Notes from Nina: I Believe. I do, I do, I do, I do, I do!

Hi TADA! Friends and Family,

This is a long email but it’s easy reading. Honest. It’s also a way for you to know what’s been going on over the last year and how we’re moving forward. This is both personal and about TADA!.

I couldn’t sleep last night. That’s not exactly a new phenomenon, but last night, I only got two hours of sleep. Maybe it was because of what happened before trying to go to sleep.

I bought a fake Christmas tree this year. I have never done that before, but Ceanna thought it would be easier to set up because the lights are already on it. Well, we set it up and it looked like crap. You (and Ceanna) think that I would have known better after all the fake trees we had on the set of The Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood one year ago. Who would have thought that this would be a more “Dangerous Christmas” than last year?

Then, Ceanna and I tried to build a cabinet for the kitchen that I bought from Wayfair. The reviews said it wasn’t difficult – in fact, one person claimed they built it in 30 minutes. So then why, after an hour and a half, are two grown women still sitting on the cold floor with all the pieces strewn about, and nothing assembled? Completely defeated, I got up off the floor (not easy and not a pretty sight) and noticed it was already 10pm and we hadn’t had dinner yet. I decided to Eat Like A Child – a can of Beef Stew.

Finally, I decided to go to bed, as I needed to get up early to get to work. I couldn’t sleep. So, I watched Jimmy Fallon and Andrew Rannells do a fun musical theater number about 2020 which ended with “I Believe” from The Book of Mormon. It made me think: “I do believe, I do, I do, I do, I do, I do,” that reminded me of the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz (probably one of my favorite movie musicals). And then I thought, “There’s No Place Like Home.”

Home. That’s where we do everything now. It’s where I’m on Zoom almost every day in meetings with staff, webinars, meetings with youth theater Executive Directors from across the country, more webinars, meetings with Ensemble Members, and more webinars (which means I’m learning a lot). Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

I also facetime with my 90-year-old Dad. I wrote this short scene to illustrate our conversations. And, yes, I took artistic liberties because this doesn’t all happen in one conversation. He usually wants to say “I love you,” and then go back to the TV.

Dad: “What do you do in all these meetings you’re in?”
Nina: “Well, that’s when and how we come up with the new programs at TADA!”
D: “Like what?”
Note: people really do change and for the better (yes, another musical reference). When I was younger, my Dad thought this was a crazy thing – starting a youth theater company. Why was that important? Now he’s happy that TADA!’s still here and he asks about my work when I speak to him every day. Maybe that’s because it’s one of the few things he remembers when he remembers I’m his daughter.
N: ”We’re doing the Pandemic Pivot. (he’s totally confused by that but I go on) It’s where we convert the programs we had in-person and make them work remotely. For our Education Students, we’re now offering online camps, classes, Broadway Workshops, and even some in-school residencies. In fact, we’re working with a school in Florida right near you.” (In fact, it’s the high school that his caregiver’s daughter attends. And that’s just a coincidence)
D: “Wow that’s a lot! No wonder you’re always so tired. You work too much. You need to do less.”
N: “I love my job and there’s so much to do. We do a lot more than what I just told you about.”
D: “Really, there’s more?”
N: “Yes. There’s the work with the Resident Youth Ensemble. Sometimes when I say I’m in a meeting, I’m actually working with our youth and teens. It’s the time that I would have been in the theater or the rehearsal room. We’re actually devising a new musical, Because We’re Girls, with our teen girls; creating a TADA! Episodic Variety Show for kids with Ensemble Members; individual creative writing and movie-making work with Platform of Peace; teen-led forums on topics and issues they are facing in the world today; Youth Council meetings, dance classes, and private lessons.
D: “That sounds like you’re doing more than just musical theater. I thought you ran a theater?”
N: “TADA! is more. Education and positive youth development is key to all that we do. The Pandemic is affecting youth in huge ways, so is systemic racism, and the constant changes with their school lives. Sometimes they need a place to talk about how they feel and sometimes they need to focus on creative work to have an escape. We are there for all of it. We’ve also put some of our past productions up on YouTube to entertain our audiences who can’t come to the theater right now. Did you end up watching any of them?”
D: “I don’t understand The YouTube. I see now why you’re so busy.”
N: “I wish that was all that I do, but there’s still more to my job. There’s the work with the staff and within myself to move TADA! to be the antiracist multicultural organization I wanted when I started. This means relearning and growing and changing and listening and leading. This means reaffirming the mission and the vision so that there is equity in all that we do. This means looking at our values and beliefs and making sure that we’re thinking and acting and creating a budget to put into practice new structures and programs that are actually reflective of these values. This includes looking at earned income such as the pricing of our education programs and tickets to shows to make them more equitable. I’m also working with TADA!’s Board of Directors on our recruitment procedures and Board Member’s responsibilities. One project I’m really excited about is our new BIPOC mentoring program.”
D: “What is BIPOC?”
N: “Black, Indigenous, People of Color.”
D: “Oh, another new word for me! Why are you so excited about this?”
N: “I love that our BIPOC teens will have professional BIPOC mentors and learn about theater career possibilities off the stage. I think this is so important. You know some of our members stay actors but not all want to act as adults and many didn’t really see these careers as opportunities for them because they are black and brown people. Now they will know that there are so many more opportunities for them.”
D: “I know you have great people working with you, but you need to hire more staff with all that TADA! is doing. I worry about you.”
N: “I know, but you don’t need to worry. I do have a great staff. I did forget to mention that one part of my job is fundraising. Hopefully, people will donate to TADA! since it’s the end of a year and they can make tax-deductible contributions even if they don’t itemize.”
D: “I hope they do. I wish I had a million dollars to give you.”
N: “So do I! I know the money will come because we need to keep doing what we do for our kids. I believe that if you touch one life, you touch the world entire (remotely right now, of course). That’s my version of the quote from Schindler’s List.”
D: “I’m glad we had this conversation. I’m getting tired. I love you. Talk to you tomorrow.”
N: “I love you too. Yes, we will talk tomorrow.”

If you’d like to help me and TADA!’s youth and teens, click here.

Why help? Because you can. Together, we can change the world and make it better. Do you hear that? When you click an angel gets their wings – check your mirror.

Tonight we start celebrating Hanukkah. Remember miracles do happen every day.


Janine Nina Trevens
Executive & Producing Artistic Director