Notes from Nina: Past & Present Together

TADA! Youth Theater Flies in the Soup Alumni

Hi TADA! Friends and Family,

Tuesday night was a gift. It was the first meeting of a group of people that have been and are a part of TADA! in so many different ways coming together to devise TADA!’s new Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Justice Plan (EDIJ). The “room” was filled with Alum, Past Staff, Current Ensemble Members, Teaching Artists, Current Ensemble Parents, Current staff, AMP Mentors, and Board Members. This is one of my longer “Notes,” I hope you will read to the end.
 
Seeing all these people and hearing their love of TADA! was inspiring. They want to make TADA! better. Being able to be a part of this brave space was invigorating, scary, hopeful, and exciting. We will be meeting over the next 5 months to create a plan for actions that TADA! will need to take to become more diverse, inclusive, equitable and just.
 
The plan will be divided into different stages: 3 months, 6 months, 1 year and beyond. This is an ongoing process and the plan will be reviewed, updated and changed at least once a year with the help of an ongoing committee. As part of our learning, we understand that the time and energy put into this work is valuable and so TADA!’s paying this group for their work. 
 
I have learned so much from all these people over the years, and I am so grateful to be in this new space and time to be learning even more. TADA! was designed for people to learn from each other: younger kids from older teens, current Ensemble from Alumni, older kids from the younger members, staff from the kids, and any other combinations.
 
When I started TADA! I was one of the younger adults (younger than most of the parents and other staff), and I had to fight for people to listen to me, to believe in what I was doing with TADA!, to take me seriously – especially because I was a woman. Sometimes that fighting energy got in my way and sometimes it still does, but I’m working very hard to change that. I realized that my life would not be what it is without crossing paths with these people, and their lives would not be the same if TADA! hadn’t been a part of their lives. That is amazing. 

I would like to highlight the Alum that were at the meeting– Yooree, Emmanuel, Mizuo, Mari, Subiya, and Gabi (who is also currently TADA!’s Ensemble and Alumni Manager). When I think of these people I still see them on the TADA! Stage as teenagers or even younger. They played many roles but the one I listed is where my mind first goes. 

Mizuo Peck at TADA! Youth Theater
Mizuo Peck at TADA! Youth Theater
  • I love that Mizuo (Maggie in Maggie and the Pirate) called me later Tuesday night to continue to talk about her thoughts on the meeting and the conversations we had and will have mean to her. Mizuo is a friend, a working actress and a mother, and she has even taught classes for TADA! Ensemble Members and worked on productions.
  • I remember fighting with a playwright to have Yooree (YoYo in Flies in the Soup) play a lead in a musical. I loved her performance. I remember going to her wedding and, before COVID, our lunches when she would come to NY. I love speaking to her about being a Mom, going through divorce, seeing her try on new clothes as she moved on to a new part of her life, and hearing about her dancing and new jobs. 
  • Mari (Primus in Princess Phooey) and I have had some wonderful and respectful disagreements that provided me with a different perspective and challenged the way I thought just because I knew someone. Mari’s honesty and vulnerability and gentleness are qualities I strive to have. Happy Birthday Mari– I hope you have a great day today celebrating you.
  • Subiya (May in Maggie and the Pirate) exudes strength in all she does. Taking after and building on her Mom and her Grandmother. I loved being at her Sweet Sixteen Celebration and hearing her read a poem she wrote. I knew a great writer was among us. Also, I had the best tortellini in cream sauce– haven’t been able to match that to this day. Subiya is currently a junior at Manhattan School of Music. She also still finds time to work with TADA!. She is involved in devising a new musical for TADA!, Because We’re Girls, along with other teens and young adult women. A benefit of COVID is that both Ensemble Members and Alum come together on Zoom to work together on this show. I also have to say that Subiya was one of the best Mrs. Lovett’s I have had the pleasure to watch and I have seen many professional productions of Sweeney Todd
  • Emmanuel (I didn’t put the role that I still picture him in my mind because it wasn’t his most flattering role and it’s not the only role that I remember him in. He was a fantastic Professor Plotsky in Flies In the Soup) and I have been connected in many different ways at TADA!. He taught me to rethink family. I’m truly sorry that I didn’t get it and hurt him years ago. That was not my intention but as I have learned intention does not equal impact. Even good intentions can be harmful. 
  • Last but not least, Gabi (Vanessa in Up To You), you will always be a great mean girl and a great cheerleader. Off the stage, I don’t see the mean girl at all, but the cheerleader is definitely there in how you work with and for the Ensemble Members and students at TADA!. I am so grateful and feel so blessed that I get to work with you every day. 
I also heard how much the current parents and Ensemble Members can’t wait for TADA! to be back in person creating musical theater together. Vaccinations haven’t moved as fast as originally thought which has made us move back when the in-person work will happen. We’re now looking at starting in-person rehearsals for Heroes in late-June with a no-audience production in late July or early August. 
 
While the EDIJ plan is being devised, TADA! will continue the work we have been doing since 1984 and work we recently started. We continue this work even as our income is suffering. TADA!’s commitment to Arts For All is continuing by providing:
I will share other thoughts and stories in “Notes” to come. It’s always good to leave the audience wanting more. Who knows what musical that line is from?

Best,

Janine Nina Trevens
Executive & Producing Artistic Director