In her years
at Mercer County Community College, Elizabeth Rzasa has been a student,
an employee, and, in a role she quite literally relishes like no
other, a performer at Kelsey Theatre.
According to Music Program Coordinator Jim Kelly, for whom she currently
works as an administrative assistant, Rzasa is devoted to Mercer.
"She really treasures her time here. Liz brings spirit, personality,
even a personal vision to her job," Kelly says.
A graduate of Montgomery High School, Rzasa chose to start college
at Mercer because of the Music program's outstanding reputation.
In 2001 and 2002, she studied piano and music theory under Professor
Kelly, in addition to taking a number of Liberal Arts courses. When
Rzasa transferred to Montclair State, all of her credits went with
her. Majoring in voice with a minor in linguistics, she earned her
bachelor's degree from Montclair in 2006.
While at Montclair, Rzasa continued to hone her talents, performing
regularly with the Operetta Club and as soprano section leader for
two choirs. She performed with the Delta Delta Sigma Alpha Iota
chapter, a professional female music fraternity, and served as the
group's president, coordinating several huge benefit concerts with
Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. In the summer months, she appeared
in productions at the Washington Crossing Open Air Theater - as
Rose in "The Secret Garden," Lady Larken in "Once
Upon a Mattress," and Rapunzel in "Into the Woods."
After graduation, Rzasa returned to Mercer as an employee in the
Admissions Office, but didn't stay away from the Music Department
for long. According to Professor Kelly, Rzasa has become indispensable
in serving the department's more than 100 music majors and 20 adjunct
faculty members, an increase of 75 percent since his arrival in
1994. An added plus is Rzasa's background in both music and admissions.
"She is able to pre-advise our students,'" Kelly says.
"We're able to serve more students because of Liz."
Last summer, Rzasa also worked as head vocal teacher for Tomato
Patch, the college's summer performing and visual arts workshops
for children and teens. Passing on her musical gifts and considerable
professional chops to the next generation is clearly more of a passion
than a job. "I love, love, love those kids!" Rzasa says
with characteristic enthusiasm.
Most recently, Rzasa served as musical director for "Bugsy
Malone Jr.," a children's show performed by an all-youth cast
five times in three days at Kelsey Theatre at the end of January.
Rzasa notes that most of the 19 youngsters who appeared in Bugsy
attended Tomato Patch last summer, including several of her vocal
and musical theater students." Rzasa believes that Bugsy was
an excellent, real-world follow-up to the camp program. "The
experience of being in a show gives the kids a chance to practice
what we preach to them during Tomato Patch," she said.
practice it they did - once a week starting in September, and then
three to four times a week in January. "There were a few missed
cues and the kids had to improvise. They were comfortable enough
doing that and that's what it's all about," Rzasa said. "They
had a blast. You could see it in their faces."
Rzasa continues to make her own mark on the Kelsey Theatre stage,
with starring roles as Anna in "The King and I" (2008)
and Miss Dorothy Brown in "Thoroughly Modern Millie" (2008),
both presented by Playful Theatre Productions, and Don Quixote's
niece, Antonia, in "Man of La Mancha" (2009), presented
by Maurer Productions OnStage. She was nominated for a Perry Award
in the Lead Actress category by the New Jersey Association of Community
Theaters for her role in "Honk," presented at Kelsey by
Playful Theatre Productions in 2006.