There are certain points throughout the year when Stuyvesant lights up with energy. Shirts boasting slogans for Soph-Frosh SING! or the Winter Drama begin to appear in the hallways. Behind the scenes, weeks of grueling, yet rewarding, work go into making Stuyvesant’s theater scene what it is. In this first installment of a feature on Stuyvesant’s actors, we are profiling the underclassmen who are part of this piece of Stuyvesant culture.
Adam Elsayed: The Musicality of Acting
Before his interview, sophomore Adam Elsayed took part in an Open Mic performance by Stuyvesant A Capella. Though there were many others that were also part of the show, his vocal expressiveness made him stand out.
Elsayed’s devotion to a cappella ties into his acting experience, for many of the productions in which he has performed were musicals. He acted in his first play at the age of nine with a community theater group, and he played the mayor of Munchkin City in “The Wizard of Oz.” At the time, he was rather apathetic toward theater. But he “didn’t really have a schedule,” he said, laughing, which allowed him to have fun and enjoy the singing and the acting, sparking an interest that would soon develop into a passion.
Elsayed went on to play Charlie Bucket from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” his first main role, along with a few other community theater plays.
Elsayed’s acting experiences only continued to grow at Stuyvesant. “I was just a plucky young freshman, not entirely innocent, but innocent by the standards of Stuyvesant students,” he said, describing his experience auditioning for “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” and eventually landing the role of Chip, a contestant who fantasizes about a girl he likes onstage, leading to a few embarrassing problems.
He also acted in SING!, where he was a prophet who told four students about the end of the world. “It was really a joy. I was that one wacko who had an ex-wife, so it got pretty complicated,” he said. Though his schedule is a bit more filled compared to before, he still feels the long rehearsal sessions are worth it when he performs.
Despite a few years of experience, Elsayed still struggles a bit when adjusting to characters with very different personalities from his own. He laughed and jokingly said, “I’m completely awkward, I’m an awkward guy.” As a result, it was a bit more difficult to play Gomez from the Addams family, a rather flamboyant character. But he enjoyed it, nevertheless, and he hopes it helps him better understand others.
In addition to making him a more empathic person, acting has also caused Elsayed to become more talkative. Though quieter when he was younger, “now I talk so much that people want to ignore me more than they actually want to listen to me,” he joked.
At the moment, Elsayed is involved in “The Most Miserable Christmas Tree,” a play at Fort Hamilton. He is also looking forward to “The Laramie Project,” an upcoming play about the reactions to a murder of a gay student at the University of Wyoming in 1998, something he considers to be more serious and dramatic than previous performances he has had roles in.
In the future, Elsayed dreams of moving onto the wide stage of Broadway. He notes that it will be a difficult goal to reach, but nevertheless, he is optimistic and determined to make it. “All the aspects of theater—the community, the character, the acting, the enjoyment—really start to collide.That’s where acting is at its finest, and that’s why I want to do it in the future,” he said, and at that moment, it wasn’t hard to imagine him on the bright stage, in front of a large crowd, performing the way he had just half an hour earlier at Open Mic.
Hiro Kimura: Selling Hats and Selling Smile
Freshman Hiro Kimura entered the world of theater in junior high school, when he joined the school production of “Beauty and the Beast, Jr.” because his friends had joined and wanted him to be a part of it as well. Though he had a small role as a hat seller, the experience piqued his interest. He enjoyed being another person for the hour or so when he acted, and he wanted more.
Kimura’s next role came soon after in “Grease” as Vince Fontaine, a fast-talking radio announcer. Though the theater company charged $1,200 to participate in the show, he was able to get a scholarship in exchange for helping the head of the company with various jobs.
It was a bigger role compared to his first production, and it was a musical as well, though he didn’t sing as much as many of the other actors. Nevertheless, he did enjoy the time he spent dancing and singing on stage.
“I thought it was going to be hard to concentrate on singing and dancing at once, but once you’ve practiced enough, it comes to you naturally, sort of muscle memory. I’m still not great at dancing, and I only started singing a year ago, so I’m not perfect by any means, but it’s really fulfilling to do that, and I think it’s fun to do both at once,” he said.
But most of the population at Stuyvesant don’t know him as a hat seller or as Fontaine; they know him as Aldolpho from STC’s “The Drowsy Chaperone,” a rather dopey and funny character to play.
“This character moves around a lot more, which is fun, and I’m not great at it, but it was still fun doing all of these crazy Latin lover antics,” he said.
Kimura wasn’t sure which of his three roles thus far has been his favorite. But one thing he did point out was how it was easier speaking as the slick Fontaine than the slow Aldolpho. He remembered how it was a bit difficult forming his Aldolpho accent, but with Fontaine, the voice came almost naturally to him; when he was younger, he and his friends would pretend they had a radio show.
But taking part in STC was a bit difficult for Kimura in terms of managing his time. Rehearsals finished around six or seven at night, and he had to miss meeting with his other clubs, such as Speech and A Cappella. “After the show ended, I’ve been chilling out. I need to go back to my clubs,” he said, laughing sheepishly.
Acting has taught him the meaning of how “the show must go on.” He notes how actors in general occasionally mess up when performing, and he learned to deal with that, both when he acts, and in real life.
For Kimura, his future in acting is a bit unclear. He did not receive a callback for “The Laramie Project,” but will be back for the spring comedy. He is also looking forward to SING!, which he hasn’t had a chance to experience yet. Outside of Stuyvesant, Kimura also has an opportunity to return to the company that held the production for “Grease.”
Sara Stebbins: A Star in the Making
Freshman Sara Stebbins sees herself as a newly-minted “theater kid.” Until fifth grade, she had never even thought of acting as something she would be interested in, let alone be good at. However, she has always been very musically inclined, having played classical violin for nine years. This prompted her fifth grade music teacher to push her to audition for the school musical, “Annie.” She scored the role of Pepper, exploring the world of acting through the eyes of a tough orphan.
It didn’t take Stebbins very long to realize that acting was more than just a passive hobby. During her last dress rehearsal for “Annie,” Stebbins had a realization. “I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is a group of people who are all doing the same thing as me, going through the same thing,’” she said. It became clear to her that this unmatched sense of community would make acting something she would hold onto forever.
In middle school, Stebbins started an acting showcase program, giving more students access to the art form. She knew that she didn’t want to end her acting career when transitioning to Stuyvesant, so when the opportunity arose, she tried out for the Stuyvesant Theater Company’s fall musical: “The Drowsy Chaperone.” To say that she enjoyed being a part of the show would be a mere understatement. Stebbins was immediately struck by her fellow actors.
“I was so surprised on the first day of rehearsals to hear how awesome everyone was,” she said. It was completely unlike the plays of her middle school days. Their dedication to the success of the musical was unlike anything she had ever seen. “They all clearly work so hard and are so passionate, and I’m so inspired by them every day.”
This does not mean that transitioning from middle school to high school acting was easy. Adjusting to her new workload was hard enough, and getting home past seven o’clock from rehearsals was a burden Stebbins hadn’t experienced before. She wanted to devote herself to academics while also making her first Stuyvesant production the best it could possibly be. If anything, this experience taught her how to work; the only way for Stebbins to fully put herself into acting was to be able to simultaneously put herself into her work, and STC quickly taught her this balance.
Stebbins describes acting as being unparalleled to anything else. “If you’re someone who enjoys making people laugh or cry or just feel things in general, […] then acting is for you,” she said.
As an actor, Stebbin loves to see the reactions of her audience. There’s a certain beauty in hearing laughter and knowing it’s not at her, but at her jokes, or seeing the audience cry and being aware that she evoked such raw emotions out of them. “It’s really life changing to have people come up to you after the show and be like, ‘You were really, really great,’” she explained. Though Stebbins’ love for acting is relatively newfound, she has an inexplicable connection to it.
Though these underclassmen entered Stuyvesant with varying levels of acting experience, Stuyvesant’s theater scene has brought their passion for acting to new heights and provided them with opportunities for their talents to emerge and thrive. Though they come from different backgrounds, all three are eager to see how theater will affect them and help them grow as people and actors in the years they have left at Stuyvesant—and we are eager to witness their evolutions on stage.