the movie, which she grew up watching, as well as looking further into the characters. Finally, she took inspiration from her high school’s production back in 2014. “I also recognize that each dancer has different dancing abilities so I definitely wanted to provide modifications and artistic freedom in some areas for performers,” DaCosta said. “I believe that being a teacher has supported me in supporting performers to learn the choreography that I have come up with.” Although there are over 20 songs in the musical, DaCosta said her favorite number to choreograph is “Shaking at the High School Hop”, which is the opening number of the second act. This song is about the students of Rydell High School at their dance. “This number requires high energy and excitement, and when done correctly, has this contagiousness about it that makes the audience want to jump out of their seats and dance,” DaCosta explains. “It is a full cast number which is great because I get to play around with spacing, levels, and ripples. It also is just such a fun number that even when we are learning and rehearsing it, the whole room is just lit up with this spark from each performer” When this experience began for DaCosta, she said that she felt nervous about how her ideas would look once the cast began to learn it. After rehearsals began, her perspective changed. “However, the first day when I stepped into rehearsal and was welcomed, I felt so excited to teach what I had put together,” she explained. “Each dancer/performer took the steps they were given and fully embodied them and made them their own. THAT is what makes them so special and this experience of watching the choreo I have come up with really come to life” This summer may be just the beginning of a new chapter for DaCosta, who said she would be willing to choreograph more shows for A Work of Heart if given the opportunity. “Truthfully, it has been the most beautiful experience to get to work with this team and to feel the love and energy every single time I walk into a rehearsal. It is such a wonderful environment, you cannot help but feel happy when you are around each and every single one of these incredible people.”

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Take a deeper dive into the theater company and the people who make this studio a home.

This blog will share updates of the shows from the New Jersey theatre company, A Work of Heart. Summer shows for A Work of Heart are “High School Musical” for performers ages 5-14 and “Grease” for performers ages 15-25. Profiles the members of the company will bring readers closer to the “heart” of the studio. This blog will also address social and cultural messages related to the shows and cast members. Welcome to a company that sings from the soul and performs from the heart!

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