Barry McNamara  |   Published May 05, 2022

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Cliffel, Madu leaving later this summer to be a part of it ... the theatre scene in New York, New York.

ON BROADWAY: That's where 2023 classmates Gabriela Madu and Andrew Cliffel will be this Augus... ON BROADWAY: That's where 2023 classmates Gabriela Madu and Andrew Cliffel will be this August, participating in an intensive stage performance experience.MONMOUTH, Ill. – Because of Monmouth College’s address, all of its theatre students get to perform “on Broadway,” the street that borders the south end of campus and is home to Wells Theater.

But in August, Andrew Cliffel ’23 of Lakewood, Ohio, and Gabriela Madu ’23 of Montego Bay, Jamaica, will be on the real Broadway in New York City, participating in one of four week-long “Broadway Intensives” hosted this summer by the Open Jar Institute, Broadway’s premier actor training program.

Under the direction of Broadway director/choreographer Jeff Whiting, students participate in high-intensity workshops in acting, singing, dance and audition techniques, all taught by Broadway professionals. And if that weren’t attractive enough, the participants also get seats for three Broadway productions.

There are two sessions this summer for college students and two others for high school students. Open Jar’s teaching artists come from a rotating list, and one of the teachers Madu will work with is Stacia Fernandez, who spent part of her childhood in Monmouth as the daughter of the late communication professor Tom Fernandez.

The Open Jar opportunity is an offshoot of Cliffel and Madu’s participation in a regional Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival earlier this year. There, Madu placed second in the musical theater competition and was a semifinalist in the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Auditions. The College has participated in the festival since 1995, and no Monmouth student has previously reached either of those heights.

You’ve got mail

Cliffel was the first of the pair to hear from Open Jar, receiving an email. He wasn’t quite sure what it meant until Madu told him.

“I thought it was just a general email – something not for just me – probably everyone got one,” said Cliffel. “I showed it to Gabi, and she started screaming. She said, ‘This is the whole point of the (theatre festival) competition – to get one of these invitations.’”

“I thought it was just a general email – something not for just me – probably everyone got one. I showed it to Gabi, and she started screaming. She said, ‘This is the whole point of the competition – to get one of these invitations.’” Andrew Cliffel

“I told him, ‘This is lit. This is good news,’” said Madu.

I said, ‘Then please tell me you got one, too,’” said Cliffel. “’I’m not going to New York without you.’”

Madu, indeed, got one, too, receiving her invitation three or four days later.

That was an exciting moment for both students, but there was still another amazing email to come.

Both students were wondering how they’d be able to come up with the approximate $4,000 cost per person for their week in the Big Apple. They were both notified that they’d received small scholarships to attend, but there were still thousands of dollars needed.

A GoFundMe campaign was in the works on campus to help the students, but then another solution emerged.

“On a whim, I shot President Wyatt an email,” said Madu. “I spent a long time on it, crafting it so I said things just right. A few days later, Drew and I were at an all-day tech event for (the College production) The Spoon River Project, and we were just getting ready to go on our lunch break. I got a text from Drew, which was weird because I’d just seen him like two seconds ago. It was to tell me that we just received an email from President Wyatt with the subject line ‘Pack your bags!’”

Wyatt had found a trustee who was not only willing to help, but was covering the entire $8,000 cost for the pair. Madu and Cliffel’s New York City dream was going to be a reality.

Pro tips

“I want it to be a wake-up call for me,” said Madu. “Here at Monmouth, we really get to try whatever we want, and it’s a small enough school that we usually get the role or the position we want. But I don’t want to get complacent. I want to know what it is that I need to be striving for – to work for one week with all these other talented performers and see where I stand.”

“I don’t want to get complacent. I want to know what it is that I need to be striving for – to work for one week with all these other talented performers and see where I stand.” Gabriela Madu

“The opportunity to get immediate feedback from someone working in the city – it’s the best information you can have,” said Cliffel, who hopes the stage is in his post-Monmouth future. “I definitely want to get into performance. I might go to grad school, eventually, but I definitely want to try acting professionally in some capacity.”

The “Broadway Intensive” experience will complete a busy theatre-themed summer for Madu, who has a two-month internship at the Indianapolis Shakespeare Company. Cliffel might be working one state east in Ohio, potentially on a production of Spring Awakening that just had one of its actors leave the show.

More information about Madu and Cliffel is available at their respective websites: gabrielamadu.com and drewcliffel.webly.com.

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