Student actors from Queens shine on Broadway

By Merle Exit

Last week, students from Maspeth High School and Astoria’s Frank Sinatra High School of the Arts accomplished something many actors spend their whole lives trying to achieve — they performed on a Broadway stage.

At the city’s first High School Theatre Festival, those young actors from Queens, along with two groups from Manhattan and one from Staten Island, presented excerpts from school productions at the Imperial Theater on West 45th Street.

Justin Tilo, in his first production at Maspeth High School, said he was thrilled to be making his Broadway debut.

“Once you get used to being on that stage you stop feeling the audience and focus on getting the job done,” said Justin. “I would love to thank my teacher who gave me the opportunity and the theater program at my school.”

Justin took on the role of Pancho Garcia in his school’s theatrical version of the movie “Stand and Deliver.”

“I chose this particular drama due to the number of Latino actors that I wanted to feature,” said Eric Young, chairman of Maspeth’s Arts Department. “Our opening scene stressed the wild and rebellious portion and then looked to feature the actors with monologues.”

A panel of theater professionals and art educators selected the five schools that took part in Monday’s event.

Each team was given about 15 minutes to perform dramatic scenes or musical production numbers.

Students from the Frank Sinatra High School of the Arts presented parts from “The Trojan Women,” written by Euripides in 415 BC.

The show, directed by Jamie Cacciola-Price, starred Kayla Odom and Kari Luna as Hecuba, the fallen queen of Troy, and Andromache, her daughter-in-law, with some extremely dramatic monologues.

Constantina Dres was one of the members of the chorus.

“It’s so scary,” Constantina said. “Like I didn’t realize I was doing a show on Broadway until I went on and wow! I was in shock. I’m so happy! I’m so happy! I would love to go on the stage every day.”

The festival was sponsored by the Shubert Foundation, which provided a $525,000 grant to the city’s education department this year.

“Theater study teaches students the importance of revising, editing, rehearsing and joy in the pursuit of mastery – a lesson critical in the classroom and beyond,” said city School Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “Expanding access to theater, and more generally arts education, helps inspire students, builds confidence and deepens their critical thinking skills. By taking advantage of the city’s rich cultural resources, and partnering with great organizations like Shubert, we will continue to provide our students with critical hands-on learning experiences in the arts.”

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