Taking Center Stage

By Megan Ondrizek

Taking Center Stage

By Megan Ondrizek
Acting major Samantha Dockser is starring in the premiere of Las Polacas: The Jewish Girls of Buenos Aires in Washington, D.C.

The first time Samantha Dockser performed in front of an audience, she was rewarded with a plate of cookies rather than a standing ovation.

“I played Grandma in my kindergarten class performance of No One Makes Cookies Like Grandma,” Dockser recalled, speaking from her home in the Washington, D.C. suburb of McLean, Virginia. “After the performance, we were all allowed to eat the cookies.”

At this stage of her career, Dockser can expect a packed house and plenty of applause. A rising senior acting major in the University of Miami College of Arts & Sciences Department of Theatre Arts, Dockser is spending the month of June starring in Las Polacas: The Jewish Girls of Buenos Aires at the GALA Theatre in Washington.

The bilingual musical tells the true story of girls and young women from poor, Jewish villages in Poland and Russia who were lured to Argentina in the early 1900s with false promises of a better life. Instead, they ended up as prostitutes or sex slaves for an international slave trading organization.

During her return home for spring break, Dockser auditioned for the musical’s lead role of Rachela after seeing the call for auditions on the industry Backstage.com.

“Rachela’s struggle was interesting to me because of the cultural similarities the character and I share,” she said. “My family is from Eastern Europe; I’m Jewish. It’s such a dark subject matter, but an interesting thing to make a musical about. Rachela is so hopeful and so brave after everything she had to endure.”

Dockser wasn’t, however, very confident after the audition. She told her father she doubted she’d get the part. But a week later, while in UM’s theatre department, the call came. Dockser had just landed the lead role in her first professional show—a world premiere.

But singing in both English and Spanish proved daunting. Dockser admits she hadn’t practiced her Spanish since high school. The production team for Las Polacas provided a Spanish tutor, and the two Argentine cast members offered support.

“Beyond rehearsal, I spend many hours at home practicing my lines. I’ve watched some Argentine shows and films to get the accent down,” Dockser said. “I feel much more confident with my Spanish now.”

She’s also already lined up a summer encore. Following her role in Las Polacas, she’ll head to Los Angeles, where she’ll intern for the president of casting at Twentieth Century Fox studios.

Stepping into the character of Rachela in Las Polacas may be Dockser’s first professional performance, but she has many other stage credits to her name, thanks to her talent and the theatre arts conservatory program, which casts students in productions at the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre and Black Box Theatre at the Hecht Residential College building.

At the Black Box, the Theatre Department faculty takes more artistic risks in their staging and choice of productions, allowing for those shows—and the students involved—to be more experimental. As such, Dockser has appeared in Adding Machine: The Musical, les Liaisons Dangereuses, Assistance, Our Town, and Lessons from an Abandoned Work. And when she returns to Coral Gables in August for her senior year, she’ll star in Tennessee’s Treasures.