I recently met a brilliant public school teacher who has created a whole new way for his kindergarteners and first graders to learn about theater.
Since 2005, Bryan Andes, who teaches at the Midtown West School PS212 on West 48th Street, has taken full advantage of his school’s proximity to the Great White Way. He not only takes his students to visit Broadway theaters, he has also welcomed dozens of stars to meet his students. Vanessa Redgrave read and acted scenes with students when she was on Broadway in “Snow White,” Kevin Kline broke down his choreographed fight scenes from “Cyrano de Bergerac” and Hugh Jackman talked about his long career on the stage. But the students don’t just get to meet stars, they also go behind the scenes with all of the support jobs that make theater possible. They meet costumers, front of the house staff and this year a 12-piece orchestra played music from “The Lion King” for them.
After they meet with all the professionals, the students each pick a role and put on their own original play at the end of the year. The fantasy musical they will create will run off-Broadway at the Actors Temple for two days in June. All proceeds from the show will be donated to a nonprofit organization that supports the Broadway community. It’s amazing because Andes is able to help children relate to theater and their community. His program engages them in a hands-on learning experience at their level. I think secretly it’s driven by his own passion for theater. What an inspiration!
Elaine Paige is an actress, recording artist and broadcaster. Paige is also known for her role as Eva Peron in the original production of “Evita.” She will perform as part of Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series on Feb. 10 and Feb. 12.