CS I’m here with Alexa Burger, who is just about to graduate.
CS: Has graduated?
AB: I graduated last Saturday.
CS: Oh, congratulations!
AB: Thank you.
CS: Tell me when you came to Center Stage.
AB: I think I came to Center Stage when I was three years old, and I’m17 now, so that’s like…
CS: A long time.
AB: A long time, 14 years.
CS: And you’ve always been in the Marlboro studio, right?
CS: The people I’ve interviewed so far have been company people, and I think your experience has been different from alot of the main Center Stage people, in that you’re not a company person. You’ve never been a company person, right?
AB: I was when I was little, for two years, and then that ended. I did jazz and tap. I was with Karen, and then with Jan. I guess I’ve always been in my own little group, I was never in company.
CS: I think that’s unique that you are this hard-core Center Stage person, and yet you’re not a company person. How did you work that out?
AB: Well, I’ve always been taking dance classes, but not company. So I would just take tap, jazz, lyrical, I took hip-hop, I took ballet. I always did acting, too. And then when the big show came along– wait did I act in the little show?
CS: The first thing I remember you doing in my acting class was “Alice in Wonderland.”
AB: Really? No, we did “42nd Street” before that. And “The Boyfriend.” Yeah, because I remember when I was in acting class, or Musical Theatre class, I would act in scenes in the show without being in the acting showcase.
CS: So you also took Musical Theatre.
AB: Yeah, with Karen, when I was little.
CS: So, whereas, most of the people I’ve interviewed so far have been dancers that also act and/or sing, you are a musical theatre person that dances. And also, I think unlike other people at the school, you’ve been performing in other things outside of Center Stage while you’ve been a student here. You’ve done your school shows. And you have done some professional work. Can we talk about that?
AB: Well, the first thing was– that’s why I quit company when I was like 8, because I got into “The American Girl Revue” in New York and I did that for four years. And I was going into the city three times a week, so that’s why I had to quit company, because obviously I couldn’t do both.
CS: So over the four years, did you play different characters? Do you like grow up?
AB: Yes. Because they have their set of characters of the American Girl dolls, but the youngest one was this girl, Michelle, who wasn’t really a doll. But then after 2 years, I became Kit and Kirsten, who were dolls. Because Michelle was usually the younger one.
CS: So, you did that for four years.
AB: Yes, and that ended, and I was really sad, because that was my life.
CS: So, were you too old? Did they say, “You’re too old. You need to retire.”
AB: Yes! No, I’m dead serious. They were making a sequel called “Circle of Friends,” and I tried out, and I got a callback, but then they said, “You’re too old. You’re going to be 13 soon.” I was insulted. I had to leave. That was really sad. But then I did this show called, “Don’t Worry, Be Jewish” in the city, and that was fun. That ran for a month. And then my Freshman year in high school, they did a revival of “Songs for a New World” in the city, and they added a teen ensemble, and that was a lot of fun. I got to meet Jason Robert Brown, and we hung out with the kids from “13” on Broadway, because we were right next to each other.
CS: And what else?
AB: And then I was in a TV series called “Pinky Dinky Doo.”
CS: Which is my FAVORITE credit of all. Talk about that.
AB: That was a lot of fun. It was an animated show, so it was a voice-over. I had to have a character voice. It was so cool going into the studio to record.
CS: And who were you?
AB: I was Daphne Toilette and Abby McTabby.
CS: Oh, I didn’t know that. I thought you were just Daphne Toilette.
AB: Abby McTabby was just a one-time thing. She was just one episode.
CS: How long did that go on?
AB: I did about 10 episodes. I’d just go in once in a while. They’d send me the script and I’d come in and record it. That was so much fun.
CS: I’ve heard other people say, like stars that do cartoon voice-overs, that they never see the people that they co-star with. Were you there with the other people?
AB: No, it’s just me.
CS: So, it’s just you, and you’re sitting in a room saying lines. That’s so weird.
AB: It is weird. I’ve only seen the Pinky Dinky Doo girl once, but I think she’s from Australia or something. And I’ve never seen anyone else.
CS: And the kids are all kids?
AB: I don’t know. I have no idea.
CS: So, there’s no interaction. You’re not responding to anybody. How do you act like that?
AB: I’d have to pause, and then I’d go into the next line. And I’d have to pretend that the person said something.
CS: And so do you say each line different ways?
AB: They broke it up in sections, and they made me do each section. You’d slate, say your name and your character, and then you’d have to do each section like three times.
CS: So, back to Center Stage stuff: your first big show was “Freedom Dance?”
AB: That was the first show I acted in. And I was the girl who hurt her leg.
CS: Oh, yeah. And the little Native American boy came and healed you.
AB: Yeah, that’s right. That was Dan Higgins, right?
AB: The big shows: those are definitely the memories that are going to be imprinted in my brain the most, because that’s what I remember most about Center Stage, the best experiences. I’m so glad I got to do it for this long. This is my 9th one, or my 8th one?
CS: So you’ve been in them ever since.
AB: Yeah, I never stopped.
CS: And often you were bratty little girls?
AB: Yes. And then I was the annoying little sister one time.
CS: So, then was “Extreme Makeover” your first grown-up role?
AB: No, the one before that. “Radio Waves.” I shared that with Amanda and Sam. That was my first grown-up role.
CS: Wow. You are real Center Stage history, Alexa Burger. So, what happens next? What are your plans?
AB: My plans. Well, I’m going to Monmouth University, and I’m going to major in Broadcasting, and I’m going to minor in Musical Theatre, because I’m not giving up that dream. I’m interested in Broadcasting. I love being in front of the camera, and talking, and interacting with people. But I’m going to keep on auditioning, and if I’m lucky enough to get something, I will quit college in a second, but for now, I’m going to stay studying.
CS: What’s your favorite show you ever saw?
AB: I loved “Memphis” on Broadway. It was fantastic.
CS: Dream role?
AB: Well, my dream role was Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde,” but I just did that in my high school.
CS: So you’ve already fulfilled your dream.
AB: You know “Anastasia?” I would really love them to make that into a Broadway show. That would be great. Because I think that’s such a great story.
CS: So, we’re putting that out to the universe.
AB: Yes. If anyone wants to write a Broadway show, even a movie. I could do a movie, too.
CS: What are you going to miss most about Center Stage?
AB: There’s not alot of times in your life when you go somewhere where you’re completely comfortable with every aspect of it. And I’m just comfortable with the teachers, and the students, and the place itself, both with the East Brunswick studio and the Marlboro studio, and the State Theatre.
CS: One of my favorite things about what we do is the State Theatre, and the fact that you guys get this experience of being here. It’s such an amazing place, and the idea that you get to come here.
AB: And perform on this stage.
CS: Right, and know what this experience is, so when you go anywhere else, it’s not going to be totally foreign to you. You have this point of reference.
AB: I think it is valuable to know how the backstage works, and everything. I’m going to miss that alot.
All of us in the audience at the State theatre on June 10th were lucky enough to watch Alexa play the role of Zoey in our mainstage teen production “Almost Famous” know what a dynamic performer she is. One of my proudest moments was watching Alexa and Brielle Daley Strugala sing ” Out Here On My Own” with such passion and technique. Our entire faculty know that great opportunities in the performing arts await her and we will support her on her journey!