Her achievements are truly dazzling: off-Broadway and Broadway leading roles; national theater tours of A Chorus Line and Lend Me A Tenor; singing and acting at the Goodspeed Opera House, The New York Musical Festival, the Music Theater of Connecticut and more. TV work includes Sex and the City; Law & Order; and there's a film to be released next year. And those are just some of her credits.
She lives in Weston with her actor/producer husband Scott Bryce and their five-year-old son, Jackson. She is thrilled to be at the conservatory, she said, because she finds that teaching young children to get to know themselves through the performing arts is personally tremendously fulfilling.
When she says "young children," she really means it. She has been teaching babies from three weeks to five years old through an international music program, Music Together. "Babies are naturally musical and the youngest of them can learn how to keep a beat and carry a tune," she explained. "They acquire musical competence at a very young age."
Ms. Stevens is a third-generation entertainer. Her grandfather was a New York City band leader, her mother is a singer. Her husband, Scott Bryce, comes from a four-generation theatrical family. His parents, Dorothy and Ed Bryce, were well known performers for years.
Dorothy Bryce helped found the Theatre Artists Workshop in Norwalk, where Ms. Stevens enjoys what she calls "a gymnasium for actors who can work on monologues, rehearse scenes, practice for auditions." Ms. Stevens actually heard about the New Canaan Conservatory from two friends at the Theatre Artists Workshop who teach at the conservatory.
"This is a wonderful situation for me," she says. "It gives me balance between my family and career. I've begun to say 'no' to audition calls more than ever before, because I feel that these years of my son's childhood are most important and I want to be there. I know some people who can handle two-working-parent homes successfully, but since my husband travels a great deal for his work, I need to be home more. So I work while my son Jackson's at school, but I also bring him to the conservatory. He loves it and everyone there loves him.
Describing her private lessons at the conservatory, Ms. Stevens says "Singing and acting one- on-one is really beneficial for children, still finding their voice. It's a delicate dance, building identity as a youngster. Being able to sing and project through music and acting is very helpful."
Ms. Stevens wasn't bitten by the theater bug until high school. "A show came up, which had parts for parents, so my mother and I both auditioned and we both got parts. That did it. I knew the theater was for me. But my parents didn't encourage me. They wanted to put me in as opposite a direction as possible. But I was following my bliss and when you do that, work never feels like work.
"Doing commercials was part of my daily structure, but the industry has changed a great deal. You're seen for about 30 seconds. When I was auditioning every week, they might put three people on hold, to save the date. Now they put 33 on hold! Reality shows have reduced the need for actors, as well as using guest stars for TV shows."
Melody Libonati, founding director and instructor at the conservatory, is herself an actor and singer. She has created a place that's instantly recognizable as an authentic, professional environment: attractive, spacious, superbly equipped. She's also artistic director of the Summer Theatre of New Canaan.
Ms. Libonati is proud of her students, who've gone on to success in college theater programs and beyond. Two years in a row, the Connecticut High School Best Leading Acress Awards went to conservatory students: Grace Hardin of Ridgefield High School, now at the Boston Conservatory; and Katie Oxman, New Canaan High School, now at Point Park University. Both are majoring in musical theater.
The conservatory offers College Audition Prep Classes, to help students prepare for college acting or musical theater auditions, taught by the conservatory's staff of professional instructors and stage veterans, including, of course, Ms. Stevens Stevens. For information about Ms. Stevens's classes, visit the conservatory at 237 Elm Street, New Canaan, call 203-966-6177 or go to www.PerformingArtsConservatory.com.