EAST ISLIP

Theatre enthusiast takes on Studio Theatre of LI

South Shore-based group welcomes Bay Shore resident

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Tiana Christoforidis and theatre arts go hand in hand, like tickets and the box office.

At the mere age of 3, Christoforidis joined the Theatre Guild of the YM-YWHA in the Bronx. It was the beginning of what would be a lifelong devotion to theatre arts.

On Dec. 11, the Bay Shore resident accepted the role of director of educational theatre at Studio Theatre of Long Island, which recently announced its opening of a second location at the former BayWay Arts Center in East Islip.

The Bronx native received her theatre and English degrees from Fordham University at Lincoln Center. She has since performed Off-Broadway in Lyric Theatre’s “Sagaand “Dance on a Country Grave,” and regionally with the New Jersey Shakespeare Festival, the New York Renaissance Faire, and a national tour with One Stage America. She studied acting at multiple New York locations.

The Islip Bulletin chatted with Christoforidis about her commitment to theatre, her new role, and the importance of the arts amid the coronavirus pandemic.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

IB: What’s been your relationship to Studio Theatre thus far? And what kind of duties will you be taking on in your new role?

Tiana Christoforidis: I was working with our executive director Christopher Rosselli at the Great South Bay YMCA for 10 years. He’s incredibly talented. We developed all different kinds of educational programs… When COVID hit, we realized the YMCA could not reopen theatre programs in the future. So, he offered me the opportunity to become the director of educational theatre. I will oversee the theatre school, which will be run at both sites – Lindenhurst and BayWay Arts Center. Everyone will be socially distanced, and of course, we’ll be following guidelines in both spaces.

IB: What programs will you be bringing to both centers?

TC: Right now, we’re directing shows. So, there’s a whole team of stage directors with production teams. At both sites, I will be directing the musical “13,” for grades 6-8, and that will begin the week of Jan. 11. We still have spots open, and our outdoor performances are scheduled for the end of March… Hopefully, we can start to implement different programs, diversity, acting and technique courses and different kinds of events for the community. The sky’s the limit as far as I’m concerned – but we have to wait for the rest of the world to be normal again.

IB: In 1994, you created the Act Out Theatre Program and Performing Arts Camp at the Great South Bay YMCA. What was the purpose of this program, and how has it since expanded?

TC: I just loved theatre and there were no cultural arts there at all. The building had just opened… I wanted a place to teach my [4-year-old] kid, and I was eager to teach again after time away. I started out with five kids and it developed into doing several shows a year with two-tiered sets, musicals and live pits… We brought the program to the Huntington YMCA and basically, they’d do our shows on our stage, but they’d rehearse with their own director. We did that for about three years, but then life as we know it changed.

IB: Why do you believe theatre is important for everyone during this challenging time?

TC: Theatre is a sense of community and belonging – a no-judgement zone… The changes I have seen in students over the years, in terms of how they grow emotionally, socially and in confidence – is absolutely unbelievable… And theatre is an escape. I asked a group of kids a couple weeks back, “Why theater? What does it do for you?” and some kids said, “It allows me to be someone else,” and others said, “It allows me to be myself.” I thought that just about wraps it up: theatre helps everybody grow and feel comfortable in their own skin.

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