Genesee Theatre Students Transfer On to Prestigious NYC Drama School

Genesee Theatre Students Transfer On to Prestigious NYC Drama School

For Tiffany Widrick and Jaime Arena, making it through the Fine and Performing Arts program at Genesee Community College comes down to the adage, “What doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.”

Yes, both are stronger today thanks to the tough love of program director Maryanne Arena. And both are prepared to sharpen their theatrical skills as students of the prestigious American Musical Dramatic Academy in New York City. Classes at the Manhattan conservatory begin later this month.

“Maryanne made me cry at times because she pushed me so hard, and I’ll always be thankful for that,” said Tiffany, 21, a 2003 graduate of Carthage High School in upstate New York. “She is a tough lady … and she really cares about the theater program at GCC. She’s doing everything she can to build it up.”

Arena’s daughter, Jaime, emphatically agreed with Widrick.

“(She’s been tough) my whole life,” said Jaime, 30, who spent four years in the Navy before returning to the classroom at Genesee. “We butted heads over the years, but now I trust her with my heart and soul. She is the best coach ever.”

Maryanne Arena said she believes that a “good foundation and a good education” are essential in the competitive world of acting.

“I’m hard on them, yes, because I feel that if they can’t work with me, they’re not going to be able to work with a professor (at AMDA),” Maryanne said. “It takes long hours and the ability to accept criticism and direction. I try to give them enough skills to survive.”

As transfer students, Tiffany and Jaime will be entering the Integrated and Studio programs, respectively, after successful auditions at the conservatory. Both programs comprise four semesters and students who complete the program earn a Professional Performance Certificate of training.

The Integrated program offers training in acting, singing and dance to prepare the student for a career in the professional theater. The Studio program offers training to prepare the student for a career as a professional actor.

Students in both tracks must adhere to rigid standards – tardiness or absenteeism is not permitted, for example -- in order to be invited back to attend the following year.

“Am I nervous? Absolutely,” Tiffany said, noting that she’s “a small town girl heading for the big city. This is a big step for me.”

Jaime said she is able to draw from her experience in the Navy to put her in the proper frame of mind.

“The Navy gave me patience, determination, discipline; anytime I have something to do, I just think ‘if you can fight in a war (Operation Iraqi Freedom), you can do anything.’”

Both Tiffany and Jaime have a wealth of theater know-how – on stage and behind the scenes. Jaime has had major roles in Cave Life, Agnes of God, The Velveteen Rabbit and The 10 Minute Plays at Genesee and has performed at Southwestern Missouri College and at the Fort Salem Theatre. Tiffany has performed in Agnes of God, The Words That Describe it Best, The Velveteen Rabbit, The Ransom of Red Chief, Romeo & Juliet and The Laramie Project.

They also have served as assistant directors and as members of the stage crew.

Their mentor at Genesee said she is proud of their accomplishments and thinks they have what it takes to make an impact.

“Tiffany really has a specific look -- besides her talent – which makes her marketable,” Maryanne said. “Her face, her hair. She’s different and she will definitely find her place.”

As for her daughter, Maryanne mentioned Jaime’s “strength as an actor.”

“Her wide range gives her the ability to take on any role, from comedy to very serious. Plus she’s my daughter; that’s why I told her to go (to AMDA).”

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Editor’s Note: A photograph of Tiffany Widrick and Jaime Arena (standing) with Maryanne Arena (sitting) is available at:

A photograph of Tiffany Widrick (left) and Jaime Arena (right) standing at the front entrance of Genesee Community College is available at: