Albert Stanaj, 18, of New Rochelle, won the best leading actor award at the recent 14th Annual Metropolitan High School Theater (Metro) Awards. His portrayal of the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera at Archbishop Stepinac High School was not the only award winner. Chris Guzman of White Plains won best supporting actor as Raoul, and the musical won best scenic design and best overall production.
Stanaj, who said he has been interested in theater since he was 9 when he used to go to Stepinac to pick up his older brother who was rehearsing South Pacific. The recent Stepinac graduate said he comes from a large family—a sister and three brothers—and enjoys playing basketball and singing contemporary rhythm and blues songs, some of which can be heard on YouTube.com.
New Rochelle Patch asked Stanaj a few questions.
Patch: What kind of roles have you performed?
Stanaj: I began my career in Stepinac theater in fall of 2008. Ensemble roles in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and the musical Curtains gave birth to featured roles in My Sister Eileen (Appopolous) and Drowsy Chaperone (Robert Martin). Lead roles on the Stepinac stage came in junior and senior year when I tackled parts such as Eddie in A View from the Bridge, the Beast in Beauty and the Beast and, most recently, the Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera.
Patch: Why do you enjoy performing?
Stanaj: It takes you out of the real world and allows you to escape to a new place and a new time and allows you to meet all types of new characters. It is a great adventure!
Patch: What do you get out of it? Do you think it gives you a broader educational experience?
Stanaj: It teaches you about teamwork and how it is important for everyone to work together for a common goal.
Patch: Do you want to pursue a career in acting?
Stanaj: I actually would like to pursue a career as a recording artist. I have been accepted in to Mercy College’s Music Industry and Technology program. But I would never close the door on the future as an actor.
Patch: Any advice for younger students who might hesitate about trying out for productions?
Stanaj: It will change your life and your perspective on things. It will give you the confidence and poise to succeed in the real world no matter what your career is going to be.