Catching up with...Rebecca Kupka-Overton!
We recently had the chance to talk with St. Pat’s alumna, Rebecca Kupka. Rebecca attended St. Patrick’s until 6th grade and has accomplished so much since her grammar school days. We are happy to be able to share her story with the St. Pat’s alumni community.
Can you tell us about some of your fond memories of being a student at St. Pat’s?
“I will always remember my 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Cummings. She meant the world to me, and I truly believe she shaped me as a student and as a person with her kindness and encouragement. She was one of those teachers that managed to keep complete control over a room full of 7 year olds without ever raising her voice. We listened to her because we loved her so much and just wanted to please her! Because of her, I grew up believing that school and academics were fun, not daunting. In fact, I still see her every now and again when I cantor at St. Pat's or at St. Elizabeth's. And I still have that same feeling, that I want to throw my arms around her and ask her to read me a story. Another vivid memory I have is singing a solo in one of the St. Pat's concerts. I was in 5th grade, and I'd just gotten cast in a production of Annie. I remember sitting on the auditorium stage and singing for what seemed like a huge audience at the time! But what I remember most is that I had just cut and colored my hair red for the role of Annie, and I was so afraid that everyone would make fun of me. Since that hasn't come up in therapy, though, I'm fairly sure that they didn't! Seriously though, my classmates at St. Pat’s were always so supportive of me - and I enjoy running into some of them around town these days as well!”
When did your career as an actress and singer begin, and what type of performing did you do during your later school years and into college?
“Annie was my first "professional" role; I was 10 years old and in 5th grade. I continued performing in school shows at Finley Junior High School, and then ultimately decided to return to Catholic school for high school. I chose Holy Trinity High School in Hicksville because of their amazing Performing Arts department. At the time, that was the only school on Long Island that had an actual Theatre program where students auditioned to take classes in acting and dancing as a replacement for the Art and Physical Education requirement. I loved it! There, I had the chance to play leading roles in shows that I'd never even heard of before! The director of the program, Jim Hoare, was a real pioneer in his programming and curriculum building. Instead of doing the same old version of Oklahoma, we were doing The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Quilters, and King of Hearts! After Trinity, I attended Providence College where I ended up being an English and Theater double major. After a brief Pre-Med flirtation, I realized that I was taking so many English and Theatre courses “for fun” that I'd inadvertently accumulated enough for a double major. Providence College was a liberal arts school, though, not an arts conservatory, and so I got a truly well-rounded education. I was really a nerd, too... I was in the Liberal Arts Honors Program and somehow, I ended up graduating second in my class, which made my parents very happy!”
What were your professional experiences after college?
“Right before I graduated from college, I went to an audition in Boston on a whim. It was called the NETCs, and basically, theaters from around the country attended this huge audition to cast the younger roles in their summer shows. I was offered a show at Hershey Park in Pennsylvania, which I accepted, figuring I would put off Law school, or Grad school, or some other financially-stable path for a year! But then, on another whim, I auditioned for a national tour of 42nd Street and ended up landing the leading role of Peggy Sawyer. That was it... I was hooked... and suddenly, musical theater was my career. After playing principal roles all over the country (and internationally for Disney Cruise Line as well), I finally made my Broadway debut in Saturday Night Fever playing the role of Doreen and understudying both female leads. It was a great time in my life, and I consider myself very lucky to have had all those wonderful experiences.”
How about your family life? Where did that part of your life take you?
“I married my husband, David Overton, in December of 2000, the day before closing night of Saturday Night Fever. We put off our honeymoon so I could be there for closing night! Soon after, I became pregnant with my first daughter. David had been accepted into the PhD program at The University of Colorado at Boulder, so off we went. I spent the next three years being a mom, having my second daughter, Carlin, loving the sunshine and doing commercials and voiceovers in Denver. We returned to New York in 2004 when David was offered a teaching position at Holy Trinity. While in Denver, I wasn't sure if I would ever be onstage again, but being back in New York made it practically impossible to stay away. In 2006, I was offered an understudy position in Jersey Boys, which at the time had just won the Tony Award for Best Musical. I was fortunate enough to stay with the company on and off through 2009.”
You are now working with your husband on an exciting new project. Can you tell us more about it?
“Yes, our latest endeavor is the Long Island Classics Stage Company. After a lot of reflection, David and I decided to focus our efforts on what we are actually trained to do: Theatre and teaching. We created Long Island Classics Stage Company with the ultimate goal of producing excellent Classical Theatre and new works here on Long Island. We’re currently very focused on developing the educational component of the company. Our inaugural Summer Theatre Intensive, CLASSIC KIDS, was offered in 2012 at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in nearby Centerport to great acclaim. We had originally hoped for perhaps twenty students or so to get our feet wet...and ended up with eighty (and a long waiting list)! Since then, our programming has included Shakespeare workshops at local libraries and a six-week session of "Shakespeare In Shorts," geared toward helping middle and high school students improve their public speaking and acting skills, as well as their understanding of some of the Shakespearean plays they'll be encountering in their studies. CLASSIC KIDS 2013 is about to get underway, and we are hoping for an even more exciting summer this year! It's great to be creating something together that our own children can enjoy as well. Riley (now 11) and Carlin (now 9) both participated in our first summer camp, and Riley subsequently was cast as Winnifred in her school play, Once Upon a Mattress, while Carlin got very close to the title role in the new Broadway hit, Matilda! We could not be more proud of them. The only one who hasn't officially stated her interest in the performing arts is our newest addition, McKenna Grace, born in 2011 - but she's got time yet!”