When asked to write a history of myself at the New England Youth Theatre I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be able to convey in a page the impact that it has had on my life. That may sound overly dramatic (we are, after all, actors), but NEYT really has been more then just a place where I get up on a box and recite lines. It’s become a second home, complete with a huge new family.
For the past six years I have been homeschooled along with my sister at our home in Vermont. This has given me the chance to take control of my own education and to explore and learn in my own way and time, with the support of my parents. They encouraged my sister and me in the arts, and I have taken violin, piano and voice lessons.
We live on 350 acres in The-Middle-of-Nowhere where my grandparents and then parents ran a farm school for over three decades. My grandmother still lives here in a house about a hundred yards from ours. I have a wonderful relationship with both my parents and my grandmother, but not being in school I was never really exposed to large social groups. There were the occasional summer camps, children’s choirs and homeschool groups, but no concrete circle of people I’d had time to get particularly close to.
Then in 2003 my sister started an acting class at the New England Youth Theatre. Over the years our family had attended several productions by the youth company and by Stephen Stearns and his clown partner Peter Gould. I remember being in complete and utter awe every time I came away. It was mesmerizing to me. Even when I was enrolled in a summer camp and had met a number of the children and adults whom I’d admired from afar, and determined that they were indeed human and quite friendly, I still had the feeling of being in the presence of greatness. Which in fact, I was.
That fall I auditioned for the big Christmas musical and from then on out I was hooked. Being onstage under those lights like I’d seen others do was not in fact as frightening as I’d imagined. The environment was (as it still is) non-threatening, allowing people to experiment and learn with the guidance of experienced and supportive teachers. And for the first time I was in an incredibly loving social group, of all ages.
Over these two years I have made friendships so strong that it feels like we must have known each other forever. There is something so bonding about doing this work with people; developing characters together, waiting around under the hot lights for hours at a time during tech days, going out to dinner on breaks and finally, getting up and telling a story together.
The skills that Stephan and our diverse staff are teaching do not just pertain specifically to the stage. They are life skills, whether or not we go on to act professionally: learning to respect and work with people under the most stressful circumstances; understanding the way we each individually learn; being able to take the notes and constructive criticism that comes with this art and not take it personally because we’re all still learning; figuring out how to get through the challenges that come up, especially being able to completely throw ourselves into our work and know that when we do the people around us will rise up and meet us.
One of Stephen’s favorite sayings is “Jump and the net will appear”.
Allie began acting at NEYT with the 2004 melodrama camp. She then went on to do as many shows as her mother would allow, including The Music Man, Princess Willow and the King of Thieves, Buried Child, The Sound of Music, Little Women, as well as Shakespeare and other summer camps.
2007: Groundhog Cabaret, Shakespeare Circus, Scapin, Mary Stuart, Mentor Cabaret Oct., A Night at the Opera.
2008: Twelfth Night, Wait Until Dark, The Taming of the Shrew and the Alumni Cabaret.
Hi, my name is Allison. I'm fifteen years old I am madly in love with the New England Youth Theatre! I first became a part of it when I auditioned for The Court Jester when I was twelve. My life has truely changed a lot since then. I've learned to come out of my shell and I've gained lots of confidence... I only have NEYT to thank for that! I've made many, many close friends that I'll always cherish. Everybody here is like one gigantic family I couldn't imagine a life without them.
Plays I have been in at NEYT are Baba Yaga and the Black Sunflower, The Court Jester, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Blind King and the Sleeping Queen, Macbeth, Playboy of the Western World, Music Man, Princess Willow, Much Adoo About Nothing, Sound of Music, Harvey... And I've also been in Melodrama camps and the Musical Theatre camp.
I think my favorite role (so far) was Liesl in The Sound of Music... I especially like to be in musicals because I really love to sing. Other things I enjoy (besides acting) are swimming, reading and painting.
After I finished the operation on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, I returned to my quaint Spanish villa for a time of repose and healing from that hair raising safari. I tried to readjust to my old life of musty copies of Cervantes and Neruda, clementinas for breakfast and the occasional Flamenco, but failed, oh how I failed. I had been profoundly changed, and could never again go back to the vain and materialistic existence I once led. My days as child genius and secret agent extraordinaire were over. I had turned 14, and so was beggining the transition out of childhood, my missions had hindered my schooling leaving me much less of a prodigy, and an encounter with a 5 meter eel left me unable to perform the backflips and roundhouse kicks that were such a trademark of my work. I was now what you might call an average Jose. I needed a place to reinvent myself, a place where nobody would recognize me, where my enemies would not discover me. That place was in the middle of Northwoods America, Brattleboro, VT. I would move there and assume the identity of a High School student, and learn publicly once again. All I had to do was change the "S" in my name to a "W".
I found much that was satisfying in the life of the common man, but little that was riproaring amazing. I am afraid that my instinct for adventure was itching the roof of my soul once more, it would not go away. In an Improv class offered at the NEYT lay hidden the key to my peace of mind. I had unsuspectingly signed up for this class taught by Robin Zegge, just as something to do. But then in that class all of a sudden the images of wrestling a rhino in my head were put to good use. I felt adventuresome. I also made many friends among the locals which I still cherish to this day. When the classes ended, one of my new friends suggested I try out for a play with him. Again I figured, just something more to do. But I was wrong, oh so wrong. I got into "Buried Child", and found a deep seated well of passion for the theater that just started gushing out rivers. Through the theater I was able to work hard and have fun, something I hadn't experienced since that parlay in Nicaragua. I was able to be people I could never have been before in my old line of work, a drunk minister, an Indian father, a German professor, a crazy Psychiatrist, a lovesick pirate and an ex-civil war captain, among others. I have participated in (although didn't neccesiraly act in), 8 plays. The wonderful people here have taught me how to act, project, sew, build, light, stage-manage, be patient, take out a leatherman in under 5 seconds, get coffee, and be good friends. I have learned so much, I may become a genius again! Through the NEYT I have relieved my once unquenchable thirst for excitement, and more importantly, made enough friends to call Brattleboro my third home.
Thank you, to you and you and yuh
I love NEYT because I am learning about acting. Sometimes when I am watching a play at NEYT, I forget that I'm in the theatre because the plays are so realistic. I feel like I'm watching real life through a window. So far I have taken three acting classes and have been part of three productions. I played the part of Gretl in the "Sound of Music," Dec. 2005, Tina in "Little Women," April, 2006, and as an orphan in "Oliver," Dec. 2006. My favorite show was the "Sound of Music." I loved the party scene. I have made so many friends at NEYT and I hope to continue to be part of this great group of people. Stephen Stearns is an awesome director and he helps me to understand my part in each play. I've only been involved at NEYT for one year, but it seems like it's been a billion years. That's good! I enjoy playing soccer, basketball, and baseball and I take gymnastics classes and I love to run. I play the piano and flute and like to sing too. I have been a skier and this year I am learning to snowboard. When I'm not doing these activities I especially enjoy being with my friends. I am so happy to be part of NEYT and I hope to create many more memories in the years to come.