Annual Summer Program at MCCC Helps Actors Get Their Start in Showbiz

Kelsey Theatre Tomato Patch Summer Master Acting Classes Begin Soon

WEST WINDSOR – Many TV shows, movies and live entertainment presentations in recent years have featured actors who got their start in show business with Tomato Patch Master Class, the advanced workshop of the Mercer County Community College (MCCC) Kelsey Theatre summer program for young people interested in the lively arts.   

Sponsored by MCCC and located on the West Windsor campus, for the last 48 summers Tomato Patch has engaged thousands of students with visual and performing arts workshops in dance, theater, vocal music and art. Over the last two decades, some of those students have enrolled in Master Class -- an intensive, active training program for actors interested in the business as well as the art of performing.   

For many current show business professionals, that Master Class training has paid off. Tomato Patch Master Class alumni include:   

· Hamilton resident Alejandro Hernandez has played Nurse Casey on NBC’s “New Amsterdam” for the past three seasons. He has also appeared in over a dozen other shows, including “Instinct,” “Chicago P.D.,” “Sneaky Pete,” and “Gotham.”   

· Taylor Ortega is a writer, comedian, and actor. She plays “Shego” in the Disney Channel Original Movie “Kim Possible.” She was also a featured New Face in the “Just For Laughs” comedy festival in 2019.   

· You may have seen Mel Licata on Syfy’s special effects makeup reality show, “Face Off.” She was a semifinalist in Season 10 and appeared in the all-star Season 13. She also won an episode of Game Face. This Hightstown native and professional makeup artist works on custom prosthetics for film and television.   

· Soon after Master Class, Madeline Blue portrayed “The Ghost of Christmas Past” in “A Christmas Carol” at McCarter Theater. She went on to appear in HBO’s "The Sopranos," FX’s "Justified," and other television and film roles.   

· Jesse Swanson is an associate producer and faculty member of the prestigious and very funny “The Second City” in Chicago. He also spent eight years as an Instructor/Director at Tomato Patch.   

· Jackie Robinson is a working Equity stage manager for professional theatrical productions -- her credits include the touring production of the hilarious “WaistWatchers the Musical” and Porchlight Music Theatre’s “Sunset Boulevard.”   

· Tomato Patch Director Sean McGrath has had two children participate in Master Class. Both now are professionals in the entertainment industry. Charlotte McGrath went on to become a Producer/Director for the popular gaming news channels “Inside Gaming” and “Funhaus.” Sarah McGrath works for The Schubert Organization as an Account Executive, where she connects the tour and travel industries to Broadway.   

In addition, dozens more Master Class students have gone on to become performance arts teachers and program instructors for the lively arts -- not to mention participants in their local community theater and arts organizations.   

Dan Spalluto has led Master Class for the last 15 years. With credentials that include off-Broadway and feature film roles, a SAG-AFTRA Equity card (the union membership card for performing professionals), three years’ training at HB Studios, and a Master’s in Education from East Stroudsburg University, Spalluto brings all his experience to bear when coaching and training his students.   

“I train actors for the business. That’s my goal,” Spalluto said. Along with honing their skills to become better actors, he also introduces them to the nuts and bolts of the profession. “I teach them about unions, about how to get an agent -- the business side as well as the performing side. They usually don’t get that kind of information anywhere -- even in college.”   

The 2021 Tomato Patch Master Class session begins July 5. For more information, visit, or email 


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Tomato Patch Alejandro Hernandez


Mercer County Community College alumnus Alejandro Hernandez, a former Tomato Patch Master Class acting student, has played Nurse Casey on NBC’s “New Amsterdam” for the past three seasons. He has also appeared in over a dozen other shows, including “Instinct,” “Chicago P.D.,” “Sneaky Pete,” and “Gotham.” To enroll in this summer’s Tomato Patch Master Class please visit or email (Photo credit: Mercer County Community College)