April 26, 2012

It’s Up To You


In Their New Musical, TADA! Youth Theater Shines A Spotlight On Bullying

By Meghan Gearino


Known for original family musicals—cast entirely with kids ages 8-18—TADA!
Youth Theater’s newest show is a must-see, and this time, not just for the
top-tappin’ score. Opening this weekend, Up To You, for theatergoers ages five and up, brings
issues such as stereotypes, bullying and popularity to center stage. We got the
scoop from Executive and Artistic Director Janine Nina Trevens and writer, Eric
Rockwell. —

What inspired the musical Up To You?

Janine Nina Trevens:
I commissioned Eric to write a new musical for TADA! that
involved a school election, as I wanted to introduce our audience to politics
in a way that might be easier for them to understand. Eric then went further
with the story.

Eric Rockwell: There were many
sources of inspiration for the show, including my own experiences in high
school. I was also inspired by two important moments in American history: The
Whiskey Rebellion of 1791 and the Stonewall Riots of 1969. In both cases, I was
moved by the idea of people standing up against institutionalized injustice. In
one case, it was against the policies of Alexander Hamilton (for whom I named
the school in Up To You) and in the other case, it was a long-harassed
community finally finding the courage to stand up against government bullying. The
theme of the show was inspired by “The Law,” a short treatise by 19th Century
French political theorist Frederic Bastiat. And one of the main sources of inspiration was my friend Wendy, whose
openhearted acceptance and love made my school years not only bearable, but
joyous.

Bullying is getting a lot of attention these days. How will Up To You
bring more awareness around the topic to NYC children and parents?

JNT: I don’t know if there can be more
awareness to the subject—it’s always around us. We’re hoping that seeing a live
show performed by kids for kids will make the subject resonate with our
audience. Hopefully, parents and kids will talk about the show after seeing it.
They can talk about this story which is sometimes easier than actually talking
about something happening in one’s own life. I think the more you hear about a
subject, the more you tend to think about it and then form your own ideas. This
is what is so great about theater—it lets you think and explore topics and have
conversations you may not have had.

The musical takes place during the year 1977. Why not the present day? And
will the audience still be able to relate?

JNT: Eric wanted to write the show
during the time he was in high school. It’s good for our audience to see how
the world has changed and maybe also, how it hasn’t. I definitely think the
audience can relate to the musical especially since it’s performed by kids. The
clothes are different and so is some of the slang, but the characters are those
that kids know today and the plot is still significant.

Does the music also have a hint of throw-back to it as well?

JNT: I think some of the music does
have a hint of [the] 70s but it’s really [just] a great musical theater score.

The free forum discussion on Sunday, May 6 is moderated by Miss New York Kaitlin Monte. How did
she become involved and what can families take away from the dialogue?

JNT: Kaitlin actually got involved
with TADA! because her sister and mother have designed costumes for shows at
TADA!, including Up To You. Since anti-bullying is Kaitlin’s platform as
Miss New York, we reached out to her and asked her to moderate.
Her goal is to get everyone talking about their experiences and what you can do
differently than you have done in the past. She discusses how you can tackle
bullying simply by being a positive leader.

Up To You begins Friday, April 27 and
runs until Sunday, May 20. For more information and to buy tickets, click here. And to see live streaming video of TADA! click here.

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