Actress From Bloomfield visits Glen Ridge-based theater camp

Photo by Daniel Jackovino
From left, Heather Ballantyne, Sofia Rubino and Erin Dilly. Sofia spoke about life on Broadway.

GLEN RIDGE, NJ — A local theater camp had a visit last week from a Broadway actress who will be a Bloomfield High School sophomore this fall.

Sofia Rubino, 15, who also attended Oak View Elementary School and Bloomfield Middle School, spoke at “12 Miles to Broadway,” the camp of Glen Ridge residents Heather Ballantyne and Erin Dilly. And what Sofia had to say was exciting stuff. She has performed in the musicals “Matilda,” “The School of Rock,” and “Billy Elliot.” Trained as a dancer, she has also been on a national tour.

She talked about the nuts and bolts of being a professional, celebrities coming backstage, and the importance of friendships.

“It’s sad when a show ends,” she said. “Especially ‘Billy Elliot,’ which closed the tour. The people are like your best friends. You see them every day.” But Sofia said she also liked going to school because she was treated like everyone else.

The Q and A took place in the gym of St. John’s Church, in Montclair, where the camp is based. Sofia sat on the edge of the stage and about 30 children were in the audience sitting in folding chairs. From the exchanges, it appeared that many of the children knew the shows Sofia was in. She recalled being in “Matilda” and forgetting her part.
“I don’t know what happened,” she said. “I looked up at the audience and I forgot what to say. So I made up what I knew she had to say.”

Adding to her fright, Sofia said she was alone on the stage at the time, in a spotlight.
“Being an actress is stressful,” she said. “You have to think about yourself and worry if another actor is going to mess up.”

During rehearsals, she took a bus to New York. But once the show began, she went by car. And the directors would always remind the children not to get distracted; to always remember their entrances.

Sofia was a swing in the three shows. A swing is an understudy that must know the parts of several performers in the event that any one of them cannot appear. She said there are times when she would be rehearsing one part and then told she was going on for another part. And then there was the problem of when an understudy cannot fill in for a part so the understudy of the understudy goes on. She said when you are working with the second understudy, the actors on stage have to be ready to react to missed lines and forgotten props. And after all this, she said she would get home at 11:30 p.m. and have homework to do.

“It’s tough being a kid and having to do all these things,” she said. She also explained how one character she played is swung around by her pigtails. A harness was used with wires concealed by the pigtails. But she was only connected to the actor who was spinning her around, face down, in darkness.

“That was fun,” she said. “It was really scary.”
She was asked if, after a show, anyone asked for her autograph. She said yes, but the children were not allowed to give autographs after “Matilda.” An adult in the audience said this was because the producers of the show wanted the children to just be that — children — because eventually the show was going to end and they would be returning to their everyday lives.

Sofia said that she was at an in-between age as an actress, either too old or too young for most parts. So for now, she will be concentrating on acting in commercials and doing voice-overs. After the last question, many of the Broadway hopefuls in the audience had a photograph of themselves taken with her.