Making their debut, off-stage
Viva Broadway families prepare for the show
Story and photos by Robin Elisabeth Kilmer
Kayla Peña hopped and skipped to special choreography.
They were movements of joy.
Fitting that the cause of her happiness then would be an imminent encounter with song and dance.
Peña and her mother, Kirsys Gómez, are going to go to Broadway, not for one, but for three, shows.
Peña and her mother are one of many families who are receiving free tickets from Amber Charter School in the Bronx, and from after-school programs headed by the Asociación de Dominicanos Progresistas (ACDP).
This past Tues., Oct. 8th, the families, 10 from Amber Charter School and 20 from ACDP’s programs, had an orientation just ahead of their first trip to the theater later this month.
Parents and students received study guides for the shows they will be attending. Each show will be followed by an official “Talk Back” with members of the cast and crew.
The shows they will be attending are Annie, Cinderella and Newsies.
The experience is made possible by Viva Broadway, a new audience initiative launched in collaboration with The Broadway League, which aims to connect Latino audiences with the Great White Way.
To this end, Viva Broadway gave away 120 free tickets to families throughout the city to help defray the costs of attending a show.
According to The Broadway League, during the 2011 to 2012 season, 63.4 percent of a Broadway audience was comprised of tourists, and most theater-goers had an average income of $193,800.
The average income of a New York City resident is $48,631.
“I think it’s a great opportunity,” said Warner Uribe, the director of the MS328’s Beacon after-school program, which operates under the auspices of ACDP. The orientation was held at the school, located at 401 West 164th Street.
He estimated that to take a family of four to the theater would cost over $300.
“That’s half the rent. They can’t afford that. They should do more of this stuff.”
Uribe himself has not gone to a Broadway production and was particularly looking forward to seeing Newsies.
In contrast, Peña and Gómez have already had a bit of Broadway experience.
They had seen The Little Mermaid last year.
“It was great—the whole experience of seeing them singing and dancing live,” marveled Gómez.
“She loves dancing,” added her mom.
Peña has also enjoyed some stage time in her life. With her dance group, Groove With Me, Peña has performed at the Apollo Theater two years in a row. The 8-year-old, who said she might consider a career on Broadway when she’s older, was most excited to see Annie.
“I like that she’s very creative and she’s always happy,” she said of the title character.
Judith Mercedes, the site coordinator for 21stCentury, a community learning center program, was also enthused about seeing Annie.
“I grew up with [the show]. I could sit back and watch Annie over and over and over again,” she laughed.
Mercedes, like Uribe, will be accompanying the families to the theater—and it will also be her first time, officially, on Broadway. She had previously seen In the Heights, but in an off-Broadway production.
Maríseli García and her three children, aged 11, 13 and 16, will be among those who will mark their own debuts as theater-goers.
“My kids are so happy,” she said.
For more on the Viva Broadway initiative, please visit http://www.broadwayleague.com/index.php?url_identifier=viva-broadway.