With the theme “A Night of Yes,” affirmation was in the air and up onstage as pros shared the spotlight with New York City high school thespians at Tuesday’s fundraiser for Opening Act at New World Stages. “These kids are strong-willed, focused, and they’re dreamers,” said Emmy-winning actress Uzo Aduba (Orange is the New Black) who read a part in a scene from a new play by Katori Hall. “When you see them in action you realize how just an ounce of nurturing, a little opportunity, can open up minds.”
Opening Act brings after-school programs and year-round workshops to students in some of the city’s most under-served schools, exposing them to acting and theatre writing, with the aim of fostering self-esteem and life skills. “I’ve been blessed to go to performing arts schools,” said Hamilton original cast member Jasmine Cephas Jones, who also acted in the Hall play, “so I can’t imagine what it’s like to go to a school without an arts program, or to have a school where a theatre program is de-funded. Opening Act gives that back to kids and helps them get out their emotions. It’s a beautiful thing.”
After a dinner and a silent auction came the main entertainment which included poems, raps and short scenes written by students, as well as a reading of a scene from an Ike Holter play with a star turn by a recent Opening Act alum, Caleb Grandoit (whom Aduba called “a remarkable young man”). Okieriete Onaodowan of Hamilton fame (and impending Josh Groban replacement in Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812) performed a poignant piano-accompanied monologue in verse which he wrote about a former roommate lost to the streets. Afterwards he spoke about the role of his own drama, English, and music teachers in high school. “They stuck by me and helped me cultivate that creativity. You need somebody to say ‘Yeah, you can.’”
Flip through photos of the nigth below:
Jasmine Cephas Jones, Okieriete Onaodowan, and More at Opening Act Fundraiser at New World Stages
That mantra reverberated literally with the climax of the night, Auli’i Cravalho’s full-throttled rendition of her anthem “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana. The event’s director Kenny Leon (Hairspray Live) echoed the importance of expanding horizons. “I tell these kids, ‘I know it’s hard, you feel like some teachers don’t care, some political leaders don’t care, but you can get past that.’ ”
A raffle to benefit Opening Act which includes a chance to win a pair of tickets to Hamilton (in one of three cities) is open to the public through April 28. Click here for more information. For more information about Opening Act visit OpeningAct.org.