Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Endings and Beginnings

The holiday season has come and gone, and the new year is upon us, which means that the edge production of "Once on This Island" has ended its run. The performances were a couple of weeks ago at the Tarrytown Music Hall. The ending of this production doesn't just signify the end of another Random Farms show: for some, it signifies the end of a journey. Rachel Stamberg, a current senior in high school, has been performing with Random Farms since 7th grade and took her final bow in Once on this Island. Upon realizing that this was her last show with Random Farms, she stated, "I can't believe my many years at RFKT has come to an end. The memories I made there will last forever!"

Rachel Stamberg gets ready for her final show at Random Farms

Rachel is not alone in finishing her run with Random Farms. Kyle Morales (a current Ambassador), is also a senior who is saying farewell to Random Farms. "Once on this Island was my last show with RFKT," he commented, "And I couldn't have had a better experience. RFKT has taught me so much about being a performer, and I've made life long friends along the way." Although this show was the end for some performers, it was only the beginning for others. Jillian Flynn, a current sophomore, has been performing with Random Farms for a few years. However, Once on This Island was her first experience with the edge shows: "Once on This Island was my first show with the edge program. I met so many talented people and had an overall great experience. I can't wait to participate in it again next year."

Jillian Flynn has fun backstage with another cast member before performing in her first edge show

 In conclusion, the ending of Once of this Island was bittersweet. For those beginning their journey, many new memories await. For those whose journeys have come to a close, new experiences in college are bound to be exciting. However, it is okay if it hurts...because that's how you know it meant something.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Road to Kids for a Cause

When I was in fourth grade, Random Farms announced a new program called “Kids Who Care.” It was described as a 30-minute musical performance that would bring smiles and joy to all those for whom we performed.

Immediately, I fell in love with the idea and signed up for my audition. I was really nervous as it was only my second audition ever.  However, it was so important for me to do this program, so I put on a brave face and went for it.

At my audition, I sang the audition song, “I Got the Sun in the Morning” from Annie Get Your Gun and we did a short combination to “I Got Rhythm” from Crazy for You. These very songs are still used for our auditions today. I felt very confident after my audition and anxiously waited for the cast list. I got in and was cast as “Kid 9”!

The first year went by quickly. We performed at the Random Farms Gala, Sunshine Children’s Home and Rehab Center, Wartburg Adult Care Community, and Cedar Manor Nursing & Rehabilitation Center. We had an added performance at a shelter in The Bronx. Not only did I get to sing my duet, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” but I also took over for “Kid 3” and sang “The Trolley Song” from Meet Me in Saint Louis. We even performed in Times Square at “Tunes in Times Square” with the Magical Music for Life Foundation, and that same day we performed on FOX News.

The next year, “Kids Who Care” changed to “Kids for a Cause” for copyright reasons. There were less kids and some songs like “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from Monty Python’s Spamalot, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” from Toy Story, and our finale from Gypsy “Together Wherever We Go” were cut. I was cast again, but this time as “Kid 11.” My duet that year was “I Got Rhythm” from Crazy for You. That year we performed at Sunshine, Burke Rehabilitation Center, Atria Senior Living, and Yonkers Community Action Program. My grandfather once went to Burke, so that performance was my favorite of the year, especially when some of the audience members remembered “The Miracle Man.”

Last year was probably my favorite year so far. My role was “Kid 1,” and I sang “Put On a Happy Face” from Bye Bye Birdie and “The Trolley Song” from Meet Me in Saint Louis. My cast was full of my friends. We performed at Westhab PEAK Center, The Abbott House, and The Westchester Center for Independent and Assisted Living. When performing at the Abbott House, I not only performed “Put on a Happy Face” and “The Trolley Song,” but I also filled in for “Kid 3” and sang “Friendship” from Anything Goes.

This year I am playing “Kid 10.” I finish with Kids for a Cause next year, and it’s killing me. I am the only original cast member left, so it will be hard to go without doing this program. This year, I am singing “Seize the Day” from one of my favorite musicals Newsies. My cast will be performing at Atria Senior Living, Coachman Family Center, and Elizabeth Seton Pediatric Center.

Kids for a Cause makes me feel happy, that I am doing something good. It’s an accomplishment to be performing with this group. I cannot thank Julie and Anya enough for casting me in this show for the first time three years ago and for continuing to cast me in this program since.

I cannot imagine life without doing Kids For a Cause. It makes me so happy to see the smiles on our audience’s faces. My favorite part is talking to our audience after. The seniors are always full of gratitude and kindness. They often tell us, the performers, that they love these musicals or remember singing these songs with their friends when they were children. Their recollections always make me smile. When we talk to the kids, their faces light up. They always ask such thoughtful questions such as “How long did it take to learn the show?” or “What’s your favorite song to perform?”

When we ask our audience what their favorite songs are, the children immediately reply with our finale, “We Go Together” from Grease. “We Go Together” is full of energy, silly words, and crazy dance moves, and I always see the children bopping along to the music. The seniors normally reply with the older, classic show tunes like “I Got the Sun in the Morning” from Annie Get Your Gun, “Friendship’ from Anything Goes, “Heart” from Damn Yankees, “Put On a Happy Face” from Bye Bye Birdie, “I Got Rhythm” from Crazy for You, or “The Trolley Song” from Meet Me in Saint Louis. Sometimes, however, our younger cast members reply, “Little People” from Les Miserables  or “Happiness” from You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

I strongly encourage everyone (Grades 2-8) to audition for Kids For a Cause. I get such an amazing feeling knowing that I am doing something good and bringing happiness to everyone! The reward of doing this program is not adding it to your resume, being on FOX, performing in Times Square, or getting community service hours for school, but bringing music, happiness, and joy to the audience members.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Farewell to Natalie Gray

"You just have such passion in your voice when you sing and sound so amazing while doing it. Good luck in everything! Don't give up; you have such an amazing talent that you shouldn't waste. You better not slack off, or I'm going to be really mad at you!" Natalie cried, wiping the tears from her eyes as fresh ones were forming in mine. Natalie got out her final words of wisdom while I swallowed the lump in my throat. My voice teacher regained her professionalism while I was losing that of my own.

I'll admit, when I first heard that Natalie Gray, resident voice teacher and Jellybeans director was leaving Random Farms, I didn't cry. I was most certainly shocked at the news, and even though I was sad, I didn't let a single tear escape from my eyes. I don't like crying. I hate the way the sobs wrack my body, stain my face and bewilder my breath. That is why I avoid the action as much as possible and attempt to detach myself with all feelings that trigger it.

So, I tried not to think at all about Natalie's leaving during her last month at Random Farms, and even put off practicing my NYSSMA piece because it made me think of her. But once my last lesson with Natalie was days away, I figured that I had to get down to business and not only face the fact that my beloved teacher was leaving, but practice Panis Angelicus because let's face it: I don't know how to speak Latin.

As expected, practicing the piece brought up many memories of Natalie, which forced me to come to terms with the fact that she truly was leaving. It hurt. But once I did it, I felt so much better. Think of it this way: You climb over a mountain. The journey is exhausting and maybe you slip on the way up but once you reach the top, the view is beautiful. Once I got over my sadness of Natalie's departure, I realized how much I'd vocally improved over the years with her as my teacher.

I thought of how she molded my airy and unstable 12-year-old-pop voice into a trained classical instrument, and gave me ample knowledge of music theory and performance skills. I thought of how she taught me to work hard and persevere, but not to be too hard on myself. I thought of how she made me think of every performance as a learning experience, whether or not I felt satisfied by it. She taught me to love my voice and my craft, but not to take myself so seriously and have a laugh once in a while. After all, I'm only a sixteen-year-old performer who has many credits on her résumé but still has a lot to learn.

But I would have never gotten where I am if it hadn't been for Natalie. I thought that I would leave Random Farms long before she did but hey, you never know what life is going to throw at you. I don't know much of what else is coming, but I do know that I speak for everyone when I say that we all wish Natalie the best of luck in Houston, Texas and welcome Joanie Brittingham, our new voice teacher, to the Random Farms family. Even though Natalie is already gone, we know that her spirit will never truly leave Random Farms; Her operatic voice will ring all the way from Houston to Elmsford.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The New Kid

I am very excited to be part of Random Farms Kids' Theater anti-bullying production of "The New Kid"!  This is my first year with the show, and I am very happy to be playing Eleanore.  "The New Kid" is a show that travels to schools and spreads the important message to just be yourself.  In fact, one of the characters sings a song called "Just Be Yourself".

There are 3 casts of "The New Kid".  Auditions were held in June and we got the great news that we were cast a few weeks later.  We had a busy rehearsal schedule for about 6 weeks beginning in September.  During that time, we not only learned the show, but we became great friends.  Hanging out at dinner break was the best!

The day we travelled to our first school to do the show, I didn't know what to expect from the audience.  The kids in the school loved it!  I think it was special for them to see a show for kids that was done by kids.  After each show, we do a Q&A.  The kids at the school made some great comments about how they would prevent bullying.  They also asked us questions like - how did we learn the whole show, how much school do we miss by doing the show (2 mornings a month), and they even asked if the green rubber frog we use in the show was real.

"The New Kid" is one of my favorite shows that I have been part of.  I love my cast, performing for different audiences, and spreading an important anti-bullying message.

Auditions for next year's casts of "The New Kid" will be in June - don't miss it!!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Most Amazing Experience

This summer, I got the amazing opportunity to play the lead role, “Tracy Turnblad”, in Random Farms’ summer mainstage Hairspray Jr. I was so excited when I got the news, because honestly, I wasn’t expecting it, as I was originally cast as Edna.  Even as Edna I was so happy to play such a featured role. The girl who was originally cast as Tracy got an amazing opportunity to work for Nickelodeon, and because I was the second choice, I was asked right away.  But really, this article isn’t about being the lead; it’s about the experience.

 The month of July went by so quickly. I was meeting all of these amazing people and having so much fun. Just saying here: the experience wasn’t only magical because I played the lead, it was the meaning behind it. I remember watching the 2007 movie at my dance studio. I was only five, but I was Velma and got to dance to “The Legend of Ms. Baltimore Crabs” up on stage. As I got older, I would play the soundtrack over and over, and one day my best friend and I went to see it at The Westchester Dinner Theater. I was so memorized by the show, and my mom and I looked for years to see if a theater was doing it, but after a while, we gave up. I was and still am inspired by Tracy’s character and how she stood up for everything she believed in.

I remember at one of my voice lessons my instructor, Natalie, told me that the summer mainstage was going to be Hairspray Jr. I began practicing the audition cut of “Good Morning Baltimore” and finally the audition day came. I felt so proud of my audition, both the dance and the vocal parts. I was at rehearsal for a workshop when the callback list came out, and to find that I had gotten callbacks for Tracy, Velma, Edna, and Amber made me ecstatic! I was so happy with all of the progress that I had made in only one year!

When tech week came, it was bittersweet to know that we were almost done with the show. Our cast had grown so close; everyone was so supportive of each other and we even celebrated my birthday on the first dress rehearsal! Our opening night was so energetic and we all did an amazing job. By our second (and last) show, our energy wasn’t as high, for everyone had to say goodbye. We had all worked so hard, and it was sad to see it come to an end. When I came out of the hairspray can to bow, I couldn’t take it anymore. I was crying on the inside, but smiling on the outside. I don’t think anyone stayed sane that night. I cannot thank Alexis, Chip, and Anya enough for the amazing opportunity.

So it wasn’t just the part, or the experience, or the show. It was the cast. I still have what I like to call post-show depression. Sometimes I’m in the car listening to the Broadway radio and “Run and Tell That” will come on, or I’ll be at school and someone will find my Hairspray Jr. postcard in my bag, or I’ll be at home in my room which is filled with Hairspray bags, posters, and photos. But that post-show depression reminds me of the amazing experience I had, all the amazing people who I can call my best friends, and most importantly, it taught me an important message: “You Can’t Stop The Beat!”