A Young Woman with a Plan

Some students arrive at Rutgers with a wide array of interests and spend their time “on the banks” narrowing their focus and figuring out which field ignites their passion. Some students arrive with a specific goal in mind.

Danielle Durso, a senior in the School of Arts and Sciences from Perth Amboy, New Jersey, says that she’s wanted to be a teacher for as long as she can remember. About her ultimate career goals, she has had very few doubts.

When it came time for Danielle to figure out where to spend her undergraduate years, she drove her mother a little crazy, she recalls. “I started visiting schools, and I wasn’t finding the perfect, ideal school,” she says. Although the visits were helping her to rule out the things she didn’t want in a university, she felt a little bit like a collegiate Goldilocks—she couldn’t find a campus that seemed just right.

No Compromises

“I kept wanting to have that epiphany moment,” says Danielle. “I wanted the clouds to part and the horns to play. My mom was getting frustrated. She kept telling me it wasn't going to happen like in a movie, that I was going to have to compromise.”

As it turned out, no compromise was necessary.

Danielle remembers very vividly her first visit to Rutgers’ New Brunswick Campus. As she and her mom took the campus tour, Danielle says that she got more and more excited by what she was seeing and hearing. “It turned out Rutgers had everything I wanted. The clouds parted and the horns played.” Her decision was made.

From day one, Danielle has immersed herself in both her academic program and a host of extracurriculars. She is a member of Mu Beta Psi, the national honorary music service fraternity. She has played saxophone with the Rutgers marching band. She got involved with the Livingston Theatre Company, a student-run group that produces several plays each year; she now serves as its artistic director.

Last year Danielle directed the company’s production of How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying, an experience that she says was a high point for her. “I was both the company’s artistic director and the play’s director, so I was really able to make my vision come to life,” she says. “That’s special to me.

A Play in a Day

The Livingston Theatre Company mounts three main-stage musicals and several smaller productions every year. In January, the company produced the third annual 24-hour musical challenge, during which they mounted an original musical revue, soup to nuts, over the course of a single day.

  • Livingston Theatre Company puts on their annual 24-hour musical.
    Theater to Go

    In addition to the company’s three main-stage productions, the Livingston Theatre Company puts on an annual 24-hour musical. At 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, they assemble and begin the process of staging an entire musical in 24 hours. Danielle Durso, who serves as the company's artistic director, hovers, listening, advising, solving problems as they arise.

  • The company starts rehearsing and performing an original musical revue.
    Theater to Go

    In a race against the clock, the company begins the process of rehearsing and performing an original musical revue in the course of 24 hours.

  • Harmonies are arranged.
    Theater to Go

    Harmonies are arranged.

  • Choreography is set.
    Theater to Go

    Choreography is set.

  • The company works collaboratively to find costumes and props.
    Theater to Go

    The company works collaboratively to find costumes and props.

  • Lines and lyrics are committed to memory.
    Theater to Go

    Lines and lyrics are committed to memory.

  • And actors are off book—working without a script—in a matter of hours.
    Theater to Go

    And actors are off book—working without a script—in a matter of hours.

  • The tech crew creates sets, lighting, sound, and costumes.
    Theater to Go

    Behind the scenes, the tech crew is creating sets, lighting, sound, and costume design. They have to be ready to load the sets into the Livingston Student Center's multipurpose room, where the company will perform, at 7 a.m.

  • Danielle serves as chief strategist and problem solver.
    Theater to Go

    As the director is putting the finishing touches on the performance, Danielle, the company's artistic director, serves as chief strategist and problem solver.

  • The performers get miked and made up.
    Theater to Go

    The performers get miked and made up.

  • The crew does a sound check and runs through the music cues.
    Theater to Go

    The crew does a sound check and runs through the music cues.

  • At 3:00 pm on Sunday afternoon the curtain goes up.
    Theater to Go

    At 3:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, exactly 24 hours after rehearsal began, the curtain is up.

  • Despite the punishing schedule, the performers get energy from the audience.
    Theater to Go

    Despite the punishing schedule, the performers get energy from the audience.

  • The company raised more than $2000 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
    Theater to Go

    The performance is always a benefit, and this year the company was able to donate more than $2000 to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

  • Livingston Theatre Company puts on their annual 24-hour musical.
    1/14
  • The company starts rehearsing and performing an original musical revue.
    2/14
  • Harmonies are arranged.
    3/14
  • Choreography is set.
    4/14
  • The company works collaboratively to find costumes and props.
    5/14
  • Lines and lyrics are committed to memory.
    6/14
  • And actors are off book—working without a script—in a matter of hours.
    7/14
  • The tech crew creates sets, lighting, sound, and costumes.
    8/14
  • Danielle serves as chief strategist and problem solver.
    9/14
  • The performers get miked and made up.
    10/14
  • The crew does a sound check and runs through the music cues.
    11/14
  • At 3:00 pm on Sunday afternoon the curtain goes up.
    12/14
  • Despite the punishing schedule, the performers get energy from the audience.
    13/14
  • The company raised more than $2000 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
    14/14

A Clear Vision

Because Danielle has a very clear vision of what she would like her professional future to be, she has been diligent about gathering resources and accomplishments in service of that vision. She graduated from an urban high school and wants to teach in one, so she is a part of the Graduate School of Education’s Urban Teaching Fellows program, which prepares teachers for the rewards and challenges specific to teaching in urban settings. And because her dream is to become a high school English teacher who also serves as adviser to the school’s drama program, she will graduate with minors in both dance and professional outreach and development.

Although Danielle never wavered in her desire to become a teacher, she did make one course correction at the beginning of her junior year. She originally thought that she would become a biology teacher but is now enrolled in the GSE’s five-year Ed.M. in English Education K–12 program. The switch has added a year onto Danielle’s course of study—she is currently a fifth-year senior and will receive her bachelor’s degree this May and her master’s degree and a certificate to teach in New Jersey in a year—but she has no regrets. “I just realized I wasn’t loving biology and that you need to be in love with your subject if you plan on teaching it,” she says.

Scarlet Enthusiasm

Danielle has turned her love of Rutgers into a part-time job. She works as a Scarlet Ambassador, one of the band of Rutgers students who lead prospective students on tours and help potential and incoming students learn everything they need to know about the university.

Now in the process of finishing up her final undergraduate semester, Danielle has lost none of the enthusiasm she initially felt on that campus visit five years ago. She says that while she’s been preparing to become a teacher, what she found at Rutgers was the ability to explore a wide array of both curricular and extracurricular topics. “I’ve been able to pursue every single one of my interests here. I’ve never heard the word ‘no.’”