Have you ever wondered what’s going on inside of an actor’s head? I got a chance to interview some awesome actors at Tada Youth Theater in New York City. On Saturday, July 18, 2015, I spoke with a few of the actors before and after their performance in “Princess Phooey”, Jesse Besca (Princess Phooey), Ceanna Bryant (Sugar), Clara Kim (Princess Elessia), Sophie Smith-Brody (Sacchrina), Ashley Figueroa (Princess Phooey), and Diego Arellano (Prince Charming).
When I asked the actors how they control their fear, almost all of them said they are very nervous when they are waiting to go on stage, but once they are on stage they are a different person, they become the character. They have fun, and their worries go away. Diego said he uses his nerves to help him. “I use my nerves to help me out. I take it all on stage.” When he prepares for a play, he said it helps to have a routine. “Backstage, I run through my head where I enter and leave the stage. I sing the first song in my head, and sip my water. That’s my routine.” This is Diego Arellano’s last year with Tada Youth Theater. He is 18, and going to college in the fall. Princess Phooey is his last performance. He has been with Tada for five years. His only regret is that he didn’t join earlier. He plans to stay in the arts after college.
Ashley Figuerou is 13 years old and is in her third year at Tada Youth Theater. I asked Ashley what inspired her to become an actor. She said, “Watching Broadway shows on tv.” Ashley told me she enjoys acting because she likes to perform. “I like getting different roles and becoming different people.” Sophie Smith-Brody’s mother is an actress and her father a musician. She was also inspired by Judy Garland and the Wizard of Oz. For some kids it is natural to be an actor because their families are in the business, like Jesse Besca 13, Ceanna Bryant 17, and Sophie Smith-Brody 16. For other kids, like Clara Kim 15, it is a good way to release stress from your life. “Acting is a great way to be someone you would never have the chance to be. That’s why I love acting.” said Clara.
Getting ready for a performance takes a lot of focus. Rustle, rustle, zzzzip, shhh, enjoy the show. For Ceanna, once she is in costume, she is not herself anymore, she is the character. The first thing Clara did to prepare was read the whole script and highlight it. Jesse and Ceanna agreed they all have the freedom to mess up and not be perfect. A lot of preparing for the performance is reading the script and learning who the character is to make them come alive on the stage. Clara reminds herself, “It’s a really cool feeling to know you are making people happy. It takes all the nerves away.”
It’s challenging to balance everything in their lives, but they find a way to make it work. When a show is running, they do 2 shows a day and 10 shows a week. They get Sunday and Monday off. Shows run for 3 weeks. They have more downtime when the shows aren’t running. They do their homework during downtimes in rehearsals. Diego balances his schedule by spending Sundays with his family, and Mondays with his friends. They are all very dedicated to Tada because they have friends there that understand.
All the actors said Tada feels like family. The older kids help the younger kids with their homework. The actors help each other when they are nervous. Jesse said, “No one makes fun of anyone for being nervous.” Everyone supports each other. She said, “People will come up to me and say ‘Take a deep breath’, when I am nervous.” The actors have grown up with each other so they feel like family.
“Princess Phooey” is now playing at Tada Youth Theater, at 15 West 28th Street, New York City, until August 1, 2015. Visit their website at www.tadatheater.com for more information.