Student Spotlight: Liesel Gerstenberger

Photo by Heidi Gerstenberger
Liesel Gerstenberger, as Meg Brockie, in Shenendehowa's performance of Brigadoon.Photo by Heidi Gerstenberger Liesel Gerstenberger, as Meg Brockie, in Shenendehowa's performance of Brigadoon.

By Cady Kuzmich
Gazette Reporter

Clifton Park — During her February break Shenendehowa senior Liesel Gerstenberger stepped on stage in the historic Lincoln Center in New York City — a venue that has boasted big names since it’s founding in 1962.

The 18-year-old’s voice was among the chorus of 200 singers featured in the Broadway series performance of The Secret Garden February 22 at Lincoln Center.

Gerstenberger’s voice teacher, Lisa Franklin, brought her and three other Shenendehowa students to the city, where for four days, Gerstenberger had time to explore the city in the evenings after rehearsing all morning. The four Shenendehowa singers sent in an audition tape as a group.

In March, Gerstenberger played the lead comedic role, Meg Brockie, in Shenendehowa’s production of Brigadoon. The musical focuses on Brigadoon, a quaint village in Scotland that appears for only one day every hundred years — a pattern that leaves a tourist in a predicament when he falls in love with a young woman from the mysterious village.

The most challenging part of her life these days? Memorizing lines. “I have to put in a lot of time and effort to memorize things. I have an amazing long term memory. I’ll remember this day years from now, everything you’re wearing and everything, but I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast yesterday,” she said.

Some tricks that help lines stick in her head include saying lines over and over again in strange voices and throwing in periodic dance moves while reciting her part.

Gerstenberger not only performs, but writes her own material as well. Usually, her screenplays involve a girl her age. Sometimes her plays are serious, sometimes funny, but she said they’re never sad. Her goal is to make people smile, make them laugh. “That’s why I love acting. I love being able to portray a certain character however I want,” she said.

Gerstenberger’s resume isn’t limited to theatrical productions — the young woman is deeply entrenched in sports, as well. She enjoys horseback riding and said she grew up “playing basically every sport.” Her main athletic focus has been soccer — she played goalie for Shenendehowa and also participated in a travel team.

When she’s not studying, scoring goals or reciting lines, Gerstenberger volunteers at the Mohawk Hudson Animal Shelter.

The list of schools she is still considering is Hofstra University, Marymount Manhattan College and Long Island Post with Manhattanville at the top of her list.

When asked what she is most proud of, Gerstenberger could have talked about her musical accolades, or her achievements in the world of sports, but instead she said, “My family.” She and her older brother, Patrick, were raised by their mom, a fifth grade teacher at Tesago. She described the prominent role her mother has played in her life, saying “she is the strongest person I know.” She added, “Being a single mom… she has had to do so much. The work she does each day to make sure me and my brother have everything we need and want, it’s a constant inspiration every day. Road block can come, but they don’t phase her. She just finds another way. I hope to be like her one day.”

I’m just proud of what we’ve all accomplished and where we’ve come from — that all goes back to my grandpa and grandma. Gerstenberger’s grandfather grew up in Germany before being sent to the states and put into foster care. To this day, he’s involved in the German American Club in Albany, according to his granddaughter.

Q: What’s your favorite musician?
A: Demi Lovato and Queen.

Q: What’s your favorite movie?
A: Silver Lining Playbook and Dumb & Dumber.

Q: What’s your favorite book?
A: The Hunger Games series.