You have provided me a wonderful opportunity this summer – to get back to my roots. I was the community theatre kid growing up, traveling from company to company attempting to perform in shows whenever I had the time. Moving to NYC is recognized by many as a huge change, but it’s even bigger than many people realize. Living in NYC breeds a whole new outlook on life. You are thrown with such force into everything you are and everything you do. You become the most heightened version of yourself possible. In that process, even though it may seem like it would help you become more “yourself”, it sometimes does the opposite. But growing up, theatre kept me grounded. It taught me motivation and implanted in me a strong work ethic, not to mention providing me with a passion and countless relationships. I had forgotten what it truly meant to be a part of a theatre family until I came back to SFT.
A “theatre family” – that’s a term that’s been thrown and tossed about a great deal throughout this summer. It’s a family like no other, one that really makes you feel accepted and as if you are a vital part of something bigger than yourself. I have never felt more accepted in a theatre company than I have at SFT. I was welcomed with open arms, and sent off with hugs, love, and a renewed spark. I really feel like I was an important part of the theatre in my time here, as I know everyone who walks through those theatre doors does.
Thanks, SFT, for reminding me of the true beauty of theatre. I owe you a lot, and I’ll definitely be back. Our journey does not end here!
“We cannot know what will occur, just make our journey worth the taking, and pray we’re wiser than we were in the beginning.” – Children of Eden
With tech rehearsals in full swing, amidst actors crafting costumes, lighting cues being tested, and sets being mounted, we were able to find some time to sit down with Children of Eden cast member Tina Valente. Growing up a part of the SFT, Tina was able to give us some insight into her history with the theatre & her experiences its landmark 50th production.
SFT: Hi, Tina! So tell us who you play in Children of Eden.
Tina: I play Mama Noah and Eve. I start out as Eve in act one and then in act two I switch to Mama.
SFT: Can you tell us a little bit about the show?
Tina: Yeah! A lot of people think of the show as biblical, but we kind of took a different perspective, so it’s mostly about connections with family and friendships and relationships, different problems that everyone deals with, growing up & learning right from wrong.
SFT: So you’ve been a part of the Square Foot Theatre for a long time.
SFT: When did you start?
Tina: I started taking voice lessons with Jared when I was 13, in 7th grade. We saw an ad in the paper, and I always had stage fright so we figured that voice lessons were a good place to start.
SFT: Did you start doing shows around then, too?
Tina: Yeah, I started doing shows. My first show here was Guys & Dolls Jr. back on Broadway in the black box. That year I was 13.
SFT: And you’ve done shows here pretty consistently since then.
Tina: Yeah! Probably at least 15 here. I’ve done most of my shows here, most of my experience with theatre has been at the Square Foot Theatre.
SFT: So this show is different, I’m sure, than any other show you’ve done.
Tina: Yeah, yeah definitely! I mean, it’s different first of all because I’ve never performed in the new theatre, so I’m really excited about that. I’m a little nervous because it’s such an intimate setting. But yeah, it’s a lot different for me personally. I think it’s definitely pushed me both vocally and emotionally as an actress.
SFT: What’s something that you find interesting about this show, that might make audiences want to come see it?
Tina: The music is absolutely beautiful! Stephen Schwartz did an amazing job composing the show. And also, anybody can really relate to it, so even though it’s not your typical cheesy musical, it’s something definitely worth seeing.
SFT: Last question – so, we talk about the Garden of Eden as being “perfect” a lot in the show. So, if you had to choose your “garden” – your perfect place – where would it be?
Tina: My perfect place would definitely be back in the Berkshires with my family. We went one Thanksgiving and my entire family was there, back when both of my grandfathers were alive, so I would say that would be my “Eden”.
Come see Tina and the rest of the cast of Children of Eden this Thursday, August 11 – Sunday, August 14! For ticket info, see squarefoottheatre.com/tickets.
With the tasks that accompanied graduating high school and starting college, from SATs, to college applications, to picking out coordinating bedding with my roommate, there was hardly any time for me to partake in theatre. Despite how many nights I spent wishing I were at rehearsal, I wasn’t able to perform in a musical. This summer, now that I have finished my Freshman year of college and I have some free time, the possibility of performing in a musical was more welcome and exciting than ever. Thus, in addition to working as the Square Foot Theatre’s Summer Business Intern, I am currently performing as Aysha in the theatre’s landmark 50th production – Children of Eden!
We are nearly three weeks into our rehearsal process at this point, which is a mind-blowing thought. It feels as if we just started working, but we only have about 5 weeks of rehearsals left! Despite how fast time has been passing, I already feel as if I am a part of this “theatre family”. Everyone, from the adults to the children, to my fellow SFT newbies to the seasoned vets, from the cast to the staff, has been so incredibly warm, welcoming, and enthusiastic about making this production the best version of itself that it can possibly be.
Whenever I mention the name “Children of Eden”, the first thing anyone asks me is what the show is about. For a while, I had to say that I didn’t know either. The musical has never graced the stages of Broadway, and is one of Stephen Schwartz’s (the composer of Wicked, Godspell) lesser-known works. Nevertheless, I can now say that it is a show that I fell in love with from the first time I heard “The Spark of Creation”, one of the show’s most popular and well-known songs. “Children of Eden” is a unique and evocative production. The show surrounds Biblical themes, but can be meaningful to anyone, no matter what their beliefs.
If you want to see what I mean, you have to come see the show! Tickets are now on sale at squarefoottheatre.com/tickets for the production, which runs August 11-14. This cast is not only one of the most welcoming and affable casts I have ever been a part of, but I can honestly say they are also the most talented. I promise you, you don’t want to miss this one!
A “theatre family” is not something easy to explain. We’re not like co-workers who get along when they have to, but often can’t wait to escape each other’s company. We’re not like the friends you make at school, because those bonds can take years to grow nearly as deep as ours. A “theatre family” is different. We get to know one another on such a deep level so quickly. Theatre, being such an immersive, emotional experience, forces us to expose our truest colors whether we want to or not. Even if our rehearsal period only spans a few months, we often still grow to learn each other’s nuances, quirks, deepest secrets, and so much more. We’ve seen each other at our highest of highs and lowest of lows, and yet we still love, respect and support one another.
Thank you accepting me, when I joined your ranks, as one of your own without any hesitation or reservations. Thank you for taking the time to include me, to laugh with me, to run lines with me, for picking me up for rehearsal when I can’t get there on my own. As a part of this family, I have continued to see this kind of support given to more and more new performers without fail, and I think that that is what makes us so special. We are not co-workers. We are not just friends. We are a family, a unit. We function better together than we do individually. And though I may complain about going to rehearsal, I really do miss you guys when I’m not around you, though I may not always show it.
There’s a reason I keep coming back to the theatre, and that reason is my theatre family. I owe you guys who I am, and can’t wait to see where our future performances will take us.
Being a company that works with such a diverse age range, it is not unusual to find a performer who has grown up on the Square Foot Theatre stage. This week, we chat with Joey Abate, who is currently performing in Aida, which will be his last SFT show as a high school performer.
SFT: Congratulations on being a part of Aida! I hear you’ve been a part of the Square Foot Theatre Company for a very long time. Do you remember when and what your first production here was?
JA: Yes. I started taking classes in fifth grade, I was 11 years old. I took tap classes and acting classes. My first production here was “Guys and Dolls Jr.” and I played Sky.
SFT: What got you started coming here?
JA: I was in a musical in third grade, Honk Jr., and I always tried sports as a kid and I just failed miserably and would always wind up quitting, I hated all of them. So then my mom was like, “well, did you like being onstage?” and I was like, “yeah, I would like to try that.” But I was always such a shy kid, so she found the studio and she called Jared (Brown), and she was like, “Ok, my son’s interested, but he’s incredibly shy”, and Jared was like, “we’ll break him out of that right away”.
SFT: And you’ve been here ever since!
JA: Yes, I have!
SFT: So now that you’re graduating high school, what are your plans? Will theatre be a part of your future?
JA: Yes. I’m going to Marymount Manhattan College. I auditioned for the musical theatre program and got waitlisted, so in the meantime I’m going to take writing for the stage, and then re-audition for the musical theatre program.
SFT: So being a part of SFT has impacted your decisions for the future?
JA: Oh, absolutely. I’ve tried auditioning and being in performances with other groups and there’s no other group that’s as welcoming and as much of a family, they don’t focus on you as much, they don’t give you as many opportunities as the Square Foot Theatre. I’ve gotten so many different opportunities to work on my acting and what I love to do here, so it’s definitely impacted me.
SFT: I know personally that being a part of any theatre family is an adventure in itself. Do you have any favorite memories that you can share with us?
JA: Well, I usually really, really love playing the villain. Everyone just kind of knows that, so every time there’s a villainous role, people are just like, “oh, yeah, that’s gonna be you!” And every time I play the villain, everyone is like “oh, you’re so creepy! I mean that as a compliment”. So I’ve gotten quite the reputation for playing villainous roles…
SFT: But you’re not actually mean.
JA: (Laughs) No. I do love it, but I’m not.
SFT: So, you’re currently in tech for your last high school performance here at SFT. Who are you playing in Aida and can you tell us a little about the show?
JA: So, I’m playing the villain in Aida (laughs). I am the father of the male lead. So basically, what I’m trying to do is I’ve made an arrangement for him to marry the princess so that he can succeed the Pharaoh. What I am doing to make that progress faster is secretly poisoning the Pharaoh so that my son can gain power and, of course, being his father I would have power as well. And then it’s uncovered that he falls in love with a Nubian slave, which causes some problems.
SFT: What has been your favorite part of working on this show and why do you think audiences should come see it?
JA: The show is so different. It’s such a different show. I mean, I’ve always heard of it but never really focused on it until I knew I was going to be auditioning for it. I started listening to it, but I never really understood what it was and how it progressed until I read through the script. The director has a director’s note in the beginning of the script, and I found it so fascinating. The way it (the show) portrays messages is really clever, and I love it a lot. It’s been really interesting because one of my good friends that I met here, we just played best friends over the summer together in “13”, and now we’re playing father and son. So it’s been really fun. There’s a lot of cool messages and a lot of cool moments, and I think it would be really worth it for any audience to come see.
SFT: And last but not least, do you have anything you’d like to thank SFT for as you head on to new adventures?
JA: I mean, I have to generalize it a lot because there’s so much, but… the opportunities, the support, the family itself, always feeling like I have a place to go – an outlet. Always feeling like I have people to communicate to, and vent to, whether it’s production staff or cast members. It’s been a really, really solid base for me.
Come see Joey and the rest of the cast of AIDA Friday, June 10 – Saturday, June 18! For ticket info, see squarefoottheatre.com/tickets.
My name is Caroline Thompson, and I am very happy to say that I will be spending my summer as the Square Foot Theatre’s Business Intern, because that means that I get to spend my summer writing for you! During the academic year, I spend my days in New York City, though I have lived in Cheshire, CT nearly my entire life. I am a rising sophomore at Pace University, studying Arts & Entertainment Management, and – you guessed it – I live and breathe theatre. As an intern, part of my job will be to keep this blog updated with all that is happening at our theatre, from information about our productions, to photos and interviews from our students and staff. Keep checking back for plenty of fun content that you won’t want to miss!
4 Reasons Theatre Should Be A Core Subject In Schools
Art is just as important as math.
The great William Shakespeare taught the world that art is not a mere form of entertainment, but based in truth. He explained this through his character Hamlet who says, “the purpose of playing is to hold as ’twere the mirror up to nature to show virtue her feature, [and] scorn her own image.” Theatre is a reflection of society. It shows the world its issues and makes people aware of how to fix them. Theatre not only tells stories of the past, but shows us how to shape the future.
Art is essential to society. Not everyone is meant to be a lawyer, doctor or engineer. Some people, like myself, find their calling in the world of theatre. Even if one does not believe that they should have a career in theatre, there is something to be said about a person who participates in theatre in middle school or high school. I believe that theatre education is extremely valuable to certain kids and should be accessible to everyone. Historically, public funding for the arts has been fairly low. However, public support for the arts is leading to an increase in funding—2014 marked the year with the highest funding for the arts. Although this is fantastic, it doesn’t mean we can stop holding our breath over this issue. It’s the obligation of an artist to make more people aware of the importance of art.
Earlier this year the Senate passed the Every Child Achieves Act which ensures that all students, regardless of their socioeconomic background, will have the chance for an education in music. By a count of 81 to 17, the Senate chose to ensure that music will become a core subject in schools. Although the official bill mentions music and art, there is no specification about whether the term “art” includes theatre.
Here are some reasons why I believe incorporating theatre into school curriculum is important, based on the experiences of myself and my theatre friends.
1. Theatre is an escape.
We all know how truly tumultuous our emotions get during the dreaded teenage years. The stress-induced mental breakdowns that led us to eating way too many baked goods are still all too fresh in our minds. While another brownie might have made me feel temporarily satisfied, nothing in the world could stop a heartache, distract me from worrying about my home life, or keep me from stressing about a test that I just took like belting it out in the choir room or on stage. Being able to connect to a character, song, monologue, scene or show as a whole gave me an outlet for escaping from my own life and fuel all of my tension, anger, sadness or frustration into something else. Theatre is the best place to put all of the angst. Seriously.
2. Theatre teaches you how to work with people.
Someone once told me, “The most important person on the stage is the person next to you.” Although I didn’t understand it at the time, I now know exactly what was being said to me. Everyone assumes actors only care about standing center stage in the spotlight, but let me tell you that is only true some of the time. No one can act alone. Every scene in a show involves having to connect with your partner(s) on stage. Furthermore, pretty much every song is about someone else or something else other than yourself. Being part of a cast teaches teamwork just like sports do. And no one understands the word family quite like a theatre kid. The amount of time spent together in rehearsals never fails to lead to the best friendships– there’s nothing more bonding than staying at school until 10:45 pm running a show or going through what seems like 100 light cues.
3. Theatre humbles you.
There is something so vulnerable about performing—you stand in front of hundreds or thousands of people saying “this is me. this is my talent. this is my heart.” Performers reveal their true selves every single time they step on stage, no doubt aware that they are going to receive countless critiques. There’s nothing worse than an egotistical performer thinking they have nothing left to fix… If that were the case with everyone, there would be no need for directors who shape us into the best performers we can be. Performing in a show teaches a person how to take criticism and apply it. It teaches them to be humble and accept judgment gracefully. It also teaches them to know their own self-worth and to be confident in whatever they bring to the stage. One of my favorite quotes about owning who you are comes from the truly incredible actress, Sierra Boggess. She says “You are enough, you are so enough, it is unbelievable how enough you are.”
4. Theatre teaches acceptance.
When you are a part of theatre, you work with so many different kinds of people. You cover a variety of subjects because you are learning about the world and how to put it on a stage. So let’s talk about the obvious: yes, some people in theatre are homosexual. Not everyone is, but a substantial amount are. A lot of shows are about homosexuality and if not for theatre, I don’t know how I would feel about it. Theatre introduced me to the topic and through theatre, I learned how to be accepting of it, as well as a number of other things. Nowadays theatre calls to mind the following issues—critiques of deaf performers, discrimination, racism, sexuality, gender identity, mental illness, abortion, etc. Theatre teaches us how to address critical issues in our world but also how to accept others for who they are.So many kids go through life without even an opportunity to experience these wonderful attributes of educational theater. Some people automatically assume that if they take a theatre class they’ll become associated with the term “theatre geek” (which let me say, I proudly attribute to myself). Some people know they might love the arts but their parents force them to play sports or join the engineering club. Maybe they’re just too scared to take a chance or go against whatever seems to be the most popular thing to do. If more people had access to a theatre class, I believe our world might just be a little more open minded, and a little bit happier. Theatre is truly magical, and I hope that someday, everyone will have the opportunity to experience it.