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.