Friday, July 22, 2016

Kid to Kid Stories: The Annual Cabaret

By A.J. Magoon

Summer's not over yet, and we have even more fantastic stories of students supporting their peers through Kid to Kid! Students donate money to help others be able to come to Academy. Most recently: the Cabaret! Photos in this blog post by Heather Crouse.

On Tuesday, July 19th, Youth Arts Hall at the Milwaukee Youth Center was full. Students, alumni, family, and friends all came out to support our Third Annual Kid to Kid Cabaret. An incredibly successful yearly event, the Cabaret allows First Stage Theater Academy students to cheer on their teachers and staff in a variety of acts and performances. Though admission is free, donations and raised awareness have a huge impact – this year, over $300 was raised!


There’s no doubt that First Stage Theater Academy students learn from the best, and this Cabaret just served as proof. Attendants were entertained with a dance duet by Emilie Thomas and Teaching Artist Fellow Giana Blazquez; a dance solo by Liz Faraglia; songs by Joey Chelius, Will Esty, Katy Radiske, Amanda Satchell, and Teaching Artist Fellow LaDareon Copeland; a monologue by Jeremy Tardy; and musical improv by J.T. Backes, Audra Handschke, and Patrick Thompson. There was even an accordion!

The entire night was masterfully overseen by emcee duo Chantae Miller and Megan Grizzle, with Paula Foley Tillen on piano throughout.


Feelings were high all night as students, staff, family, and friends all supported Kid to Kid! Liz Faraglia, who called the opportunity to dance solo “so exhilarating and freeing” also stated “I have been touched by such wonderful lives there and wanted to give back.”

Many other shared the sentiment, and give back they did! Over $300 was raised to help students afford classes through First Stage Theater Academy, making this night a bona fide success!


If you’re inspired by our fantastically supportive student community, you can always make a contribution yourself! Simply visit http://www.firststage.org/give and note “Kid to Kid” in the comment section of your donation form. First Stage has never turned a student away from the Academy because of a lack of funds – thanks to incredible students like these, this continues to be true year after year!

Kid to Kid Stories: The Annual Cabaret

By A.J. Magoon

Summer's not over yet, and we have even more fantastic stories of students supporting their peers through Kid to Kid! Students donate money to help others be able to come to Academy. Most recently: the Cabaret! Photos in this blog post by Heather Crouse.

On Tuesday, July 19th, Youth Arts Hall at the Milwaukee Youth Center was full. Students, alumni, family, and friends all came out to support our Third Annual Kid to Kid Cabaret. An incredibly successful yearly event, the Cabaret allows First Stage Theater Academy students to cheer on their teachers and staff in a variety of acts and performances. Though admission is free, donations and raised awareness have a huge impact – this year, over $300 was raised!


There’s no doubt that First Stage Theater Academy students learn from the best, and this Cabaret just served as proof. Attendants were entertained with a dance duet by Emilie Thomas and Teaching Artist Fellow Giana Blazquez; a dance solo by Liz Faraglia; songs by Joey Chelius, Will Esty, Katy Radiske, Amanda Satchell, and Teaching Artist Fellow LaDareon Copeland; a monologue by Jeremy Tardy; and musical improv by J.T. Backes, Audra Handschke, and Patrick Thompson. There was even an accordion!

The entire night was masterfully overseen by emcee duo Chantae Miller and Megan Grizzle, with Paula Foley Tillen on piano throughout.


Feelings were high all night as students, staff, family, and friends all supported Kid to Kid! Liz Faraglia, who called the opportunity to dance solo “so exhilarating and freeing” also stated “I have been touched by such wonderful lives there and wanted to give back.”

Many other shared the sentiment, and give back they did! Over $300 was raised to help students afford classes through First Stage Theater Academy, making this night a bona fide success!


If you’re inspired by our fantastically supportive student community, you can always make a contribution yourself! Simply visit http://www.firststage.org/give and note “Kid to Kid” in the comment section of your donation form. First Stage has never turned a student away from the Academy because of a lack of funds – thanks to incredible students like these, this continues to be true year after year!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Kid to Kid Stories - Mia Yiannias

By A.J. Magoon

As Summer Academy goes on, our incredible students are always finding ways to help their peers through Kid to Kid! Students donate money to help others be able to come to Academy. Check out the creative idea Mia Yiannias had for raising some extra funds!


Mia Yiannias is an incoming 7th Grader at Pilgrim Park Middle School in Elmbrook. In school, she likes studying language arts, math, and music; and in her free time, she enjoys singing, playing guitar, and figure skating. In the midst of all of this activity, however, Mia found room for one more thing – raising $220 dollars for Kid to Kid!


The idea started in a class at Mia’s school, where she was tasked with creating an enrichment project. Her idea? A talent show to raise money for her favorite nonprofit, First Stage! After she reached out to First Stage to get information about Kid to Kid, Mia created a flyer and invited everyone. She made sure that her event was inclusive, inviting everyone to attend and even participate! “No one would be judged,” Mia assured, it was “just an opportunity to show off something you love doing.”

On the night of the event, 35 people showed up at the studio Mia’s family had rented for a collection of both serious and silly acts. Even friends who couldn’t be there gave money – all in all, Mia raised $220! 


Mia loves performing, so giving everyone the opportunity to do the same is important to her. “Everyone has a chance,” she said, “I can imagine myself in their shoes and would want kids to help me out, too.” She and her family were blown away by the turnout, and said it really made the community see the importance of supporting students.

While this was the first fundraising event Mia has ever put together, she’s been seen around First Stage before. In addition to seeing First Stage shows for six years, she’s been attending Summer Theater Academy classes at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts in Brookfield for four years now! Mia says this might not be the last community project she does for First Stage, and she’ll definitely be coming back.

“I want to be involved in First Stage as long as possible,” says Mia. “This is what I love!”

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Young Company Senior Speech: Natalie Alteri

On Sunday, May 30, our First Stage Young Company students and their families gathered at Casablanca on the East Side for their yearly Young Company Senior Dinner. A chance to acknowledge the successes of the past year as well as congratulate seniors and wish them well in their coming adventures, the Senior Dinner also allowed some graduates the chance to speak. Here is what one student had to say:

Hi, I’m Natalie Alteri. I’ll start out by attempting to share with you both who I am and why I’m here in as few words and stories as possible. When I was 9, I only wanted two things. One was a real bell from Santa’s sleigh. The other was to be in a First Stage show. I have my mom to thank for the bell, and Jeff Frank to thank for the show. My future aspirations include being a doctor, having 0 to 1 kids, and donating money to support theater.
via Alison Pogorelc
Next year, I’ll study lots of science and Spanish at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. When I was 12, John told Josie and I to keep Young Company in mind as we got older. What John doesn’t know is that I’ve kept those words in mind as I’ve gotten older. John had confidence in my character before I ever did. He has this way of complimenting us just by reminding us of who we are. They never fail to be what I call “Mark Twain Compliments” because he once said “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” John has a lot of love for Young Company and for the people in it; it’s this love that has become the core what we all know Young Company to be. I’m incredibly grateful for all the time I’ve spent at First Stage, time that has undeniably shaped me into a much better version of myself. But the truth is that I won’t do justice to all that time by attempting to share it in this little speech. So instead I’ll leave you with a variety of knowledge and wisdom that is important to me for one reason or another. I’ll give credit where credit is due. Enjoy.

It is a sign of self-worth and great maturity if your behavior doesn’t change much based on who’s in a room. -John Maclay

Some of the most disturbed minds with the most difficult lives have left us the most beautiful art. -Alison Pogorelc

Reputation is an idle and most false imposition, oft got without merit and lost without deserving. -Shakespeare

Don’t just talk about the importance of something, do it. Especially recycling. -Zoey Knox

You can take love and truth with you wherever you go. -Marcella Kearns

When life gives you lemons, you can’t make any lemonade, because you don’t have any sugar or water -Josie Trettin

Comparison is the thief of joy. -Theodore Roosevelt

Here is a play. It has never existed quite like this before and never will again. That is the beauty of it all. -Matt Daniels

Try never to be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, I suggest you invite smarter people … or find a different room. -Michael Dell

Only speak when silence will not do. Only move when stillness will not do. -Joshua Pohja

I could have thanked nearly everyone in the room for an exorbitant list of things, but I wouldn’t really have the words, so instead I stole some words from other people. I’d like to think it’s alright though, because we say that so much of acting is stealing, and even if I never do another play again, everything I’ll ever know about acting is indisputably part of who I am.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

First Stage Students Win Tommy Awards

by A.J. Magoon

All photos in this blog by Paul Ruffolo Photography

Have you heard the latest news about our Young Performers? With this much talent and success, sometimes it’s hard to keep up! Four First Stage Academy Students and Young Performers have received 2016 Tommy Awards – a high honor in Wisconsin High School theatre!

The Tommy Awards—named after Wisconsin-born Broadway star Tom Wopat—are annual awards that “encourage, recognize, and honor excellence in high school musical theater.” Every year, productions at over 70 high schools are evaluated by theatrical professionals and awards are given out for excellence in countless categories for performers, technicians, and creative teams.

Maddie Mainwood in ALL'S WELL THAT END'S WELL

Maddie Mainwood of New Berlin Eisenhower High School received an Outstanding Stage Management Award for LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. Maddie has previously been seen in First Stage’s productions of HOLES and ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL.

Liam Hartnett in ANTIGONE

Liam Hartnett of Whitefish Bay High School received an Outstanding Supporting Performer Award for his performance as Doody in GREASE. Liam was previously seen in First Stage’s productions of BIG FISH and ANTIGONE.

Josie Trettin in ANTIGONE

Josie Trettin of Whitefish Bay High School received an Outstanding Supporting Performer Award for her performance as Jan in GREASE. Josie was most recently seen in First Stage’s production of ANTIGONE.

Max Pink in ELLA ENCHANTED

Max Pink of Shorewood High School received an Outstanding Supporting Performer Award for his performance as St. Jimmy in AMERICAN IDIOT. He recently finished First Stage’s production of ELLA ENCHANTED.

Congratulations go out to all of these talented students!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Young Performer Spotlight: Madison Jones and Lina Singh

by A.J. Magoon

How much do you know about the Young Performers on our stage? First Stage is far from the only thing they do; beyond their acting talent, they’re busy with numerous other activities, hobbies, and interests! Spend some time getting to know the two talented actors playing Julius in LILLY’S PURPLE PLASTIC PURSE:
Madison Jones, student and 'Plastic' cast member.
Nine-year-old Madison Jones plays Julius in the ‘Plastic’ cast. This is her first show with First Stage, but she’s been an Academy student since she was 4. Madison loves First Stage – she looks forward to becoming an Academy Intern and was named our May Student of the Month! She belongs to two choirs outside of First Stage and has many other interests as well: singing, dancing, drawing, texting, swimming, playing with her stuffed tiger Alissa, and especially cooking! She wants to be a chef when she grows up and open a restaurant in New York City; in her words, “When I’m cooking, it’s just me, the stove, the food and my imagination!”

Lina Singh as Julius. Photo by Paul Ruffolo Photography
Our Julius from the ‘Purple’ cast is Lina Singh. Lina is an 8-year-old second-grader who sure isn’t the baby at home – she’s a big sister to her brother, Oscar, and her dog, Nancie! This is Lina’s first show with First Stage, but she’s also been in 101 DALMATIANS and SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK at North Shore Academy of the Arts. She loves singing, playing outside, spending time with her family, learning about geography and history, and smoothies! Lina says that one thing she learned from LILLY’S PURPLE PLASTIC PURSE was “to be LOUD on stage. Marcy Kearns told me to try and get louder and louder and now I'm louder than I ever thought I could be."

LILLY’S PURPLE PLASTIC PURSE continues through June 12. Come by and catch these little mice in action!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Meet Community Engagement Manager Lucia Lozano



Creating connections and advocating for the arts comes naturally to First Stage Community Engagement Manager Lucia Lozano. Lucia comes from Colombia, where her parents were strong supporters of theater and the arts, and her sister was an actor. Lucia began working with First Stage in September 2015 but has been part of our family since 2010 when her daughter, Gaby Musickant, was cast as a Young Performer for the first time. Over the years, Lucia has witnessed the positive influence of First Stage in her daughter’s life, and was eager to support our efforts to connect with young people and families throughout our community.

First Stage saw a need to create and maintain connections within the diverse Milwaukee community, and doing so, created the Community Engagement Manager position. With a background in marketing and communications and having a natural talent for building connections, it was a seamless transition for Lucia. First Stage is a champion of inclusion and according to Lucia, “the arts have the power to change minds and hearts, and to foster understanding and compassion.”

Recently, Lucia played a key role in First Stage’s nomination as a 2016 MANDI Award Finalist. With the help of Lucia and the rest of the First Stage staff, First Stage’s programming is reaching new audiences and helping them develop cultural awareness and understanding through theater.

Lucia is particularly excited about next season's production of WELCOME TO BRONZEVILLE, which will bring Milwaukee's communities together through a series of events and activities. Stay tuned!

Contact Lucia at via email at llozano@firststage.org to learn more about our Community Engagement initiatives.