Catherine Herzog, Partnership Specialist:
The summer I was seven, all the neighborhood kids came together to create a backyard production of "The Lion King". The older kids (fifth graders!) wrote the script and directed all of us little ones. We rehearsed for weeks from dawn to dusk. I had bruises all over from crawling around like an animal; those hyenas were fierce. Maybe one day we'll produce a revival, but I would miss Scar's tinkling soprano.
Deeksha Gaur, Co-Founder, Director of Content and Community:
I was probably four or five, and my neighbors and I would get together to put on plays. We'd create these silly comedies based on a couple of clownish stock characters from Indian joke-telling. My dad would hang a string across the living room stretching from one wall to the other, and hang a bed sheet from it. This was our curtain. He also did our makeup. We'd invite everyone from the building to come be our audience.
Eileen Rivera, Community Liaison:
I’ll always be grateful that I grew up in New York City and was exposed to Broadway musicals as a child. That, and that my grade school put on shows. Both experiences nurtured two separate but related parts of me: the theater lover and the theater maker.
“Ain’t Misbehavin’”, “Annie”, “Peter Pan”, “A Chorus Line”, “Sugar Babies”, “Woman of the Year”, “Cats”, “They’re Playing Our Song” — these are just some of the Broadway shows I saw as a kid that I could name off the top of my head. We’d buy the cast albums after watching the shows, I’d listen to them over and over and even introduce them to friends! I also remember as a grade-schooler participating in staged musicals or presentations. The butterflies, the buzz of heightened senses, making the uncomfortable-yet-brave shift from regular person to someone speaking or singing in front of a crowd, these are all things I still experience today as a professional actor — and I tie those feelings directly to feeling them for the first time as an excited kid.
My late, culture maven of a dad is the one who instilled my love of theater. When I was growing up in NYC back in the '80s, he took me to shows at least once a month, mostly Broadway (hey, you didn't need to be a 1 percenter to afford those tickets back then!). In fact we went so frequently, we both forgot which Broadway show was my first! But I do remember the first one that made a lifelong impression on me: the Duke Ellington revue "Sophisticated Ladies". Star Gregory Hines' graceful yet athletic tapping, Willa Kim's snazzy retro costumes (especially a stunning, white, floor-length coat with a high fur collar), and the gloriously orchestrated jazz standards (musically directed by the Duke's son, Mercer Ellington) still pop in my memory, even 35 years later. It may not have actually been my first show, but in my memory it is.
Samantha Dupler, Content and Social Media Manager:
When I was four, my three year-old sister and I put on a "production" of "Cinderella" in our living room, complete with costumes, pantomimed props, and stage-whispered stage directions. Highlights included my sister casting our mom ("offstage" and on the phone in the other room) as step-sister Anastasia, and my repeated insistence of owning a "real" (plastic) magic wand upstairs in my room. And yes, there is video footage of this exclusive one night only limited engagement.
(a still from our "Cinderella" production: I'm on the right, and my sister is on the left!)
Sami Melcher, Intern:
I am so sick of the song, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." I played Dorothy in my elementary school's production of "The Wizard of Oz", and was so proud because it was my dream role. I had to sing that little song over and over and over again, with the other cast members, by myself, for my parents, for my friends, running around the stage in circles, on the playground — I basically sang it nonstop for the duration of the rehearsal process. I had such a fun time, so even though that once beautiful song has been ruined for me, being cast as the lead in my first musical was worth it.
Thea Rodgers, Blog Contributor:
When I was five, we spent the summer on a vineyard in the Napa Valley because my parents were playing Beatrice and Benedick in the Napa Valley Shakespeare Festival production of "Much Ado About Nothing". I caught frogs in the ditch backstage while they spoke some of Shakespeare's greatest lines, and ever since the smell of dirt and red wine has reminded me of my childhood!
Tom Melcher, Founder and CEO:
My first memory? Dancing around the living room belting out "If I Were a Rich Man" from "Fiddler On the Roof", much to the delight of my grandparents. Though the first real show I remember seeing was "Godspell" in their Boston tryout, circa 1976 (?).
What's YOUR first theater memory or experience? Tell us about it in the comments below!