Saturday, July 18, 2015
Sunday, July 12, 2015
Yesterday, most of Team Expedition was awake at the crack of dawn -- looking up directions to JFK Airport, making last-minute Trader Joe's trips to pick up snacks for orientation, or trying to jam that one last pair of high-heel shoes into their suitcase for opening night. (This is the last one! Promise!) As we watched the sun go up over the rooftops of Brooklyn, we held our breaths for one of the most exciting -- and most hectic -- days of the year:
Student Arrival Day.
One-by-one, students arrived at the airport and were greeted by NTSA staff members. After talking to them for months via Skype, it was so incredible to finally meet all of these extraordinary artists in-person. In fact, as we ate doughnuts off of a rustic tree slice at Dun-Well Doughnuts, Tara Smith showed me the cover of the arts section of her hometown newspaper. On the cover? A giant photograph of her onstage with the headline "READY FOR HER CLOSE-UP: New Albany Grad receives national theater opportunity." While Tara has become front-page news, she says in the article: "I feel so lucky to be given this opportunity, for it to be paid for and to be in New York. I never imagined myself going to New York. It seemed way far away . . . Sometimes I just think about it and go ‘Oh my God, this is happening.’”
Sitting with Tara yesterday, nibbling on a maple sugar doughnut, I can confirm that, yes, this is actually happening.
Today, I had the privilege of sitting in on the first read-through (or at least part of the first read-through -- we had to rustle up five gallons of paint today from Loews for some scenic construction!). Being the Executive Director, I'm great at managing a budget spreadsheet, but I'm not what you'd call an artistic mastermind. When I first read Rae Binstock's Expedition, my initial thought was: "I really like the relationship between Jack and Tom . . . but what's the deal with the Lewis and Clark scenes?" A trip back in time with language that can only be described as "poetic," I had no idea how those scenes would be staged or designed or performed. So you can imagine my surprise when I was watching Tara perform her first Sky Woman monologue, where she talks about how curiosity led her to fall from the clouds, and I actually started getting a little emotional. (I definitely did not cry in rehearsal. Nope. Never.)
(Why don't you believe me?)
Maybe it's because, just the day before, the NTSA staff had watched our team "fall from the clouds" and settle into the brand new world that had spread out before them. Maybe it's because, just like Sky Woman, these students have taken so many risks to get here -- training throughout high school, performing in community theaters, filming an audition video and uploading it onto NTSA's applications website. Most likely, it's just because Tara Smith is a damn good actress.
Whatever the case, these next two weeks are certain to be a life-changing expedition for everyone traveling this path. Make sure to join our mailing list (just fill in the little box at the top of the screen) and follow us on Instagram @ntsatheatre. And get your tickets to Expedition today! Performances are filling up fast!
Tuesday, July 7, 2015
But I still love it.
I still feel a sense of adventure every time I step onto a subway. I long for the hustle and bustle of my neighborhood Shake Shack. And while the rent really is too damn high, I wouldn't give up New York City's close quarters for anything -- even if my last apartment was a few square feet short of a walk-in closet. Times Square is still my favorite spot to spend an afternoon (some locals really do sit at those red metal tables). And I live in Williamsburg so come at me, NYT hipster jokes.
New York City is one of the greatest cities in the world.
And so it is with nothing but the utmost excitement that I get ready to welcome six recent high school graduates to New York City, some of them for the first time ever. At the end of this week, they'll be stepping onto planes in Utah, Indiana, Colorado, Florida, Vermont, and Texas and getting ready to embark on their first off-Broadway production. (The first of many! If there's one thing that I've learned working with our designers over the past few months, it's that these students really are the best of the best. It's only a matter of time before we see them on CBS, accepting their first Tony Awards.) They'll be greeted by NTSA staff at the airport and then brought to the New York Moore, which will be their home away from home for the next two weeks. They'll be staying in the East Williamsburg/Bushwick area where many of NTSA's staff members and alumni live -- an up-and-coming artistic hotspot in Brooklyn.
(This is Forrest Point -- the epitome of all things Bushwick in that it's way too cool for me. But that in no way stops me from going there.)
So join us on our expedition to New York City! We have a huge two weeks ahead of us, and we can't to share the adventure with you on this blog and our Instagram (@ntsatheatre). And if you're going to be in town on July 23-25, come and see the world premiere of Rae Binstock's Expedition at the Fourth Street Theatre! It's going to be one incredible journey!
Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Check her out in her musical medley at the Jimmy Awards. She starts singing around 6:30!
2015 Jimmy Awards Medley #5
Has it really been two weeks since the #JimmyAwards? Relive the magic of that night with the nominees of Medley #5: Morgan Higgins, Emma Buchanan, Grace Etzkorn, Sabrina Mari Uriegas, Brianna Bryan, Madeline Mathias, Marla Louissaint, Audrey McKee and Hannah Sulak.Posted by National High School Musical Theatre Awards on Monday, 13 July 2015
(Marla as Queen Xerilla in 2014's Jimmy!: A Musical Fable with Almost No Historical Basis)
(Dancing in Jimmy!'s "Billy's Blues")
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Despite the fact that they're living in towns across the United States, our designers have already forged a strong and cohesive team. Each Sunday, they meet via Skype for their weekly production meeting. These meetings are a treasure-trove of historical research, script analysis, artistic skill, and hardcore creativity. Our designers can sketch a fully-colored rendering one week, and then rip it up and go back to the drawing board for something completely different the next. It's a challenging and sometimes frustrating process -- but the finished product is worth every moment!
They submitted their first round of designs this past weekend, and we wanted to share some of them with you below. (Make sure to subscribe to our mailing list for more behind-the-scenes access, and if you've already donated, take a peek at the backer-only content on Kickstarter!) But please remember that, without your help, these designs will be relegated to the sketchpad and the model box. Your donation helps us buy the wood, paint, fabric, and hardware that we'll need to bring these designs to life onstage! It only takes a few minutes to make a big difference. Please donate today and join us on our Expedition!
(Jack as William Clark)
(Tom as Meriwether Lewis)
Please donate today and support our designers and the future of the American theater!
Costume designs by Olivia Hern (Shelburne, VT)
Set design by Jessica Baldinger (West Palm Beach, FL)
Saturday, April 25, 2015
Simple! NTSA is the only organization in the nation that actually pays student actors, designers, playwrights, and directors from across the country to experience what it's like to be a working creative professional in New York City. Paying kids for their artistic contribution (through a stipend or their flight and lodging) means that this singular professional experience becomes accessible to a much broader array of kids: It is based solely on participants' creative merit and not on their families' income level. Equally as important, it creates an indelible stamp on students' early experience as developing artists that -- as our proud alumni will attest -- profoundly affects their drive, confidence, and work ethic as they mature in their desired careers.
It takes a lot of guts to decide that you want to make art for a living, and then commit to developing the skills and practical experience you need to make your dream come true. NTSA offers students an opportunity to hone those skills and earn that experience. AND, by giving participants what for most is their first paycheck as a professional artist, NTSA also provides an intangible but mission-critical boost that tells young creatives: "Your dream is not crazy. This life is possible, and it's yours to live."
We are inviting YOU to become part of nationwide movement to create the next generation of American theater. Donate to NTSA's Kickstarter campaign and help us raise the $10,000 that our students need to bring the world premiere of Expedition to New York City this summer. You have the ability to give students a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see their creative vision realized onstage. Thank you so much for believing in the future of the American theater!
Saturday, April 18, 2015
We have two performances coming up of our first touring production, What Happens Next. Remember those Choose Your Own Adventure books from the 1990s? Turn to pg. 18 to spray the mutant spiders with antifreeze, turn to pg. 47 to surrender to the arachnid hordes? What Happens Next (WHN) is basically the theatrical equivalent of a Choose Your Own Adventure book. We present a half-finished play and then ask you to tell us what should happen next. Then our playwright goes home and writes a brand-new scene based on your feedback.
This season's installment of WHN, Dual Acceptance by Alinah Vision (LaGuardia Arts '16), follows two high school seniors, Emma and Adam, who have decided to skip college and stay together after graduation. But when Adam discovers that overachieving Emma hasn't been entirely honest with him, will their future lead them down different paths? Once again, you get to decide how this story will end. Does the rom-com fanatic in you want them to stick together? Or are these two due for a super-dramatic breakup with all the angsty fixings? Come to next week's installment and let your thoughts be heard!
Not only will audience members help create the next scene in Dual Acceptance, they'll also have the chance to design the set and/or costumes for the show! The best designs will be seen onstage at the final performance of Dual Acceptance at The Tank on Times Square this September (check back for more details!). You can score an off-off-Broadway design credit before you even graduate from high school! (Congratulations to Jaliyah and Chloe from Leadership Prep Canarsie who designed the costumes for Emma and Adam at our last performance.)
You can catch What Happens Next at:
Uncommon Charter High School
Tuesday, April 21
1485 Pacific Street, Brooklyn
(C to Kingston-Throop Avenues)
Williamsburg Collegiate Charter School
Monday, April 27
157 Wilson Street, Brooklyn
(J/M/Z to Marcy Avenue)
All performances are FREE to the public!