NY Public School Students Discover Broadway With ‘Mamma Mia’

Photo Source: Elena Olivo

Before 11-year-old Athina Glumicic participated in Inside Broadway’s workshop, a program that gives a group of New York City public school students a behind-the-scenes look at a show, she had never been in a Broadway theater before.

“It was an amazing experience,” she says. “There was so much music and dancing. They showed us how they do everything backstage. The way they change the setting by using an elevator…You could tell they loved exactly what they were doing.”

Now, the fifth grader wants to perform on Broadway some day.

“I want to be anything that involves performing. I love it when I’m on stage!”

To mark its 30th anniversary, Inside Broadway is partnering with the Broadway production of “Mamma Mia!” and offering two free “Creating the Magic” workshops for more than 2,500 New York City public school students. On Thursday, students will fill the historic Winter Garden Theatre for a behind the scenes look at the world of Broadway with members of the “Mamma Mia!” cast and crew. The company will perform six production numbers, including “Dancing Queen,” and there will be a Q & A session as well as set, lighting and sound demonstrations.

“Everybody would like to have a little bit of a glimpse at what goes on behind the scenes and rightfully so,” says Michael Presser, founder and executive director of Inside Broadway. “That’s not logistically easy to do and you don’t really see anything unless a show is being performed. So, with ‘Creating the Magic’ workshop, we are able to use the people, the production, and the theater to actually give kids an opportunity to see exactly what goes on behind the scenes.”

Presser explains that children are most impressed by the scale and the totality of the operation. “Children of the computer generation are extremely interested in technology, and seeing the way it is being used in the theater is a fascinating experience for them,” he explains. “Ultimately, children realize that it comes down to human beings doing these things. There is no technology that can replace the human voice, an actor on the stage, or a musician playing a beautiful instrument. Presenting those skills for the benefit of a live audience is something that all the other electronic media today can’t equal and it’s what makes…the experience of theater so unique.”

NYC public school students at "Creating the Magic" (Photo by Elena Olivo)

One of the schools selected to attend this year’s workshop is PS 69Q, The School of Cultural and Performing Arts, located in Jackson Heights, Queens. Due to the overwhelming interest in attending Inside Broadway’s eight-week afterschool music theater program at the school, students are accepted through a lottery. Out of approximately 1200 students enrolled at PS 69Q, only 40 students attend the program and a total of 60 students from PS 69Q will attend the workshop his year.

Ten-year-old Ayleen Yanza, a 4th grader at PS 69Q, participates in the Inside Broadway afterschool program and is looking forward to attending the workshop. “I like to dance and sing,” says Yanza. “When I am on the stage, I want to show everyone what I have learned in the past weeks. I want to give all my best.” Like most PS 69Q students, Yanza will be the first member of her family to visit a Broadway theater, and she plans to share her experience with her family and friends when she gets home.

Debbie Strack Cregan has been teaching for 18 years and loves her job as the arts liaison teacher at PS 69Q. “Our principal and the administration believe in the arts,” explains Cregan. “Not everyone is going to be the academic star. The arts allow students to believe that they can be successful in other ways. Children gain confidence through performing. It goes into all aspects of their life.”

“These children can’t image what a Broadway production is because it is not even within their realm of understanding,” she continues. “You bring them into the city, and they are awestruck. They wouldn’t have known about these opportunities, like going to Broadway, except through programs like Inside Broadway. Kids don’t understand that there is a world that goes on behind the scenes…It’s just wonderful.”