Coming off the bus that dropped them off in front of the Argyle Theater in Babylon, the excitement exuding from the theater students of Brentwood High School was palpable. Through a partnership between the Islip Arts Council and the Argyle Theater, the students were getting the opportunity to see a performance of “Elf the Musical” at the venue and speak to members of the team at the theater and cast members from the show after the performance.
“A lot of times in high school, you have the athletes and the athletic programs getting all the glory—the football team, the basketball team—but the drama students are just as athletic,” said Waldo Cabrera, the president of the Islip Arts Council. “You know, dancing all day, rehearsing, the sweat and tears that go into putting on a show, especially a musical, is just as grueling as practicing for a basketball game. But they usually don’t get the recognition. So, we have for a long time gone out of our way to provide that recognition for our theater students. And tonight is even more specific because we want our kids in underserved communities, who don’t get an opportunity to see a professional show, we wanted them to see, ‘You know what, the dream can come true.’ This is not just something that you do in high school. This is something that you can do for a living. And, by the way, it’s happening only 15 minutes away from your house.”
Dylan Perlman, co-owner and managing partner of the Argyle Theater, noted that it’s vital to bring kids that are already interested in theater to the venue.
“It’s the new generation,” Perlman said. “They’re the future.”
Perlman also noted how, unlike Broadway, the Argyle Theater isn’t sustained by tourism. Instead, the community must continually come out to see shows and programs like this to make people excited about theater.
“We are in every aspect a regional, community-based institution that for us to be a viable theater we have to be within the fabric of the community,” Perlman said. “And it has to be a symbiotic relationship for us to really accomplish our mission and our goals of being a major regional destination for live entertainment on Long Island.”
After the show, while the actors were leaving, the students had the opportunity to ask one question of Timothy Fraser, who played Buddy in the show. The students asked him how he knew he wanted to go into theater. Fraser said as a young child, his grandparents would put on PBS specials about Broadway shows and he was hooked, but it wasn’t until he was a bit older that he decided to make it his career.
“It wasn’t until senior year of high school where I finally decided that I was going to continue in college and perform, because I feel that with the skills that I have and the heart that I have, this is the best way I can bring change,” Fraser told the students.
The students also noted how every member of the cast was important in the show, including the ensemble, with one student noting that they felt that the ensemble was just as good as the leads. Cabrera said there was something important for the students to note.
“So, if possibly, in some other situations, somebody might view being part of the ensemble as a negative, ‘that maybe I wasn’t good enough to be the lead,’ well, you can see that this ensemble, they might as well be the lead,” Cabrera said. “Any one of those ensemble members could be the lead, that’s how good they are. So, they take their job seriously and whether you’re a lead or you’re part of the ensemble, you got to go up there and give it your all.”
Going forward, Perlman said he was proud of his partnership with the Islip Arts Council to make the night a success for the students and hopes to continue the program. Cabrera said that exposing all kids to the arts is what the Islip Arts Council is all about.
“The Islip Arts Council wants to ensure that we expose all of the Town of Islip to the arts,” Cabrera said. “We want to be absolutely inclusive. We are changing our programming. We’re adding a lot more features to represent the entire Town of Islip. We have 320,000 people in the Town of Islip and we just want to be the all-inclusive purveyor of the arts. And we want to make sure, especially, that our students and our kids appreciate the arts and are exposed to the arts so that if they do want to pursue a life as an artist, they can.”
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