Friday night, I found myself sitting on the aisle at The Wilmette Theatre. I attended my friend Janet Louer’s work with high school students performing their class final as six of them graduate to east coast college programs (with the exception of one young man going on to my Alma Mater, Loyola University).  Janet is the talent agent who got me the audition for RAGTIME that landed me in the original Broadway cast. I knew of Janet’s reputation as well as a passionate yet no nonsense coach with a tough, intense commitment to honest work. Along with getting actors she believes in hired, she always maintained a teaching practice and continues to this day. Teaching keeps you sharp, redefining, refining and evolving in what it is you profess. I had quite an “Aha! Moment” watching the show. I realized I was watching how the arts, and musical theatre in this case, bring out the best in these teenagers. There must have been thirty of them up there performing as a chorus with the graduating six. Some as young as 13 if not younger. And they were all, each of them, so completely confident and accomplished. What struck was as young as they are, they really know what they are doing up there! And not only that. They know that this work, this practice, this study is totally bringing out what is best in each of them. By working with a professional who draws out the professionalism she sees in them, they are tapping into their personal strengths and finest traits as a human being. As I spoke to them at our talk back afterwards, “It doesn’t even matter whether you go on to a next show or not. What is happening here is that you are loving what you are doing and you are finding all the good you have within you. You are learning that you are good people. Good human beings. These lessons are lessons for life!” They are going to leave here and care about things in life the way they have learned and discovered how to care about a character in a story. How ennobling and heroic the struggle is. How to be empathetic and passionate and poetic. The performing arts are so comprehensive a practice as these teenagers find their voice in words and song and express themselves physically in dance with discipline and abandon. And it feels good. And they know they are good. Working hard doing their personal best. These young people leave here with a contribution to make…to society…to our culture…not only as artists but as citizens. Aha!

This visit to the Actors Training Center in Wilmette confirmed and reaffirmed how I felt about the variety show at East Aurora High School a couples of weeks ago. How good it has got to feel as a kid to know you can walk out on a stage and sing and dance. That you might be shy or nervous or make mistakes. But you learn you are strong and brave. You are good. West Aurora High always puts on a good show as I saw GREASE a few years back and heard their latest,The WIZARD of OZ, was excellent as well. I cannot help but take some civic pride in the productions we are doing in Paramount’s Broadway Series. I’ve always acknowledged the importance for all of us to lead by being a good example. Maybe not talk so much, protest so much as be a good example. By doing. To know many of these high school students will be attending our Season Four instills more drive in me to achieve the very best we can for our audience. Setting a standard for these aspiring young people.

This afternoon, we have a meeting about engineering the flying in MARY POPPINS!

And the casting returns are coming in, ladies and gentlemen, and it is looking spectacular! More on that in weeks to come as there are yet more auditions ahead!

All my love & thanks for being here,