Three casts comprising a total of 49 children from Main Street Theatre & Dance Alliance (MSTDA) Musical Theater Class will produce the iconic Disney classic, Beauty and the Beast Jr., later this year. If you hear children out and about humming and singing lines from songs like Human Again and Be Our Guest, you’ll know why!
Kristi Towey (center) is the executive director at MSTDA
But that’s not all to look forward to from longtime Island stalwart MSTDA. New offerings, this spring, include a six-week meditation workshop that director Kristi Towey said “filled up before it even started,” and a six-week Argentine Tango Workshop that starts January 28. You do not have to have a partner for this workshop but there is a discounted price for couples who register together.
For kids, new classes include the ever popular Capoeira, Brazilian martial arts, for ages over three, and breakdancing for children over the age of ten. MSTDA is holding an open house for the spring semester on January 26 between 9:30am and 1pm. You can try a class for free, meet staff and teachers and see what’s right for you. Sign up here. The spring semester will start on January 28.
Something for Everyone
MST&DA's Ballet I class
Main Street Theatre and Dance Alliance is a high caliber performing arts program offering a safe, nurturing space for students of all ages right on Main Street, Roosevelt Island. This little gem of a program bubbles with energy and creativity and brings high level yet unpretentious performing arts and movement programs to young and old throughout the community. From Ballet, Hip-Hop, Capoeira, Breakdancing, and Yoga to Musical Theater, Meditation, and Belly Dancing, MSTDA has something for everyone.
Building Confidence and Life Skills
“I believe it’s very important for children to believe in themselves as early as possible so that adulthood is easier to navigate,” writes blogger Laura Dumbleton in “Why You Should Enroll Your Child in a Musical Theater Class.” Beyond the very important fact that theater is fun, it supports children’s social and emotional growth in a myriad of ways. Building confidence, overcoming shyness, learning responsibility and reliability, and working in a group, as well as building meaningful and lasting friendships are just a few of the wonderful reasons Dumbleton lists to explore the possibilities of theater education. One doesn’t have to be eyeing a career under the lights to benefit exponentially from participating in theater classes and productions.
Towey concurs. “Musical theater is so important in all life areas, not just for kids who are looking to study theater. You don’t have to be a dancer. You don’t have to be a singer,” Towey explains. She speaks to the value of “learning reliability and accountability, and the discipline of learning your lines. Learning your part in the grand scheme of things, because if you mess up your part, then it throws off the others. Getting that sense of responsibility,” she says. “When one person’s gone, it doesn’t work. “
To Dumbleton’s list of life benefits derived from the performing arts, Towey adds motor skills, creativity, self-expression, self-presentation, problem-solving skills, empathy, and compassion.
And, Towey points out, theater can enhance children’s reading skills. “I always thought that theater was such a great tool for helping kids to become better readers,” Towey
expounds, “because you’re diving into the characters of the book a little bit deeper, and you have a deeper understanding of the meaning of the story when you can actually relate and explore the characters a little bit deeper. And drama teaches you that; theater teaches you that.”
High Caliber Programming
The caliber of the talent with which MSTDA’s teaching staff is endowed is first rate and on par with the most reputable theater schools in Manhattan at a fraction of the cost. Of her highly qualified staff, Towey boasts, “Kimbirdlee and Jonathan Fadner do full productions at Queens Theater and have their own production company, Common Man Musicals, and they’re working with the National Asian Artists Project.”
Kimbirdlee Fadner is assistant executive director at MST&DA. She and husband, Jonathan Fadner, run a production company.
Jackie (Lucid-Cusick) has been with MSTDA for years and directs the adult and teen theater programs. Her daughter Joan, an alumna of MSTDA, also directs the teens. She works as a professional actress in the City. MSTDA staff also teach at places like The Julliard School, Steps on Broadway, 92 Street Y and Ballet Academy East, lists Towey. “Our classes are mixed level, which makes it slightly different… They’re open level,” says Towey. “The teachers teach to the individual student…
Our teachers are able to gear the classes toward everyone and cater to individual needs.”
Scholarships and Work Study Programs
Not only are the fees significantly lower than those found in Manhattan, but MSTDA also has a generous scholarship fund, as well as a work-study program, making the programs truly viable and accessible for all, young and old, regardless of income levels. The lion’s share of their annual grant from the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) goes to scholarships. This year RIOC awarded MSTDA a $27,000.00 General Purpose Fund grant. This speaks to the vital role MSTDA plays in the community, and the extent of their outreach.
While theater is often expensive and relegated to the wealthy classes, MSTDA widens its net to embrace the whole community, which makes it an eclectic, diverse, dynamic and truly authentic theater and dance experience that enriches our lives.
The Island’s teen theatre starts the show season off with an imaginative production of the delightful family-friendly Shakespeare classic, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Joan-Marie Cusick. Shows are February 1 at 8 p.m., February 2 at 8 p.m., and February 3 at 6 p.m. Tickets are $20 for General Admission and $15 for Students/Seniors.
Next up on the schedule is Oh What A Lovely War, a British comedy musical about World War I, produced by the Adult Musical class. Show dates are March 29-31. Times TBA.
The teen theater performs Theory of Relativity, a musical that examines how our lives are all surprisingly interconnected. Production dates are May 3-5. Times TBA.
For Beauty and the Beast Jr., show dates are June 7-10. Each of the three casts will perform in two shows over the course of a weekend. Times and casts performing in each show TBA.