Photos: Michelle Spanedda
NewArts Newtown musicals have been a huge part of my life for four summers now. It has made me a better performer and a better person. After the Newtown tragedy, I lived a life ruled by Fear. I didn’t want to go to school; really I didn’t want to go anywhere. I was terrified of what may happen. My mother had worked at Sandy Hook Elementary at the time and I didn’t want her to go to work, afraid that it wasn’t over. I had a prayer shawl that I wrapped myself in 24/7, because I believed that the only thing that could protect me was the prayers of the people who made it.
My fear tightened its grip when my mother and father were both diagnosed with cancer only months after the tragedy. I went to therapy session after therapy session, but I was too well acquainted with this cruel world that we lived in to go back to being myself.
My mother told me that Broadway professionals were holding auditions for a musical to benefit the children affected by the Newtown tragedy. I had always loved performing in musicals, and I had something that I hadn’t had for a while. Hope. I wanted to be a part of it, thinking that I may be back to myself again. I was cast as Jojo in Seussical, and I was ecstatic! The audition process was reassuring that the summer would be a fun and safe environment.
Then, as rehearsals started, Fear kept its bony fingers on my wrist. I knew nobody but my sister, and had never been good at making friends. I then began to branch out and talk to my cast mates. The connection we shared was incredible. We were all brought there by a common cause, and we were there for each other. I will always remember, one day, we were rehearsing a scene where Horton was trying to find the Whos after having lost them. Michael Unger, our director told the actors sharing the role of Horton that Whoville was Newtown. Newtown had been let down once, now we needed to be found, to be saved. The cast cried together as we remembered why we were there.
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