Free shows, exclusive interviews, backstage passes and social media coverage add up to an indescribable theater experience.
Four years ago, The Broward Center for the Performing Arts initiated the Teen Ambassador Program to encourage high school students to promote local theater to their peers, and it is still going strong.
On Oct. 9, the program's 24 ambassadors met at the Broward Center before watching the much-anticipated opening night of “Chicago: the Musical.”
They were treated to sub sandwiches, cookies and drinks during the meeting. Second- and third-year members gave advice to newbies and shared stories regarding program events. Adult mentors updated them on upcoming productions and backstage opportunities.
Each student develops a wish list detailing special access interviews, tours or activities they would like to do over the course of the season. The Adult Mentors then set out to make these wishes come true.
This season’s Ambassadors include actors, singers, dancers, musicians and technical crew members that contribute to either their school’s drama club or community youth performance groups.
Students join the program for a variety of reasons, all linked to their appreciation for the arts.
“I joined drama club to do something that caught my interest. I didn’t realize I loved theater until I saw a shy girl completely change onstage,” Fort Lauderdale High senior Andrew Nordelus said.
The Teen Ambassadors are required to view and promote at least one show per month, each from a different category. The categories include Broadway, Florida Grand Opera, Miami City Ballet, classical, jazz and Family Fun.
“We try to expose the kids to all of the genres we can,” Teen Ambassador Adult Mentor Jill Kratish said.
Students promote on social media sites and later write or film personal reviews of what they watched.
After they meet their requirements, the young critics are allowed to watch any and all of the available events for free.
Additionally, students have access to exclusive workshops hosted by the cast or crew of the production.
“What excites me the most is learning more about the arts and theater in general,” Cooper City High sophomore Casey Guarasci said.
After the meeting, the ambassadors flocked to the lobby a few minutes before the start of their first show of the season: “Chicago: the Musical.” Many look forward to attending the “Fosse Dance” workshop being held a week after the debut of “Chicago.”
“Broadway is my favorite because it’s the [genre] I’m most familiar with,” Western High junior Helyne Levy said.
A group of ambassadors met afterwards to take pictures at the photo booth and tape on-site reviews.
They were soon shocked by the arrival of Shamicka Benn-Moser, an actress, vocalist and dancer who they just watched play Go-to-Hell-Kitty in “Chicago.” The lucky ambassadors met her and received valuable career advice from the touring professional.
“My most important thing that I tell any actor is ‘love yourself,’ ” Benn-Moser said. “[During] auditioning, they’re like ‘oh, you’re too this, you’re too that,’ but you’re actually perfect. So all those things that you feel you have to change about yourself, just learn to love them and embrace them. I guarantee you’ll be able to use them to tell an amazing story.”
After autographs, camera poses and squeals of joy, the group dispersed.
The Teen Ambassadors look forward to a year of diverse performances that will help them develop into the theater professionals they aspire to be.