"Call Me Adam" chats with TADA! Youth Theater founder Janine Nina Trevens about celebrating TADA's! 30th Anniversary. We discuss TADA's! current season of shows, the founding of TADA!, TADA's! hardships, celebrations, and accomplishments!
Their latest production of this anniversary season is Princess Phooey, which will play from July 10-August 1. Princess Phooey is a musical fairy tale like no other with a rebellious princess, and a gaggle of kooky chambermaids and stable boys- and of course a handsome prince! Click here for tickets!
1. TADA! Youth Theater is currently celebrating its 30th Anniversary. What does this milestone mean to you? Did you ever expect that when you opened TADA's! doors in 1984, that you'd be celebrating 30 years of shows, education, and entertainment for families? I am lucky that I have been able to do this work for the last 30 years. I love meeting and working with these talented kids year after year. I can't imagine my life without TADA!
I honestly can't believe it's been 30 years. I'm shocked and honored. It's hard work - keeping a non-profit theater going year after year. The fundraising is what's hard -- not the programming. I have many more ideas for new musicals and know great writers. There are always so many kids auditioning for TADA!, and taking our classes, and schools that want our programs. It's just very hard to raise the money needed to support the programs. TADA! is currently looking for additional Board Members who can help.
When I started TADA! in 1984, I didn't think about the future. I was 23 and I just knew that I wanted to create TADA!. I wanted to give kids and teens a theater that was created for them to share their talent, to learn, to help make growing up a little easier, and be a part of a second family. I also wanted to develop new musicals specifically for family audiences and performed by kids and teens 8 - 18. I'm glad TADA! has been able to stick to our mission and programming.
2. Going back to the beginning of TADA!, what made you initially want to start a place for professional children's theatre? Did you always have in mind to also have an educational component to TADA!? I majored in psychology and education in college. I knew I wanted to work with kids to help make growing up easier by giving them a place to feel better about who they are. During school I started to work in the theater as a stage manager. I realized that I wanted to direct and create new musicals and that I wanted to do that with kids and teens because they were my passion.
I believe theater is educational - it makes people think, explore new topics and ideas and dreams. TADA!'s in-school programs began right away. At that time we were in one school. Our on-site classes and camps began a few years after that - these are TADA!'s greatest source of earned income and help TADA! meet its yearly budget.
3. How do you generally decide which shows you want to produce at TADA!? I'm lucky at TADA! that we get to produce our musicals more than once since our audience is comprised of families with young children ages 3 - 12. As our audience gets older there are always new kids to come and see our shows.
So, I decide which revivals it's time to do again and then I always like to have at least one world premiere a year. I look at the composition of our Ensemble - the actors who are part of TADA!'s free year-long theater training and youth development program - and pick musicals that are right for their talents. I also like to do at least one production per season for our older audience members.
4. Since this year is TADA's! 30th Anniversary. What made you want to produce Everything About A Family (almost), The Trials of Alice in Wonderland, and Princess Phooey, which will be playing from July 10-August 1, for this special anniversary season? This season was the first of the two-year 30th Anniversary Celebration of TADA! so I decided, along with Joanna Greer, TADA!'s Associate Artistic Director, to revive three musicals from our repertoire that explore growing up since TADA! is celebrating a big birthday. The first was "Everything About" A Family (almost), which was conceived a number of years ago by members of the Ensemble at that time. TADA! has a series of Everything About musicals and this was one that we hadn't done in a number of years so it was time to do it again. The Trials of Alice in Wonderland also hadn't been produced in 12 years and we had the talent that was right this year to produce that again. Both of those musicals explore the theme of growing up and family which is also true of Princess Phooey, so we decided that would be a great show to round out the season.
5. What are some of your favorite moments from the past 30 years? Getting to know the kids and the families and watching kids grow up. Working with writers creating new musicals. Writing Odd Day Rain with Deirdre Broderick. Watching a show develop over the course of the run. Seeing a shy kid transform on stage through becoming a character.
Watching families who never would have met get to know each other through TADA! and become close friends.
6. What have you learned about yourself from running TADA!? I can stick with something for a long time. I truly care about children and want them to be successful and feel good about themselves. I want them to realize that they have a voice and can do things now as kids and not have to wait until they grow up. I have very strong opinions about education and how the current system is not working for our kids - especially those who are creative.
7. 30 years is a long time to keep a theatre going strong. Have you had any struggles over the past 30 years and if so, how did you overcome these struggles? Running a non-profit theater is like riding a roller-coaster - there are a lot of ups and downs - it's harder going up and faster going down but you know there's another hill up ahead. There just isn't an end to the ride. I used to think there was going to be a time when it would all be smooth sailing but that hasn't come yet and I don't think that it will.
Fundraising is a constant struggle. TADA! is looking to expand its Board of Directors which will help with fundraising and networking. The more people who know about TADA! the more people who can help us.
A personal struggle was keeping TADA! going while I was going through chemotherapy for Hodgkin's Lymphoma which I actually had twice. I remember getting up and staying in my pajamas and calling groups to book them to come see our show.
8. If you could have any child or adult actor/actress come perform at TADA!, who's on your wish list? I always think who I would like to see in the audience or on our Board because I know they love musical theater and/or see how the arts can change kids live. Those people are Whoopi Goldberg, Kathie Lee Gifford, Kelly Ripa, Raven Simone, Rosie Perez, Brooke Shields, then there are the celebrities who have kids that are the right age to be in our audience and who knows maybe one of them would audition to be in the Ensemble: Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka, Michael Strahan, Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, Christine Taylor and Ben Stiller, Katie Holmes, and Michelle Williams. There are many more and all are welcome - these are just the names that came to mind right now.
I look forward to doing something with our Alum both the famous actors and those working actors and musicians and dancers that aren't household names - Kerry Washington, Josh Peck, Jordan Peele, Ricki Lake, Azealia Banks, Sasha Allen, Mizuo Peck, Amar Ramasar, Adam and Ryan Metzger of AJR, Aurora Nonas-Barnes, Sean Nelson, Laurence Mason, Kyra and Tori Green, and Victoria Platt Tilford are just some of our talented working Alum.
There are also composers that I would love to have write for TADA! - both Jason Robert Brown and Jeanine Tesori are past TADA! Musical Directors. They are both so busy and sooooo talented and I hope someday will write a show for us. Also, Stephen Schwartz who is a member of TADA!'s Artistic Advisory Board as is lyricist Sheldon Harnick. I would be honored if any of these talented people would write a show for TADA!.
9. What do you see for TADA! in the next 30 years? I see TADA! doing five productions a year so that we could have shows for specific age audience members. I also want to do inter-generational productions meaning that the actors are of all different ages - kids through adults. These would be musicals and plays as well as dance productions. I see TADA! to have it's own building where the classes, camps and performances take place, a second stage to do readings and workshops of new works, house the offices, have a set and costume shop so kids interested in work off the stage could be involved and learn. I'd also love to have a cafe on site so families would come to eat and then take class or watch a show. I also see TADA! having an endowment and a cash-reserve so that finding money or loans would not have to take up so much time and allow staff to think big picture and creatively more often. I also see the musicals that we have created being produced at other theaters, camps and schools across the country and internationally. I would love to do more co-productions with other youth theaters and to take the Ensemble Members to visit and work at other youth theaters both nationally and internationally. I could go on and on with this answer.
10. If you had to give someone one reason as to why they should come to a show at TADA! what would that reason be? It's fun and it's really good. It's an hour of great original musical theater written by talented playwrights, composers and lyricists and performed by extraordinary kids and teens that the whole family can enjoy for less than the price of one ticket to a Broadway show.
11. What's the best advice you've ever received? Hard question. If you loan someone money think of it as a gift and be happy if and when it comes back to you because friendship is more important than money.
Did you want advice about work or theater? If you can, do work that you love. Realize that there are parts of every job that you won't like, but if you love why you're doing it, then it is easier to get up and go to work everyday.
12. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? Sometimes, I think I'm already pretty good at being invisible - I'm actually trying to be better at being seen and heard. I always wanted to be Bewitched, but I don't think she had super powers, she had witch powers. Teleportation would be great - I hate spending time getting to places. I just want to be at my next location doing what I need to do there.