How Rosie’s Theater Kids Led to Professional Gigs for 2 NYC Students

Interview   How Rosie’s Theater Kids Led to Professional Gigs for 2 NYC Students
 
Participants in Rosie O’Donnell’s youth arts organization Kenneth Cabral, 13, and Nanyellin Liriano, 14, bow tonight in Encores! Off-Center’s Really Rosie.

“At Rosie’s Theater Kids our motto is ‘Rehearsing for Life,’” says 14-year-old Nanyellin Liriano, “and I see now what that means.” Rosie O’Donnell and Lori Klinger founded Rosie’s Theatre Kids when they realized that the students of PS 51, a school bordering the theatre district, walked through Broadway every day and never had the opportunity to see the shows. The free program offers in-school and after-school classes in movement, voice, spoken word, and more to expose kids at Title I schools (typically in underprivileged neighborhoods) to the arts, and teach them life skills through the rehearsal and performance process; hence, rehearsing for life.

To learn more about Rosie’s Theater Kids, click here.

As of late, Liriano, along with fellow Rosie’s Theater Kid, 13-year-old Kenneth Cabral, have been rehearsing for Really Rosie, the next offering in City Center’s Encores! Off-Center series this summer.

Written by famed children’s author Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are) and recording legend Carole King (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical), Really Rosie first aired as an animated TV special in 1975 before the stage adaptation bowed Off-Broadway in 1980. Now the story of a little Brooklynite with big dreams comes back to NYC, and Liriano and Cabral take their biggest bow yet.

Since its inception in 2003, Rosie’s Theater Kids has introduced theatre to over 65,000 New York City youths and—as in the cases of Liriano and Cabral—has groomed performers of tomorrow. “Rosie’s Theater Kids teaches us to work as a team, but also to step out and take our moment,” says Cabral, the third of three brothers to go through the program.

Though Cabral made his Off-Broadway debut in last year’s Runaways Off-Broadway, he will get his Rosie moment when the show begins performances August 2. “I can’t wait for my tap piece with Ayodele [Casel]!” he says. “Also, I like to see my castmates perform because I know I can always learn something from them.” Liriano agrees that the cast “has become like a family.”

That combined sense of accomplishment and teamwork is at the foundation of Rosie’s Theater Kids. The organization encourages students to reach their potential, and Really Rosie has rendered that goal a reality for Cabral. “[I didn’t know] how far I can push myself,” he says. “I didn’t quite realize all this was inside me.”

Though it’s a ways away for the ninth-grader, Liriano hopes to perform when she finishes college. (“But whatever happens, I’ll always go to the theatre. I love seeing shows!” she says.) Cabral adds, “I can’t imagine not being onstage. Hopefully in a show with my two brothers—that would be great!”

For now, they’ll light up City Center as the worlds of two Rosie’s collide.

Really Rosie plays City Center August 2–5, 2017. For tickets and information, click here.

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