Video by Carly D'Angelo
Interview by Stephanie Litzenberger
What plays were/are you involved in? What roles did you play in them?
My introduction to theatre was at my Synagogue, Temple Judea of Bucks County, in 4th grade. I was involved in the annual Purim Spiel, a small, goofy show reenacting the story of Purim (the Jewish holiday celebrating the prevention of a mass genocide of the Jewish people of Persia). The director of the show was Sasha Eisenberg, who currently directs the shows at Central Bucks East. I got a minor role because I was auditioning along with adults, but I had a blast being able to perform in front of people.
The first school production I was involved in was Alice in Wonderland, Jr. at Barclay Elementary School when I was in 6th grade. My role was the “Dodo”. When most people think of Alice in Wonderland, they usually think of the White Rabbit or The Mad Hatter, but the Dodo is still important and was my first lead and I was very proud of myself. I even had my own song! Many of my favorite elementary school memories are from those rehearsals because I was never felt left out. Many of my memories from Barclay are poisoned with exclusion and bullying, but play was my safe haven and I cherish every moment of it.
The next production I was involved in was the summer leading into 8th grade. It was Camp Harlam’s production of Aladdin, Jr., in which I played Jafar. We had two and a half weeks to put the whole thing together, so it was chaotic and stressful, but it made my summer. Since it was an overnight camp, the play took over my life at camp, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. I made some friends from that production that I am still close with today.
The second school musical I was in was Tamanend Middle School’s production of 42nd Street, and I had my first minor role in years. I had the unnamed role of “The Enforcer,” so I was not happy when the cast list came out, as my character only had four lines and no solos. At that point, I just assumed that I didn’t have to work for a lead role. I was so used to just getting a lead that I just expected to be cast as one without trying. From this, I realized that it takes work to get a lead role. During rehearsals, I realized how different Tamanend plays were than Barclay’s. A lot more responsibility was given to the students involved. As a lead at Barclay, I was only on stage a few times, but at Tamanend, I was in more scenes as an ensemble member since the show was twice as long. I had an amazing time and made so many friends during 42nd Street, and I wouldn’t change a thing about my experience in that show.
This past summer, I performed in High School Musical as “Jack Scott” at Camp Harlam. Again, having such a limited time to put the show together made it stressful, but was so much fun. The leads from Aladdin, Jr. were also involved High School Musical, so we all grew even closer last summer.
Currently, I am in Beauty and the Beast at Tamanend, starring as “Maurice (Belle’s Father).” We are doing the Broadway version of Beauty and The Beast and it is my biggest challenge in theatre yet. We are working very hard to make it the best it can be, and the cast is very talented! All of the leads are friends with each other and I look forward to rehearsal every day! The shows are March 11th at 7:00 and March 12th at 2:00 and 7:00.
What are some challenges that you have faced?
I faced fewer challenges than other people with Autism because I am very high functioning, but I still had many obstacles. I used have little social skills and attention issues. I went to Kutz Elementary from kindergarten to 2nd grade for Autistic support. I had to have an aid with me for most of the day to keep me on track. I was able to count the amount of friends I had on one hand and I played alone at recess. In 3rd grade, I “graduated” from Autistic support and went to Barclay. I was able to make a couple of friends, although I could still count them on one hand. I gradually made more and more friends throughout elementary school, but I still had low social skill, so meeting people was difficult for me. After elementary school, I really immersed myself in music, and it boosted my social skills to what I had always wanted when I was younger. I have discovered so many wonderful things about my peers and myself since then, and am glad to have overcome those challenges. However, I still have trouble focusing in school and I tend to zone out often in class.
How has music been a useful tool in helping you to find acceptance?
I feel that music has changed me as a person and made me who I am today. Many studies have shown that music is very good for adolescents and children alike, and I feel that it has made me more outgoing. My social skills have gotten significantly higher since I got fully involved in music.
What opportunities have come your way since you started performing?
I have gotten the opportunity to be in a school-made music video with thousands of views. Eight other chorus friends and I sang an A Cappella (just vocals—no instrumentals) cover of The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” for the Macy’s A Cappella challenge. The video was a huge success and was even featured on Macy’s Website (although we did not win).
What is your favorite part about being involved in the music department at your school? What are your goals in the upcoming years?
I can’t choose my favorite part about being involved in Tamanend’s music program because there are so many things I love about it. I love how choir is “judgment free,” so it’s like a safe haven for me, as well as a lot of other students. We all share a common love for music and most of my best memories from Tamanend are from choir. I love the beautiful sounds that we can create. I love my choir teacher because he students want come back to Tamanend when they move up to CB South. I love the people I get to surround myself with who all come from different “cliques” at school, because we’re all friends with each other, despite our differences. My goal is to major in music in college, and to become a music teacher because I want to pass my positive experiences down to the next generation.
Do you have any performances coming up that you are looking forward to? What and when are they?
As of writing this, the next performance I have is at the “VH1 Save The Music Concert,” which is when Central Bucks music teachers and students come together to perform for a charity that pays for music programs in places that can’t afford them. The concerts are amazing and family friendly, with songs for everyone to enjoy. They are Friday night, January 29th, and Saturday afternoon/night, January 30th. For more details be sure to look at cbsd.org/Page/31766!
After VH1, I’ll be in Tamanend’s production of Beauty and The Beast! As I mentioned earlier, it is looking like it is going to be a great show and tickets sell out quickly! The shows are in March, so tickets are not going to be for sale for a few weeks, but keep an eye open for more details!
Do you have any advice for people struggling to find their places/interests?
I would tell them to be who you are and try anything you are interested in! You will eventually find your hobby—whether it’s sports, music, drawing, etc.!
I would also like to give a shout out to the people that have helped me on my journey! First, I would like to thank my parents for supporting me every step of the way. I would also like to thank all of my elementary school teachers for going the extra mile to make sure I was okay. My voice teacher, Mrs. Nancy, has helped me grow to have a strong voice that I can show to the world. I would also like to thank every one of my friends for being the amazing people they are, and for sticking by me from since day one! You all are the reason I am who I am today and I wouldn’t change it in any way!