Alumna takes on Hollywood at AMDA

April 23, 2016 — by Julia Miller

Miller, a drama star at Saratoga High who played  Cosette in the “Les Miserables” production in 2014, has gained a role in her college’s production, “Columbine,” based on the 1999 Columbine High School shooting massacre that occurred in Colorado.

Stepping on stage during a night rehearsal, class of 2015 alumna Natalie Miller looked around and registered everything that has happened thus far in her freshman year at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA), located in Hollywood.

Miller, a drama star at Saratoga High who played  Cosette in the “Les Miserables” production in 2014, has gained a role in her college’s production, “Columbine,” based on the 1999 Columbine High School shooting massacre that occurred in Colorado.

Rehearsing her lines, Miller dreams of the show making it to Broadway, since many Broadway shows started in small colleges and workshops like this one. Even being on the original cast, Miller said, makes her feel incredibly lucky.

“‘Columbine’ is the most significant performance I've done so far just because the topic of the show is controversial and needs to be talked about,” Miller said. “I think it is such an important show that should have been seen by the world years ago.”

Columbine was developed and has been rehearsed since last fall. A small college with around 1,200 students, AMDA focuses on enhancing students’ acting abilities and preparing them for the film industry with prestigious performing arts degrees.

She has been exposed to the new and exciting aspects of college, like meeting the creative and outgoing people of AMDA and living in the school-owned apartment buildings. Balancing out the fun, Miller’s college experience includes an intense course and workload with little room between her daytime and nighttime performing classes to take a break.

Currently, Miller is concentrating on her musical theater classes, which include acting while singing, dance and movement, and the history of musical theater.

Five days a week, Miller heads to a 3-hour night rehearsal after class for the two school productions she is involved in.

Not only does Miller devote nearly all her time and energy to courses and school productions, but faculty and advisers also take their jobs seriously. According to Miller, the teachers there “train [students] for the real world, which means they will be rudely honest [the way] the industry will treat [actors].”

AMDA teachers help students grow “thick skins” and teach students to take criticism as advice and to always be on time. Miller said that AMDA has a no-late policy, so if a student is even a minute late, the teacher will have already locked the door and will not let the student into class.

“AMDA does not take excuses and [does] not want to hear your sob story,” Miller said. “It is extremely strict and annoying, but I know it is great training for us.”

Students attending AMDA are expected to complete performance-based assignments. Miller said a typical homework assignment is to learn a song in one night and figure out the thought process needed to perform a scene.

“Each individual class does not assign too much homework, but each task requires a lot of focus and time to complete,” Miller said. “However, I love performing, so to me, it's not homework. It's just fun.”

Apart from the intensity of AMDA, Miller enjoys the social life of Hollywood, especially dancing at clubs, dining at restaurants and shopping at The Hollywood Bowl amphitheater.

She admits that the city life is more suitable for her than small-town Saratoga, but she still misses her family.

As for pursuing a  career in acting, Miller said it requires a lot of dedication and experience before an actor or actress can face Hollywood head-on.

Once Miller graduates from AMDA, she will begin auditioning for any role she can grab and make an effort to get her name out in the film industry.

“My next step is submitting myself to agencies down here in LA until someone represents me, and then I can go out to the big industry auditions,” Miller said.

So far, she is happy with her decision to attend AMDA.

“Everyone I have met is so friendly and supportive of each other, which is nice because intense programs like this can get competitive between students,” Miller said.