By Feyisola Soetan ‘15
Looking for a way to immerse yourself in the theatrical arts senior year? Or to see a Broadway show for the first time and for free? Look no further. A scholarship opportunity called Open Doors is available to upcoming seniors. This opportunity allows students to experience Broadway shows for free with mentors who are professionals in the industry.
“It’s so different from the normal routine of being a high school student,” said Ms. Wendy Guida, the program’s coordinator.
The participants in the program go see a show on Broadway about once a month and usually have the opportunity to meet the actors, directors, and all the other people responsible for making a performance successful. After the show, the students go out for pizza with their mentors to have a discussion about it. It is required for the students to also submit a journal response to their mentors after each show.
“With all the stress of senior year, it’s refreshing to see shows and delve into them afterwards with Kathleen and Scott, who are each so brilliant,” said Ms. Guida.
Kathleen Marshall and Scott Landis are the mentors for Open Doors and are both a part of the arts industry. Ms. Marshall is a three-time TONY award winning choreographer and director. Her husband, Mr. Landis, is a Broadway producer and photographer, as well as a former Hollywood agent.
“This program is open to seniors who have either never seen a show or have maybe seen one as a kid on a school trip,” Ms. Guida added, while acknowledging that Broadway shows are expensive; therefore, the program seeks students who haven’t had much opportunity to see many shows.
“They have the unique chance to see shows with people who are at the height of their creative powers and who work in the world of theatre,” said Ms. Guida. “[The mentors] take the time out of their busy lives to share their love of theatre and their extensive knowledge with our students.”
Sheldon Best ’04 was a participant in the Open Doors program when he was a student at Midwood. He is now a professional actor off-Broadway. He said that his passion for the theatre was reawakened at Midwood. Perhaps more students can be inspired to develop a career in the arts.
“I’ve personally never had the opportunity to see so many Broadway shows in my life,” said Samuel Genchikmakher ‘14, a participant. “These days when people watch movies and TV shows for entertainment, the theater is a far more intimate and real experience.”
Recruitment for the program starts in June of one’s junior year and the application process begins in September, senior year. To apply, one may consult with Ms. Guida. She recruits the students, accompanies them on outings, and is the liaison between Midwood and the scholarship funders, the Theatre Development Fund (TDF). Ms. Guida said students must write an essay as part of the application. TDF makes the final decision. They’re looking for students who are clearly interested but have not had the opportunity to see much theatre. Eventually, eight applicants are accepted into the program.
This program was created by Wendy Wasserstein. She felt that it was every New Yorker’s birthright to go see Broadway Theatre. Thus, she and TDF created Open Doors in 1998 at DeWitt Clinton High School. Midwood has been a participant since 2003. More than 21 schools are now involved.
“It has definitely been the highlight of my senior year so far,” said Monzurul Hassan ‘14. “I encourage others to apply.”
By Feyisola Soetan ‘15