In 2012, I piloted my own youth musical theater program, Casting Call Kids, to provide performing arts opportunities for students at a local elementary school - which only offered music for 1/2 of the school year. I then moved to the non-profit sector directing both main stage productions and summer camp programs for actors in grades K-8 at Triboro Youth Theatre, where I also mentored high school and college age production assistants.
My goal as a director is to provide a fun, inclusive, safe rehearsal environment where participants of all ages and abilities gain self-confidence and learn the value of working as an ensemble. Through full-cast and small group rehearsals, actors explore all aspects of musical theater - including acting, singing, choreography, blocking, stage direction and proper theater terminology. I also love to incorporate interactive activities - such as a theater scavenger hunt - to teach young actors about all elements of theater from light boards to costumes and set building. Under my direction, high school and college students gain professional work experience managing stage crew duties, props and leading group activities.
Since music/theater programs are often subject to budget cuts or altogether eliminated from school curriculum, I wanted to do more than just put on a play. My children's productions provide a comprehensive experience that excite young actors and their families about the performing arts. In addition to garnering parent support and securing grant/sponsorship funds, I love to collaborate with other artists to provide my students with fun, colorful sets; beautiful costumes and live piano accompaniment.
After-school theater arts programs help bridge the gap in arts education while reinforcing skills needed in the classroom and beyond such as reading, memorization, teamwork, coordination, creative imagination and the ability to improvise and make quick decisions. Young actors also gain the confidence to overcome stage fright and learn to project and speak clearly in front of an audience. Those are skills that last long after the final curtain and translate across all career paths from professional actors to CEOs in corporate board rooms.
In addition to directing, choreographing and managing costume rentals and props; I also use theater as an vehicle to teach life lessons and the importance of kindness in our world. Sometimes you get the lead part. Sometimes you don't. Performing arts programs teach children how to deal with rejection if they don't get their dream role; give children the courage to think on their feet; be creative; and learn how to work collaboratively as an ensemble.
Rather than counting number of lines, I have students be accountable for their ACTions. Actors who consistently show kindness and respect to the creative staff and fellow actors; come prepared to each rehearsal and are a class act both on and off stage are eligible to earn the Ensemble Leadership Award. And in children's theater - this distinction is even more coveted than winning a Tony!