These kids love being onstage
TADA! Youth Theater in New York offers kids an opportunity to learn what a theatrical career is all about.
Most mornings, Taylor Hogan, a 15-year-old with a singing voice three times her size, wakes up at 5 a.m., and is out the door by 6. (Breakfast? Well, maybe not.) During the school year, when the academic grind gets especially intense, she does half her homework in the evenings, and the other half during lunch, before afternoon classes begin.Skip to next paragraph
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But Taylor, who lives in what she calls "a very, very remote part of Queens," in New York City, saves most of her energy for a dimly lit stage on the second floor of an office building in bustling midtown Manhattan. The performance pace – some 10 shows a week, double that on the weekends – is in many ways soothing, she says.
"We're kids, just like you. And we're doing what we want," she says with a smile. "I want people in the audience to relate to that. I want them to say, 'I can be that kid.' "
In this case, "doing what we want" involves a frenetic one-hour montage of singing and dancing called "Everything About a Day (Almost)," which is now in its second week of performances at the TADA! Youth Theater (www.tadatheater.com).
Founded in 1984 by Janine Nina Trevens – now the organization's executive and artistic director – "TADA!" describes itself, in part, as a "theatrical training ground." And for up-and-comers like Taylor, who live and breathe theater, the steady roster of classes and shows is an invaluable outlet.
According to figures provided by TADA!, more than 1,000 children between the ages of 8 and 18 – hailing from all five boroughs and a variety of ethnic backgrounds – have performed in the TADA! Ensemble.
Roughly half of all participants come from economically disadvantaged communities; between 25 and 30 percent are offered class scholarships.
"The majority of kids wouldn't get this anywhere else," Ms. Trevens says. "Growing up is hard anywhere, and I think you could have all the money in the world, and it wouldn't help that process."
TADA! provides a place "where you're accepted for what you are, where you can feel good about yourself," Ms. Trevens says. "That's the philosophy of the ensemble. If this is a part of you that needs to come out – being up there on the stage – then by all means, you should do it. You don't need to wait until you're an adult."
Not that most of the ensemble would be much good at waiting. "Before joining TADA!, I knew I wanted to be on stage, but I didn't know what to do with myself," says Merce Jessor, an effusive 13-year-old from the Park Slope section of Brooklyn.