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The Play’s The Thing For U.Va. Student

May 6, 2002-- Sarah Drew’s parents noticed she had an uncanny stage presence at her graduation from kindergarten.

Now, as she nears graduation from the University of Virginia, the film and theater worlds are taking notice, too.

Drew received rave reviews from the New York Times and Variety for her performance as Juliet in a production of "Romeo and Juliet" at the celebrated McCarter Theatre in Princeton last September.

"Juliet, played by Sarah Drew, [was] petulant, giddy, incorrigibly girlish, willful and completely enchanting in a never-to-be-forgotten balcony scene," wrote Alvin Klein, the New York Times reviewer. "Ms. Drew's exploration of a teen-ager's heart and her awakening to desire are defining, and from now on, indelible, aspects of Juliet."

She now is flying around the country auditioning for parts in movies starring Michael Douglas, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Annette Bening.

"I am thankful and amazed at the way things have opened up," she said.

Her big break came when her talent was recognized in a master class she attended at a summer program called CAP-21 she attended in New York City. She was recommended for the Juliet role, but was reluctant to audition because the play’s schedule conflicted with the first five weeks of her last year as a U.Va. drama student.

Encouraged to audition by her U.Va. teachers and others, she won the opportunity to take her place alongside veteran Broadway actors directed by the McCarter’s artistic director, Emily Mann, one of America’s leading playwrights and directors.

The University drama department gave her plenty of encouragement but required that she keep a journal chronicling her experience.

"It was a real look at life as a professional," said Drew.

With rehearsing from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. six days a week and performing eight and nine shows a week, there was little time to keep up with her regular class work. When she returned to U.Va. Drew had to make up the five-weeks of work she missed in addition to keeping up with the current weekly assignments. She also jumped into a demanding rehearsal schedule for the department’s production of "The Miser."

Robert Chapel, chair of the drama department, said, "This is completely unusual. It hardly ever happens that someone takes off part of a semester to act.

"But even when we were recruiting, we knew she was going to be someone special. In our productions, she has continued to amaze us."

Richard Warner, the drama department’s head of acting, described Drew as "shimmering on stage" in her performance as Juliet.

"Just when you think you know her character, she does something surprising," he said. He compared her talent and command of the character to the work of actors such as Jack Nicholson, Edward Norton and Kevin Spacey.

"Watching her perform," said Warner, "I’m refreshed. It’s like jumping into a pool of Colorado spring water." Warner and other U.Va. faculty members traveled to Princeton to see Drew perform. He was speechless when Drew introduced Warner to Mann and the director said, "Aren’t we lucky to have worked with her?"

"Our job has been to cherish her gift," said Betsy Tucker, who teaches acting and directing at U.Va. "She is fearless as an actress, willing to try anything." Tucker said she has tried to find ways to challenge Drew while giving her a safe haven to explore her talents.

"And as talented as she is, she is totally a team player," Chapel said.

Drew, who grew up in the New York area, has known all her life that she wanted to be an actor and has worked hard to hone her craft. In sixth grade, she starred in "Annie" at a community theater – a dream come true, she said. She went on to perform in "The Secret Garden" in summer stock on Long Island and for five years was the voice of Stacey on MTV’s cartoon series "Daria."

After her performance as Juliet, her phone did not stop ringing with calls from agents wanting to represent her and directors pursuing her to audition. She could have turned professional, but instead she decided to return to U.Va. because of her network of friends and the one-on-one attention and encouragement she received.

"I just wanted to finish out what I started."

Tucker said, "For Sarah, it’s about the work, not about the stardom."

Contact: Jane Ford, (434) 924-4298

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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