What’s It Like to Be a Teenager on Broadway?

Interview   What’s It Like to Be a Teenager on Broadway?
 
The high school stars of Dear Evan Hansen, What the Constitution Means to Me, and Beetlejuice reveal how they balance school and stage, self-care and professional prep.
Sophia Ann Caruso, Rosdely Ciprian, and Andrew Barth Feldman.jpg
Sophia Ann Caruso, Rosdely Ciprian, and Andrew Barth Feldman

On July 11, Beetlejuice’s Sophia Ann Caruso turned 18, but rather than celebrate the way most adolescents her age would—hanging out with friends or feasting at her favorite restaurant—she spent the evening doing what she does just about every night: performing onstage as Lydia at Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre.

“I love birthdays and just to be able to get my close friends together and be happy that I have them is all I really wanted, and that doesn’t need to be in the evening,” Caruso says. “My friends and family keep me grounded and I keep my circle of friends really close. It doesn’t matter to me that I can’t do things at specific times.”

Case in point, a week earlier, New York City was experiencing one of its beautiful summer days and—being a Wednesday—Caruso was booked all day.

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Sophia Anne Caruso Marc J. Franklin

“The weather was super nice but we had two shows, and I had to be at the theatre from 1:30 until 10,” she says. “But I do try to use my time to do things that I like to do. I like to go see films and I make time for that during the daytime and my friends will give up seeing something at night so we can go together. I don’t ever feel like I am missing out on things because I have a good balance of using my spare time.”

Off days, Caruso will do a lot of the same things as any young woman in the creative arts enjoys.

“I like to play my guitar, I like to write poetry, read, and paint,” she says. “I also like to run and sleep when I can.”

Most of her friends are older and even as a young teen, she never had much of a desire to hang out with people around her age, so the fact that the cast of Beetlejuice (sans her understudy 15-year-old Presley Ryan) are all at least 15 years older than her doesn’t bother her in the least.

Caruso’s been performing since she was a young girl, and had dreams and aspirations of getting to Broadway, and was very determined to do what she had to do to get there. She achieved her goal in 2016 with the play Blackbird, but when she got the script for Beetlejuice at the age of 15, she knew it would be something special and was looking forward to singing the role.

“I kept doing the readings and labs of it until it became this full-scale production and now here we are on Broadway,” she says. “I love when teenage girls tell me I inspire them. That’s reason enough for me to work hard. My job is to make people feel things doing the things I really love to do, and making that impact means a lot to me.”

Caruso is one of a handful of adolescents working on Broadway today, and though each is living their dream at a younger age than most, they do give up a part of their life they will never get back.

Take Andrew Barth Feldman, the 16-year-old starring in the title role of Dear Evan Hansen. Since taking the role, he’s missed out on “normal kid” fun like movies, dances, parties and just hanging out at someone’s house when everyone decides to get together.

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Andrew Barth Feldman Marc J. Franklin

“It can be really hard, especially with this role, because I don’t get to do much outside of the show. I sit in silence 90 percent of the time and I don’t get to go out much,” he says. “At the same time, I’ve always been surrounded by theatre people, and there’s a certain maturity that I think comes with that. I surround myself with friends my age who have that emotional maturity and they understand that I am not as available to do things.”

In terms of education, Feldman has tutors that he works with daily and he still plans on going to college when the time comes. Since he’s been doing shows most of his life, he has no problem with doing school work during the day and then performances at night.

One of his least favorite parts of the job—and he envies his friends—is refraining from chips and ice cream and other staples of the teen diet.

“My diet is very restrictive, but on Sundays after the show, I have been given permission by Liz Caplan (the show’s vocal consultant) that I can have something a little sugary, since I would be able to digest it before the Tuesday show, which is nice to look forward to as the week goes along,” Feldman says. “But this is what I’ve always wanted. And sometimes it’s hard to keep sight of that when it can be overwhelming all the things I may be missing out on, but when I get to be Evan at the end of the day. I remember how special this opportunity is and how lucky I am to be here.”

Feldman clears his mind by watching TV or writing, and tries to conserve his voice and energy as best he can. He’s also a big fan of theme parks and looks forward to heading to his next one once he has a break from the show.

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Heidi Schreck and Rosdely Ciprian Marc J. Franklin

Rosdely Ciprian is another teen who has tasted the lights of Broadway while still in high school, appearing in What the Constitution Means to Me.

“It’s so fun because so many people are watching me and I love the attention,” the soon to be 10th-grader says. “I was never a normal kid and didn’t have much of a social life anyway, so before the show, mostly I would just listen to music and dance around my living room. I’d do homework and then watch Netflix.”

When she is off, Ciprian sleeps in as late as possible, turns the air conditioner on full blast and then heads out to shop. And Netflix is almost always on. She’s currently re-watching Jane the Virgin and Vampire Diaries and also loves watching the latest rom-coms.

Since it’s summer, school isn’t in session, but when it was, Ciprian woke up every day at 6:30AM, go to her normal school, and then head straight to the show once the school-day ended and her homework was complete.

“The kids think it’s really cool, which is fun, but they all think I’m really rich now, and I laugh,” she says. “I want to continue acting but education will always be a priority for me.”

These days, when texts come in from friends asking her to go to a party or the park, Ciprian admits she’s often bummed because she’s too busy with the show.

“It has been happening a lot lately, especially now that it’s summertime,” she says. “But it’s worth the sacrifice. This is something I love doing.”

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