NewArts Performer Describes Healing Through Theatre
Nancy Sasso Janis & Nicole Kolitsas
The NewArts wing of the 1214 Foundation in Newtown, CT will be presenting two musicals this year. First they will present 'School of Rock,' this year at Walnut Hill Community Church in Bethel. This is the fourth summer that the theatre professionals will volunteer their time to work with young performers from the Newtown area that were affected by the Sandy Hook tragedy to help teach them resiliency through theatre.
At age 13, Nicole Kolitsas will appear in her fourth show with NewArts. In their premiere production of 'Seussical The Musical,' Ms. Kolitsas played Jojo with Broadway veteran John Tartaglia. In the spectacular 'A ROCKIN' Midsummer Night's Dream,' she played the playful Puck and performed on the cast album of the show that was recorded by Van Dean of Broadway Records. Last year she played Zazu in 'The Lion King, Jr.'The young actress also has a credit at Westchester Broadway Theatre.
In a recent blog post, the young actress put into words what working with the 1214 Foundation has meant to her personally.
Here is her post in its entirety:
Author: Nicole Kolitsas (Sophie in School of Rock - Age 13)
NewArts Newtown musicals have been a huge part of my life for four summers now. It has made me a better performer and a better person. After the Newtown tragedy, I lived a life ruled by Fear. I didn't want to go to school; really I didn't want to go anywhere. I was terrified of what may happen. My mother had worked at Sandy Hook Elementary at the time and I didn't want her to go to work, afraid that it wasn't over. I had a prayer shawl that I wrapped myself in 24/7, because I believed that the only thing that could protect me was the prayers of the people who made it.
My fear tightened its grip when my mother and father were both diagnosed with cancer only months after the tragedy. I went to therapy session after therapy session, but I was too well acquainted with this cruel world that we lived in to go back to being myself.
My mother told me that Broadway professionals were holding auditions for a musical to benefit the children affected by the Newtown tragedy. I had always loved performing in musicals, and I had something that I hadn't had for a while. Hope. I wanted to be a part of it, thinking that I may be back to myself again. I was cast as Jojo in Seussical, and I was ecstatic! The audition process was reassuring that the summer would be a fun and safe environment.
Then, as rehearsals started, Fear kept its bony fingers on my wrist. I knew nobody but my sister, and had never been good at making friends. I then began to branch out and talk to my cast mates. The connection we shared was incredible. We were all brought there by a common cause, and we were there for each other. I will always remember, one day, we were rehearsing a scene where Horton was trying to find the Whos after having lost them. Michael Unger, our director told the actors sharing the role of Horton that Whoville was Newtown. Newtown had been let down once, now we needed to be found, to be saved. The cast cried together as we remembered why we were there.
I believe that NewArts has found Newtown and saved it by bringing joy and a sense of community to, not only those in the shows, but those who were in the audience. I have learned so much, not only as a performer, but as a person. My family has expanded and gotten closer every summer. I love these people more than anything in the world and they have truly changed me for the better. I never went back to how I was. I came out of Seussical as a new person, a person that grows every summer. I still get scared. Fear still whispers in my ear and grabs my hand. But I now have the skills to tell Fear that I'm okay, and that I can handle whatever comes my way. Because of NewArts, I can do anything. I can perform in front of thousands of people, I can solve my own problems, I can evaluate myself and find my strengths, and I can tell Fear goodbye.
Come see the shows and share in the joy.