In Sunset Boulevard, "Norma Desmond" sings "I've come home at last!" and that is what I loved about Christina Franklin's journey with TADA! Youth Theater. She started out in TADA's! Youth Ensemble and now has come back as the writer and director of their latest production, New York, New Year.
New York, New Year tells the story of "Tess" who moves to NYC in the middle of the school year from her hometown of Missouri and wonders how she will fit in. Will she make friends at her new school? Tess has the months of the year to help guide her, but she misses Sarah, her best friend from back home. When she tells 3 NYC kids that she's going to take a bus tour to really get to know NY, they tell her you don't get to know the real NYC through a bus tour, so she asks them to show her things they each love about the city & they become her new friends. Tess thinks that she needs to change herself to be liked, but who does she become? And will she still be friends with Sarah? Can she be the Tess from Missouri with Sarah & the NYC Tess with her new friends? What happens when they all get together for New Year's Eve as a surprise for Tess? Can the “months” save the day?
New York, New Year plays at TADA! Youth Theater (15 West 28th Street) from April 29-May 21. Click here for tickets!
1. This May you are presenting New York, New Year: A New Musical, at TADA!, based upon the original concept by Gary Bagley. What made you want to write the book for this show and direct it? When I was six years old, my older brother Norman, was in the original production of New York, New Year at TADA! I saw the show many times and I loved it. The show takes place over the course of a year and each month is played by an actor. I was very drawn to this concept; it’s so unique and fun. TADA! usually revives show every five-six seasons, but New York New York hasn’t been done since 1999. The script needed more development time. In the summer of 2016, our artistic director Nina Trevens, proposed that I rewrite the book and direct the new production in the next season. I got in touch with the original writers and began rewriting the book. Fast forward 10 months and here we are!
2. One interesting fact I found out is that for 10 years you were a member of the TADA! Youth Ensemble, but while you were a sophomore at Professional Performing Arts School, you found a love for the production aspect of theatre. What was it about the production side that made you go, this is the part of theatre I want to pursue over acting? I discovered that I have a love for creating stories and devising interesting ways to tell those stories. Also, I am admittedly a control freak, so the older I got, the harder it was to let myself be free and vulnerable as an actor.
3. What is it like being back at TADA! after being away from it for a few years? The thing is, I haven’t been away from TADA! very much. Even during my college years, I came back to work on productions when I was on break from school. It’s always great to come home. I particularly love staying in touch with the ensemble and watching them grow and learn.
4. In New York, New Year, "Tess" moves to NYC in the middle of the school year from her hometown of Missouri and wonders how she will fit in. When did you ever wonder if you would fit in somewhere? I have similar worries and doubts every time I enter a new experience, particularly college. Like "Tess," I was in a new city (Philadelphia), starting a new school year, and feeling very lonely. Fortunately, it was a new beginning for everyone, whereas "Tess" jumps into an environment where everyone is already acclimated, which makes it even harder for her to find her place.
5. "Tess" tells her new friends she's going to get to know NYC via a bus tour, who in turn, tell her, you can't get to know NYC from a bus tour. What have you learned about NYC from living here that you wouldn't have had you taken a bus tour? I think the best things about the city are the non-commercial features. Organized NYC tours tend to hit the standard things the city is already famous for. I value the hole-in-the-wall restaurants, the quaintness of various neighborhoods, and more importantly the character and essence of the city that changes every 10 blocks or so.
6. This show has so many great themes for kids, like how "Tess" feels she needs to change herself to be liked." Have you ever felt like you needed to change to be liked or fit in somewhere? Yes - middle school was particularly tough for me. My new classmates made fun of how I spoke and the way I looked. I was not confident enough to hold my own and stay true to myself so to avoid bullying, I tried to assimilate myself to how they all acted. I was somewhat successful, but 8th grade graduation couldn’t have come soon enough. This was a time that TADA! was vital in my life. Although I had to change myself during the school day, I was able to let go and be free when I got to rehearsal.
7. Since the show is called New York, New Year. What is something you are going to do or have done in NYC that is new this year? There are always new restaurants to try, so I plan to check some out. Although it isn’t new, I do want to get to the Highline once the weather gets warm again.
8. What are your top five favorite things to do in NYC? I love seeing new shows, walking the Brooklyn Bridge, shopping in the Christmas Villages that pop up in Union Square, Columbus Circle, and Bryant Park, checking out various farmers markets in the spring and fall, and going to free outdoor movie screenings in the summer.
9. After being part of TADA! Youth Ensemble and now being back as a playwright/director, why would you recommend someone to be part of TADA!? I would recommend it because there’s always something to be gained. Nina always says it; an 8 year old can learn from an 18 year old and vice versa. It’s the same thing when working on the production side. I’ve learned so much from the kids in the cast and I hope I’ve been able to teach them some things too!
10. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? I love this idea! I definitely need to improve my patience skills. New Yorkers are always on the go, thinking about the next thing. When things aren’t swift and efficient, we tend to get agitated. I can definitely stand to slow down and enjoy the ride.
Christina Franklin is a theatre artist, born & raised in NYC & has been a part of the TADA! family since she was four years old. As a member of the TADA! Youth Ensemble for 10 years, she performed in 17 main stage musicals in addition to many workshops & readings. Christina found a love for the production aspect of theatre when she was a sophomore at Professional Performing Arts School. She went on to earn a BFA in Directing, Playwriting & Production from The University of the Arts. During her time at UArts, she stage managed multiple productions, wrote plays, produced student work & directed many projects. Shortly after graduation, she began an internship at The Public Theater, which led to working on multiple projects including The Total Bent & Eclipsed on Broadway. Since becoming a TADA! Alumna, she has worked on many TADA! shows as a stage manager & assistant director. New York, New Year marks Christina’s NYC directorial debut as well as her 26th production with TADA! Youth Theater.