Musical Theatre
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  • The Shorts Show Performing LIVE at The PIT

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    tourist trapFounded by New York Film Academy acting alumnus Corey Scott Rutledge, The Shorts Show team has been doing consistently funny sketch comedy in New York for five years now and have been featured everywhere from The Huffington Post to Funny or Die.

    Last year, the group began doing live scripted comedy at NYC’s The PIT, selling out almost every show. Their most recent show, Tourist Trap, was co-written by NYFA acting graduate Brooks Russell and includes the cast of NYFA grads Jae LaRoya and Dirk Otis, as well as NYFA Instructor Grant Lancaster. In fact, even the technical director is Luis Alercone, a NYFA filmmaking graduate.

    Tourist Trap came about in an effort to make a New York-centric show,” said co-writer Brooks Russell. “We all live in the city and we all share the common love/hate relationship with the city— so we wanted to make a show that delved in to that.”

    The team began throwing around ideas for a few of the sketches and then searched for a backbone to them all together. That’s when they stumbled upon On the Town, an old but fairly popular musical that just recently had a revival run on Broadway. The show is about three sailors who spend one night in NYC and go on ‘wild and crazy’ adventures, then meet up to share their adventure together.

    The Shorts Show 2015 Reel from The Shorts Show on Vimeo.

    “We started thinking what if you took that story but had the sailors just go through all of the obstacles that today’s New Yorker often faces: subway delays, catcalling, hipster-artisanal propaganda, the homeless, pigeons, Naked Cowboys, and so on,” said Russell. “We use the sailors as a vehicle to travel through this very weird, dark, and (hopefully) hilarious version of NYC that explores all of those experiences that really are unique to this city, and the musical element helps it keep an absurd, light-hearted tone in an otherwise bleak setting. Mostly because Dirk has the voice of an angel.”

    Be sure to check out Tourist Trap at the PIT on 123 E. 24th St. on Friday, December 4th at 9:30pm. For tickets and times, please visit thepit-nyc.com/event/tourist-trap.

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    November 25, 2015 • Acting, Community Highlights, Musical Theatre, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 5673

  • Meet the Director and Choreographers Behind NYFA’s ‘Carousel’

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    carousel

    Chad Austin and Ilda Mason are the creative force behind the NYFA Musical Theatre Program’s production of the great Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Carousel. Musical Theatre Program Chair, Mark Olsen, stopped Chad in the midst of his busy schedule to ask a few questions about their collaborative process.

    Chad, when did you and Ilda Mason begin working on Carousel?

    Ilda began working with me early in the summer to develop the vocabulary of dance for our production of Carousel. We spent about two months in the studio developing the steps that would later become major production numbers.

    You two have teamed up before. How did the collaboration begin?

    Ilda’s dancing in my class and in all of her dance classes was very strong and she seemed to have a natural sensitivity to choreography. Our collaboration began when I brought her on to be my dance captain for the NYFA productions of Spring Awakening and The Wedding Singer.

    And it was in the next production that the two of you more fully teamed up to create choreography?

    Yes, I was asked to choreograph NYFA’s third musical, Chessand she served with great enthusiasm and success as my Associate Choreographer. When the time came for me to gather my team, it was a no-brainer to have her once again as my Associate Choreographer.

    It must be nice to have an associate who understands your process.

    Working with someone over a period of time you begin to speak the same language. I’m happy to say that by this fourth show together, Ilda was basically finishing my sentences.

    I understand that Ilda is now moving forward into the profession?

    Yes! Ilda, like many of our students, needed to be sponsored in order to stay in the country. I was thrilled to offer my name as a professional to be her Artist Sponsor. Halfway through the rehearsal process of Carousel, she got the call that she would be staying in the country where she can follow her dreams. She left us a week before opening to start rehearsal for Washington DC’s Signature Theaters Production of West Side Story. This is one of the most reputable regional theaters in the country and I’m truly thrilled to have any part of the amazing journey she has ahead of her!

    I know you are proud of her as are we all!

    Ilda is a true product of all the amazing faculty members who work so hard every day to inspire and train the young artists that come to our program.

    Be sure to check out one of our performances of Carousel this upcoming Friday, November 20th through Sunday, November 22nd at the American Theater of Actors in Manhattan. For tickets, please CLICK HERE.

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    November 11, 2015 • Musical Theatre, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 7531

  • NYFA Musical Theatre to Perform ‘Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel’

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    carouselContinuing on the success of its last three musical productions, the New York Film Academy Musical Theatre Program is gearing up for its for fourth stage performance, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, which will take place from November 20-22nd at the American Theatre of Actors in New York City. Based on Ferenc Molnar’s play Liliom, as adapted by Benjamin F. Glazerthe play centers on a Maine coastal village toward the end of the 19th century. The lead male is a swaggering, carefree carnival barker, Billy Bigelow, who captivates and marries the naive millworker, Julie Jordan. Billy loses his job just as he learns that Julie is pregnant and, desperately intent upon providing a decent life for his family, he is coerced into being an accomplice to a robbery. Caught in the act and facing the certainty of prison, he takes his own life and is sent ‘up there.’ Billy is allowed to return to earth for one day fifteen years later, and he encounters the daughter he never knew. She is a lonely, friendless teenager, her father’s reputation as a thief and bully having haunted her throughout her young life. How Billy instills in both the child and her mother a sense of hope and dignity is a dramatic testimony to the power of love. It’s easy to understand why, of all the shows they created, Carousel was Rodgers & Hammerstein’s personal favorite.

    “Carousel has always played a part in my life as a performer,” said director and choreographer, Chad Austin, who is an instructor at the New York Film Academy. “I have danced the role of ‘carnival boy’ in multiple productions. I knew we had the talent to tackle this massive musical, and I felt it was a great time to produce a Golden Age Musical!”

    Chad Austin with NYFA's Carousel cast

    Chad Austin with NYFA’s Carousel cast

    The NYFA cast has worked diligently these past few months going through the rehearsal process because for most of them this show is a huge stretch, both as dancers and actors. Some consider Carousel one of the best books of a musical—that alone tells you how much they have been digging into the character work in order to tell the story.

    Taking on both director and choreographer was a thrill and challenge,” added Austin. “Luckily, I was able to create most of the choreography months before with my amazing associate choreographer, Ilda Mason [NYFA Musical Theatre alumna]. While creating the concept of the show I had the freedom to make choices that might otherwise not have happened if I wasn’t wearing both hats. I think by opening night the audience will be blown away by the level of talent we have at NYFA.”

    Austin believes the performance will not only introduce a classic to our students, but also provide a story that will resonate with today’s modern audience.

    “The struggle with Carousel and other musicals from its era is that audiences sometimes feel disconnected from the material. When you strip down the themes of Carousel and tell the story it is simple and touches people of all ages. I hoped to turn an epic musical into a intimate one.”

    NYFA students, employees, and alumni may purchase up to two $10 tickets with Jordan Dragutsky in room 420 at NYFA Battery Place.

    All other general admission tickets are available at NYFACarousel.brownpapertickets.com.

    CAROUSEL
    Music by Richard Rodgers
    Book & Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
    Based on Ferenc Molnar’s play “Liliom”
    As Adapted by Benjamin F. Glazer
    Original Dances by Agnes de Mille
    Directed & Choreographed by Chad Austin
    Music Direction by Joshua Zecher-Ross and Anna Ebbesen
    Production Stage Manager: Jhanae Bonnick
    Associate Choreographer: Ilda Mason
    Associate Director: Beatriz Cavalieri
    Produced by Kristy Cates, Mark Olsen, and Jordan Neil Dragutsky
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  • Filmmaking Grad Sean Robinson’s “Indigo Grey: The Passage” Features Hammerstep and Soundtrack by Amy Lee

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    In addition to the New York Film Academy’s intensive curriculum, which provides artists the opportunity to explore their craft in a hands-on environment, students are strongly encouraged to network both inside and outside of their programs. One of our filmmaking graduates, Sean Robinson, was introduced to the popular, modern Irish step-dance team Hammerstep through NYFA Musical Theatre alumnus Conor McIntyre. Following the introduction, the Brooklyn based award-winning director was hired to direct and edit a film—with cinematography from NYFA grad Esteban Robles—to promote their dance troupe. After Robinson had the trailer ready to go, it caught the eye of Amy Lee, the famous lead singer of Evanescence. She was so impressed with the film that she came on board to compose the original score, along with Dave Eggar and Chuck Palmer.

    “Amy’s involvement is what really catapulted the project, lending its visibility in mainstream platforms,” said Robinson.

    sean robinson

    Sean Robinson at the LA Shorts Film Festival

    The completed short, Indigo Grey: The Passage is a seven-minute audio-visual experience that premiered at the 2015 Los Angeles International Short Film Festival and has so far been officially selected to screen at 19 International film festivals and has won 4 awards, including best original score. The film has already garnered praise from publications like ABC and the Huffington Post.

    “Whisking you away with its sweeping cinematography, the film was well edited, elegantly directed, and hypnotically choreographed to a riveting soundtrack. Indigo Grey: The Passage is a truly one-of-a-kind project that merges the worlds of film, dance, sci-fi, art and music. With its lack of dialogue, the young Lok’s budding acting performance is extremely impactful as he relies solely on his emotional expression and movement to carry the narrative. A lavish feast of sensory stimulation, this short film has successfully captured the attention of its viewers by transporting them to another dimension and most impressively, all within its humble seven minutes.” — Huffington Post

    Robinson is now working on developing Indigo Grey: The Passage into a feature, in collaboration with Jason Oremus and Garrett Coleman.

    “My filmmaking knowledge derives from training and working with instructors at NYFA—namely Paul Warner, who is my biggest mentor,” said Robinson. “It sounds cliche, but NYFA has definitely changed my life.”

    Additionally, Robinson is in the middle of editing a third feature, The Independents, with cinematography by NYFA Cinematography Instructor Piero Basso and line-produced by NYFA Producing Instructor Dorottya Mathe.

    As you may be able to tell, Robinson’s NYFA roots go deep and his networking has paid off ten fold.

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    October 21, 2015 • Filmmaking, Musical Theatre, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 7829

  • Playwriting Students Attend “Guards at the Taj” at the Geffen

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    “Spain’s beloved poet and playwright, Federico García Lorca, whose work flourished in the 1930’s, asserted that duende—a simultaneously dark and beautiful moment of inspiration and truth that is both euphoric and painful as well as purely visceral for both artist and audience—is most present during live performances. The artists as well as the audience can feel the potent, devilish energy of creation when the art is happening right in front of them, wonderfully and devastatingly altering the air and therefore one’s senses, ultimately generating an atmosphere ripe for revelation. I agree with Lorca, and this is why it is vital for my students to see and experience live art.“ – Megan Breen, Playwriting Instructor at New York Film Academy

    On Sunday, October 11th, Megan Breen took her Playwriting class to Brooklyn playwright Rajiv Joseph’s exciting new play, Guards at the Taj, at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood. The story follows the complicated brotherhood between two Imperial Guards at the Taj Mahal in India, in 1648, when the exquisite and otherworldly palace was completed.

    geffen playhouse

    The Playwriting class is made up of screenwriting students who had read Joseph’s critical Broadway hit, Bengal Tiger and the Baghdad Zoo. The students were so responsive to its existential playfulness and provocative metaphysical explorations, that when the opportunity to see one of Joseph’s works live came about, they jumped at the chance.

    Guards at the Taj, and other works by Joseph, has a style that is more theatrical and magical, not as mainstream. It is visceral and thematically challenging with heightened language and a complex tone — the light and dark of duende. So seeing and experiencing how a play like this can be produced is exciting as well as educational for students who are new to playwriting. The students responded to the play’s visceral narrative, which allowed them to feel as if they were there with the characters and therefore more connected to them and their difficult, high stakes plights— soldiers at the whim of an insane ruler. They also loved the humor in the play, and the moving, heartbreaking struggles of the two best friends whose friendship must face an unthinkable challenge.

    geffen play

    After the play, the students engaged in a thought-provoking discussion of how to channel what they felt and thought as audience members into their writing, paying specific attention to the theatricality of the stage and how it is unique from film. Each student in the class will be writing his or her own one-act play.

    All in all, the field trip was an illuminating, fun and insightful outing vital to the students’ growth as new playwrights. Theater in Los Angeles is very much alive, and the students got to experience its vibrancy firsthand.

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    October 16, 2015 • Musical Theatre, Screenwriting, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 4452

  • NYFA Instructor Wins New York Innovative Theater Award for Directing

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    in vestmentsWe’d like to congratulate New York Film Academy Acting for Film instructor, Isaac Byrne, who recently won a New York Innovative Theater Award for Directing. The award came for his work on In Vestments, which also won Outstanding Premier of a New Play.

    In Vestments, written by Sara Fellini, is about four priests and a sacristan who are haunted by their pasts and their present addictions while they live and work in a crumbling church they are struggling to rebuild. This unique performance took place at the West Park Presbyterian Church, which was abandoned for a while and is now in the process of being rebuilt. The play was considered a site specific and immersive performance. Audience members were led to their pews and seated by nuns. In that sense, the play happened all around you, not just in front of you on a stage.

    This isn’t Byrne’s first involvement with an award-winning play. He was also nominated for directing The Other Mozart by Sylvia Milo, which won for Outstanding Solo Performance and Original Music.

    We had a chance to catch up with the award-winning director to gather some more insight on In Vestments, his career, and his teaching.

    How did you get involved with the project and where did the idea come from?

    The playwright and lead actor, Sara Fellini, took my private acting class for a year and then came to me with a play she had written called Hazard a Little Death— which I ended up directing. We produced that play several times, always using a number of former NYFA students as actors in each production. Kaitlan Emory, Tara Scalesi, Daniel Benhamu, Antonio Thompson, Brigita Cajauskyte, Linnea Larsdotter, and Mary-Anne Wright all performed roles in the various productions.

    Sara had worked for years as a sacristan at a Catholic Church in Queens and after the success of Hazard a Little Death (that play was nominated for number of Planet Connection Awards including Antonio Thompson for Actor in a featured role) she wrote In Vestments, which was inspired by her time as a sacristan.

    We developed the project over several months, with the help of some other NYFA people: faculty Rico Rosetti, John Desiderio and former students Connor Lyons and Ben Mann.

    in vestments stills
    What does this most recent award mean to you as an artist?

    It’s always nice to be recognized for your work, especially on artistically rewarding pieces that aren’t big financial pay days. I’m mostly just happy that the hard work that the cast and crew put in paid off. It’s very validating. Sometimes you make money and sometimes you don’t make money but they give you nice little award for your resume and mantelpiece.

    It gives you a little more cache when you’re meeting people, and you always meet more industry people when you get nominated for something. I’m actually meeting this week with a film and theatre producer that was one of the judges for this award, so hopefully this will lead to some more successful projects.

    How do your professional achievements and experience come into play during your teaching?

    Well, it’s always helpful to have a concrete recent example to point to when you’re trying to explain something in class. It’s good to be able to say: “that project just you saw; this is what we used to accomplish this” or “what I’m trying to show you right now; this is how that actor accomplished that performance you watched last night.”

    You have to stay fresh and in the game, I think. The industry is always changing and growing and if you keep working, you do too—as an artist but also as a teacher, too.

    in vestments play
    What advice do you have for students looking to break into the world of theater / directing / acting?

    Just know that there’s no magic day where you suddenly transition from student to artist. Your career has already begun. Your work and your attitude in the classroom is going tell everyone around you whether you are someone they want to work with. It’s not about talent; it’s about trust.

    We had a lot of people, including some very notable Broadway actors, audition for the role of Jakamo in In Vestments. But it was Pierre Marais’ incredible diligence in his time as a student at NYFA that convinced me that he could do the role. I fought for him because I knew he had the talent and the ability, but most of all that I could trust him. Pierre really was at the heart of that production in so many ways. We fell right back into the language and rhythms we had working together in the classroom and it really helped speed up and facilitate the rehearsal process.

    You never know where your next job is going to come from, but it almost always comes from the relationships you’ve built. Whether it’s a teacher or fellow student or someone you meet in an audition room after you graduate, you’ve got to get good at earning people’s trust with your skill, your attitude, and your professionalism. If you’re hard working and have a good attitude in a class then you’re building a reputation and a skill set that’s going to get you work.

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    September 29, 2015 • Acting, Musical Theatre • Views: 5020

  • NYFA Sings Ewalt, Walker, and Overcash at 54 Below

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    nyfa sings

    Catch the rising stars of the New York Film Academy’s Musical Theater department on stage for the first time at Broadway’s Supper Club, 54 BELOW on Tuesday, September 8th at 7pm. Our students will be performing with Ewalt & Walker and Drew Overcash, as well as Natalie Weiss, Kevin David Thomas, and more in “NYFA Sings Ewalt, Walker, & Overcash.”

    This concert marks the culmination of a partnership between songwriters Ewalt & Walker and Drew Overcash and NYFA musical theatre students who recently completed readings for new musicals written by both writers. They’ll be joined on stage by some of NYFA’s own faculty, including Broadway stars and cabaret legends Natalie Weiss (Everyday Rapture, Les Miz, and Breaking Down the Riffs), Kevin David Thomas (A Little Night Music, Les Miz), LaDonna Burns (RENT nat tour), and Rob Maitner (Urinetown world premiere). See Broadway’s future stars singing alongside their Broadway teachers, in what is sure to be an unforgettable night of hot-off-the-presses musical theater.

    Produced by Kristy Cates (Wicked) and Jordan Neil Dragutsky, with musical direction by Anna Ebbesen.

    There is a $25-$35 cover charge and $25 food and beverage minimum. Tickets and information are available at www.54Below.com. Tickets on the day of performance after 4:00 are only available by calling (646) 476-3551.

    Students and alumni can use code NYFA35 for 35% off!

    MORE ABOUT EWALT & WALKER

    Kyle Ewalt & Michael Ian Walker, writers of the hit show BROMANCE, return to 54 Below after two smash, sold-out Pajamboree concerts, where they turned the club into a musical theater sleepover party. Their work has also been seen at Joe’s Pub, Playwrights Horizons, Ars Nova, Caroline’s On Broadway, and 92Y. They are also the curating producers of the emerging composer series Behind the Music-al, produced in conjunction with The Dramatists Guild of America.

    MORE ABOUT DREW OVERCASH

    Drew Overcash is a Midwestern songwriter whose work has been heard around the city at venues like Joe’s Pub, Manhattan Movement and Arts Center, Birdland, 54 Below, and The Pershing Square Signature Center. His musical, BOYS VS. GIRLS, under production contract with Last Call Theatricals, held its NYC premier concert at (le) Poisson Rouge this past spring. He is a creator of the sold-out concert series Twenty-Somethings (in it’s third year at The Highline Ballroom), the St. Jude Benefit Concert series raising money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and the Fresh Pens Contest, which gives new songwriters the opportunity to showcase their music.

    MORE ABOUT 54 BELOW

    54 BELOW, Broadway’s Supper Club, is the new performance venue in the grand tradition of New York City nightlife. A few blocks from the heart of Times Square and just below the legendary Studio 54, 54 BELOW is a classically designed state-of-the art nightclub in the theatre district that hosts audiences with warmth and style. The venue provides a food and beverage menu from early evening through the wee hours of the morning that is worthy of the world-class entertainment on the stage. In their description of 54 BELOWThe New York Times writes “the club has the intimacy of a large living room with unimpeded views and impeccable sound; there is not a bad seat. Its sultry after-hours ambience is enhanced by brocade-patterned wall panels planted with orange-shaded lanterns. And the atmosphere is warmer and sexier than in Manhattan’s other major supper clubs.” Located at 254 West 54th Street, 54 BELOW features up to three shows nightly with cover charges ranging from $15-$95.

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    September 4, 2015 • Musical Theatre, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 5312

  • NYFA Grad Produces ‘5boys’ with All-Female Cast

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    5boys

    The New York Film Academy is proud to announce the New York City premiere of 5boys, an award-winning play by the Slovenian playwright Simona Semenič. Produced by NYFA Acting alumna Sandra Herlog, directed by NYFA Instructor Rico Rosetti and featuring an all-female, all-Swedish cast of former NYFA students!

    The female cast portrays the young male characters of Blaž, Vid, Krištof, Jurij and Denis, who initially meet up to play in an empty lot. The innocent games they create — superheroes, house, cowboys & Indians — slowly, and inadvertently, expose a deep-rooted legacy to the violence, misogyny, bigotry and homophobia in our modern world. Blending humor, physical action and an unflinching honesty, 5boys invites its audience to view the world as seen through the eyes of 10-11 year old boys.

    5boys cast

    Photos by Luis Alarcon – Edit by Ellinor Denkert – Poster by Ellinor Denkert and Sandra Herlog – Graphic Design by Linnea Larsdotter

    “Last summer while visiting a friend in Norway I came upon 5boys,” recalls Herlog. “Sometimes there’s those special pieces of art that linger, they effect you and they won’t let go, and that’s what 5boys did to me. It’s a brilliant and raw piece—daring, violent, comedic, honest—and it’s written for an all female cast, which is not exactly the most common thing. Realizing it’s never been up here in NYC there was no doubt about it, I had to make it happen. So I got in touch with the author, got the rights, and started the journey of putting things together.”

    While the performance is being held for 7 days, Herlog hopes for a second run and perhaps even a tour.

    Herlog appreciates her time at NYFA, and admits it was crucial in terms of producing this play. “The networking and the connections I made during my time as a student is what made 5boys become a reality. Rico Rosetti (director, mentor and the one helping me out with exactly everything) was my former teacher. The cast are alumni and current students. The photographer is a TA. The whole crew and everyone building sets is a former student or TA. Yes, 95% of the whole 5boys production is generated through NYFA, and all my questions and concerns have been solved through the contacts I’ve made there. I’m extremely grateful to have found these incredible people.”

    5boys runs May 12-17th at the Access Theater in New York City. Tickets are free of charge and available at www.brownpapertickets.com.

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    May 13, 2015 • Acting, Musical Theatre, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 4847

  • NYFA Covers Young Storytellers’ Final ‘Glee’ Big Show

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    glee cast

    As part of our on-going collaboration with the wonderful Young Storytellers Foundation, New York Film Academy students and alumni recently got the chance to film “THE FINAL GLEE BIG SHOW.”

    Glee cast members Mark Salling, Dot Marie Jones, Harry Shum Jr., Max Adler, and Alex Newell along with Chrissie Fit (Teen Beach Movie, Pitch Perfect 2) performed four different short screenplays written by a group of inventive middle schoolers.
    glee la
    The connection between Glee and Young Storytellers dates back to the organization’s very beginnings when Glee co-creator Brad Falchuk helped create what is now YSF. Since then, Mr Falchuk has regularly brought the cast of Glee to perform the student’s material as part of YSF’s “Big Show.” With Glee now coming to a close after six seasons, this performance truly marked the end of an era.

    NYFA was honored to be part of the experience, and congratulates the cast and crew of Glee as well as all the Young Storytellers Writers.

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  • NYFA’s Sara Antkowiak Stars in ‘Pretty Babies’

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    pretty babiesLast week was the World Premiere of the new Anthony Raymond play, Pretty Babies, which stars New York Film Academy Musical Theatre Instructor Sara Antkowiak (Tales of Hoffmann/Metropolitan Opera).

    The ensemble cast, directed by Raymond and produced by the critically acclaimed Elsinore County Theater Company, is led by Stacey Roca who had a recurring role as Rachel on the UK series The Office with Ricky Gervais.

    Pretty Babies is a story about using the taboo and forbidden as weapons in a no-holds-barred scheme of manipulation. The play revolves around Jason and his sister Randi — two lives steeped in sex, drugs, and grifting.

    Already off to a roaring start, Pretty Babies will continue its performances from now until March 21st at the newly renovated 13th St Rep Theater in New York City.

    If you’re interested in checking out this wonderful play, and supporting your fellow NYFA teacher, visit here for tickets!

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    March 2, 2015 • Community Highlights, Musical Theatre • Views: 5633