The 2nd Annual New York City High School Theatre Festival, hosted by The Shubert Foundation, took place Monday March 7th.
Over twenty NYC high schools participated in this event, having their productions watched and evaluated by professionals in the Broadway community. Only five high schools were chosen to come perform at the actual event, which took place in the famous Winter Garden theatre, where the hit musical “School of Rock” is currently showing. Each of the five high schools were given fifteen minutes to perform a section of their show, on stage, in front of an audience of parents, fellow students and theatre goers. Star of “School of Rock” Alex Brightman, started the show off on an inspiring note, sharing with the audience his passion for arts in the schools and the imagination of artists being shared with the world. Brightman said of his passion for the event, “I think creative thinking is going out the window these days…people are told what to do. Truly creative people, that really immerse themselves in August Wilson, and Moises Kaufman, and all those people, they are dropping off by hundreds, because of schools cutting off the programs. So it’s things like this that need to happen, so people can go “Oh, this stuff is great, juicy, but also super relevant.”
Peter Avery, the Director of Theatre for the New York City Department of Education, was thrilled to be part of the creation of this second installment. He said, “I’ve been so proud and impressed by people in the Department of Education, my colleagues, they are so committed to kids learning all subject areas. But in theatre, we are looking at that idea of arts not in a vacuum, but it’s made in context, so they are learning about history.” NYC High School students have been given the opportunity to take a theatre class for legitimate credits, mixing the academic world with the arts.
This integration of history and artistry was felt throughout all of the performances given during the night. The first performance of the night, was given by the Repertory Company High School for Theatre Arts, who showcased a segment from their production of Moises Kaufman’s, “The Laramie Project.” Mr. Kaufman was kind enough to arrive to the event early, and speak with the cast members, wishing them luck and filling them with inspiration. The next showcase was from August Wilson’s “Fences”, produced by Humanities and the Arts High School. Following, was LaGuardia High School for Music & Art, and Performing Art’s showcase of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast”, which was the first musical of the night. Brooklyn High School of the Arts production of Lorraine Hansberry’s “Raisin in the Sun” followed the Disney musical, with the final performance of the night coming from the Edward R. Murrow High School, who performed Claude-Michel Schoneberg’s “Miss Saigon.”
Before the performance, many of the students stood backstage, talking with Alex Brightman, members of The Shubert Foundation and their peers. Lorna Courtney, who played Belle in “Beauty and the Beast” shared her love of the entire festival experience. “This musical is our family…it definitely prepares us to learn time management, and focus, and like concentrate.”
Many of the students who performed want to continue acting, and some are planning on studying the art in college.