“The creative arts are the measure and reflection of our civilization. They offer many children an opportunity to see life with a larger perspective…The moral values we treasure are reflected in the beauty and truth that is emotionally transmitted through the arts. The arts say something about us to future generations.” –Ann P. Kahn, Former President of The National PTA
We have a commitment to the performing arts at the Y, because we believe in the power of music, dance, theater and visual arts to inspire and expand the minds of children and adults alike. A society that holds the arts in high esteem reinforces the creativity, innovation, confidence, and vision of its people. Art opens our minds to see connections in the world around us and within us: connections between generations, across cultural or social divides, and our own individual spirit.
Does art imitate life? Or life imitate art? Great theatre challenges how we see, and encourages us to participate in, the world around us to make it more like the plays we so love. Who wouldn’t want a nanny like Mary Poppins, full of song and imagination? Wouldn’t you love to see a sidewalk artist draw something so beautiful you could picture yourself jumping into it? That’s why our Performing Arts Council works tirelessly to raise the community’s awareness of the power in performing arts and raise funds to support our theatre programs: the Y Arts Theatre Company and Studio 691. We want to improve the quality and value of our lives and the lives of those around us. Because shouldn’t everyone get to experience life as if they were in a Comedy, not a Tragedy?
The Y Arts Theatre Company started back in 2008, and have been growing ever since to be recognized as Wyckoff’s bona fide Cultural Arts Center. There has since been over 12 musical productions, 5 operas, 4 Studio 691 dance showcases and 4 Y Arts Youth Theatre Company performances. Y Arts is different than most theatre companies…They’re not a storefront dance studio seeking profits, charging high fees to students and high ticket prices to the public. They try to keep costs as low as possible (and actually most of their performances run in the red) and never turn anyone away for financial hardship.
Two people who have dedicated their time and passion to Y Arts are father/daughter duo Steven and Olivia Fornasieri, who embrace our mission and epitomize the qualities of the arts that are so important to developing and expanding our creative sides, which enrich our lives and allow us to be stronger, more well-rounded individuals. Steven and Olivia are currently starring in the Y’s production of Mary Poppins as Bank Chairman/Park Keeper and Jane Banks, respectively.
Steven, an all-around active member of the Y whom you may see in the early morning at the pool, in various fitness classes, or competing in the Wyckoff-Franklin Lakes Triathlon and Lap the Lake, is performing in his fifth Y Arts Theatre Company performance and is also an active member on the Y Arts Performing Arts Council. He’s been in previous Y Arts productions as Lord Farquaad in Shrek the Musical, Smee in Peter Pan, Grandpa Joe Bucket in Willy Wonka, and Marcellus Washburn in The Music Man. He is currently casted as Buddy Bob Morgan in Zombie Wedding, a Joe Corcoran production. Steven always had the acting itch from the time he played Marcellus Washburn in The Music Man in grammar school! So when he got the same role in the Y’s production, it must’ve been providence, and he’s been hooked ever since. Like most of us, he’s had his moments of self-doubt: the “I stink, I can’t do this” moment, but he says you work through it, sometimes singing quietly in the back until you build up your confidence. It’s easier when you’re surrounded by other confident, fun people, Steven said.
Olivia, now 13 years old, has been involved in various dance classes, and has been on stage in Y Arts productions since she was in 1st grade. She has previously performed as both Charlie Bucket and Violet Beauregarde in Willy Wonka, LeFou in Beauty and the Beast, Gretl in The Sound of Music, Molly in Annie, Red in Into the Woods, Nicely Johnson in Guys and Dolls, Amaryllis in The Music Man, Les in Newsies, the Flower Girl in Zombie Wedding, and many other Y Arts productions. She’s excited to use her British accent playing Jane in Mary Poppins, a character she says she can relate to, especially the close relationship with her brother. Olivia carries herself with confidence, a hard thing for anyone to do, let alone a 13-year-old; just as amazingly, she never even gets stage fright! She loves being on stage and being able to step into any role and showcase a range of emotion. She said, “I like to play with my characters and test my limits when I act.” She has big aspirations and would love to be on Broadway someday. When asked what she likes most about performing at the Y, she said the people. “It’s a community, like one big family…A lot of the same people are in my dance class and do all the shows, so you get to make a lot of friends.” Big things are definitely in store for this talented and motivated girl!
Steven and Olivia love performing together and will continue to do so, and they are very excited to be part of the future of Y Arts. They give due credit to Laura Toth (Performing Arts Director), Tim Santos (Production Specialist), Reegan McKenzie (Director), Tiffany Rolsing (Director of Dance Education and Program Development) and Georgianna Pappas (Musical Director) for being such a committed team. “They love what they do and it shows. The talent here is really getting better and kids are sticking with it,” Steven reflected. He also shared how he feels that Olivia’s involvement in performing arts is helping her grow. “It prepares you for life…you can get up in front of people and not be shy. You let yourself shine,” he said.
Being a part of Y Arts in the Community helps you realize your potential and empowers you to lead a happier, more successful life. Our programs here exemplify our mission to show that the universality of arts bring people together, and lift them up, thereby lifting up whole communities. By revealing on stage what motivates us, what aches us, what makes us laugh…all these emotional truths let us widen our perspective on the human experience and make us more accepting of, and, most importantly, willing to help, one another.