By: Katee Shanks

Robert Redford went there. So did Grace Kelly, Danny DeVito and Anne Hathaway.

And in a couple of years from now, former John Paul College student Elsie Spiers will be added to past alumni of the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Spiers is in her first year of a double degree at Victoria University in Wellington but will next year leave that behind to pursue her dream of a stage career.

In January Spiers will leave New Zealand for the first time, and begin two years study at the academy’s New York campus.

“Excited is probably the best way to describe how I’m feeling right now,” Spiers told the Rotorua Daily Post this week. “Initially it was probably shock and while it still seems a little unreal, I’m definitely excited.”

To earn her spot at the academy, Spiers had to send in an audition video accompanied by a short essay and a biography.

“Because of the time difference I received the email telling me I had been successful at 6am local time. I was a bit sleepy when I read it but I woke up pretty quickly and wasn’t able to go back to sleep,” she laughed. “I had two exams that afternoon as well.”

Admitting she knew nobody in the United States, Spiers said that wasn’t causing her much concern.

“However, going from a New Zealand summer to a New York winter is going to be a shock.”

Once graduated, Spiers hopes to pursue a career in film, although she is not adverse to time on stage either.

Before she departs, the teen has fundraising to do.

“I’m hoping to source donations from the community to add to my savings and also apply for as many scholarships as I can.”

Spiers attributes her love of drama to her time at John Paul College.

“I got into drama in Year 9 and, at the same time, became a student of Gabrielle Thurston in speech and drama.”

Thurston said she was thrilled her former student was following her dreams.

“I often tell my students how important it is that they follow their dreams. Elsie is a bright girl and she’s been studying law but she was missing drama so much.

“She’s young and needs to give this a go. New York is the place to be and she’ll learn so much there.”

Thurston said while she encouraged her students to get training in the city or country they wanted to work, she was realistic about the challenges they would face.

“It’s hard, I never say it will be easy. There’s always a risk and it’s going to be costly but our guys are talented and they’ve got to give it a go. And everyone loves a Kiwi.”

Source: Rotorua Daily Post

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