At only 8 years old Haley Ondrejka was already taking singing lessons and auditioning for the role of Annie in her local theatre. When she received a call back for the lead, she was thrilled, but after being cut during the dance round of auditions, she insisted her mother enroll her in dance and acting lessons, too. She was inspired to pursue the dream of acting professionally at her first experience at a Broadway production of Les Miserables. “It was a turning point for me,” she said. “I wanted others to know how theatre can change their perspective on their life and the world around them.”
When it came time for college, Ondrejka auditioned at several large universities, but after several attempts she had no offers. After seeing her daughter’s growing discouragement, Ondrejka’s mother recommended PBA, a smaller private school, closer to home with a thriving theatre program. It took only one campus visit for Ondrejka to know PBA was the school for her. The strong spiritual growth each classroom offered and the deep relationships she had started to change Ondrejka’s own faith walk, drawing her closer to Christ and revealing his greater purpose for her life. “PBA gave me a source of family and community, best friends that lift one another up, supporting each other through the good and the bad,” she said.
Her senior year, Ondrejka was accepted into the Shenandoah University Summer Music Theatre program and upon graduation, she secured an internship with Florida Repertory Theatre, working with the Theatre for Young Audiences program. There Ondrejka had the opportunity to be a part of main stage productions, learn from professional actors and crew, and most importantly earn equity membership points. Between teaching classes at Alliance for the Arts and working 12 shows per season, Ondrejka earned her actor’s equity card and is currently with the Theatre Zone Acting Company in Naples, Florida. She has recently earned her AEU Union Card and recently relocated to New York City . Ondrejka encourages theatre students at PBA to “stay persistent in what you’re passionate about. You never know what opportunities will open up for you when you take a chance and go for it!”
Ever since Lindsay Bell can remember she has viewed her world as a stage. Whether she was in front of a live audience or alone at home in her living room, as a young girl Bell was always putting on a show. Her love for dance only grew when she and her sister, Lauren (also a PBA alumna) were enrolled in local dance classes. Performance has been a true constant in Bell’s life, but it was PBA that helped change her passion into a calling.
As a smaller, private school, PBA gave Bell the opportunity to make deep connections with professors who had real-world experience in the theatre realm and offered a Christ-centered learning environment. Over time Bell’s professors became her mentors, and to this day it’s their guidance and friendship that continue to develop her craft. PBA also provided Bell an ideal cultural location, with a variety of area playhouses and theatre companies close by. From late-night rehearsals and stage-builds to long road trips for auditions, it is the relationships established at PBA that Bell takes with her into a field that can often be quite competitive and harsh. “The community that we created in the theatre department has a strong bond which is hard to match.”
Since graduating, Bell has relocated to New York City and become a proud member of the Actor’s Equity Association. She has been blessed with steady work from Florida to Boston in shows such as A Chorus Line, West Side Story, Peter Pan, Billy Elliot and Show Boat. In a profession that offers little job security, Bell has held consistent contracts at numerous regional theatres as an actor, singer, dancer and choreographer. When not working a show, she leads master classes and performance workshops at schools and conservatories up and down the east coast. Bell currently performs at the MUNY theatre in St. Louis. Despite her early success, Bell encourages PBA students to stay humble and keep the priorities taught at PBA first and foremost. “There is always something to learn and improve on, even after you graduate. Remember that there is no end to your training, and don’t forget to keep Christ at the center of all you do. Perform for Him!”
Palm Beach Atlantic University alumnus Ruthie Ann Miles graduated from PBA in 2005 with a degree in musical theatre. After graduating from PBA, Miles went to New York and received her master’s degree in music and vocal performance. Since then she has been on the professional stage.
In a 2013 interview for PBA’s Centre Stage, Miles spoke about her experience at PBA. “I learned how to be a Christian drama-student, how to love my neighbor, grow friendships, invest in a character, as well as how to be the Light that Christ has called us to be, on and off stage.”
In June 2015, Miles received a Tony Award on Sunday for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical for her role in the Broadway revival of “The King and I.”
Click here to read more about Ruthie Ann Miles in Current, our alumni publication.