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Jan. 17, 2017

Community Chesed Visits Bring the Gift of Music

The Gift of Music

The Play Group Theatre’s Cabaret program got a new twist this year and the Westchester community is benefiting. Originally designed to showcase the incredible talents of PGT’s young performers at an annual springtime performance in PGT’s Studio Theatre in White Plains, the Cabaret has been transformed into a community troupe with 21 performers ranging in age from 12-17, traveling to several locations throughout the fall and winter, before their springtime show, lifting community spirits with music and cheer.

"Our Cabaret program was launched in 2012 with 7 teenagers performing a repertoire of songs for one night only in our Studio Theatre," said Jill Abusch, Artistic Director of The Play Group Theatre. "A strongly held tenet of the Theatre is to teach our students not only a dedication to the artistic process, but a dedication to the community as a whole. We want to set our students down the path of a life long commitment to generously give the gifts of their time, energy and talent to anyone who might be in the need of a little cheer."

The Community Cabaret had their first performance in the fall at Susan's Place, a women's homeless shelter in the Bronx. The show included such old standards as "Miracle of Miracles" from Fiddler on the Roof, as well as new musical theatre hits, like "Light" from Next to Normal. The residents of Susan's Place clapped and cheered, visibly enjoying the show. When the performers spent time with the residents after the show, they told them the music "opened their hearts," and that they had "never heard anything so beautiful."

Member of the Cabaret troupe and long-time PGT student Sarah Fortinsky of Larchmont explained her experience, "In rehearsal, when one of our cast mates learns a new song, and we bear it for the first time and it's so good, we all get the chills. But even though we appreciate it, I think we kind of take It for granted. We take for granted the power of music. It's a vehicle through which people can communicate emotionally unlike anything else. And when You sing, you have a connection with everyone else around you and with the community. Singing a song is like giving a gift, and that's how we all felt today. But we just wish we could give them more." Maddie Burton, a sophomore at Solomon Schechter High School loves making the chesed visits with her PGT friends as well. For 5 years, the singer/actress and New Rochelle resident has called the Theater Company "her home away from home."

On December 17, 2014, the troupe visited Sarah Neuman Center in Mamaroneck, performing for 4S minutes, bringing the gift of music to the residents for the first night of Chanukah. The troupe interacted with the audience and made a great impact. The performers included Caroline Beit, Caroline Higgins, Maddie Burton, Maddie Glass, Ilana Abusch, Dylan Lesch, Josh Ackerman, Ben Moskow, Marina Lebowich, Sam Schmaier, Julia Morgenstern, Rachel Meiselman, Jessica Byers, Sarah Fortinsky, Florry Arnold, Olivia Otsuka, Natalie Bunta, Kira Weiss, Jake Stiel, Daniel Goldberg and Anabel Calderon.

On January 3, 2015, the PGT organization is celebrating their 20th anniversary with a reception and a retrospective performance. Then, they present the classic musical, Fiddler on the Roof, January 17, 18, 19, 24 and 25 in their MainStage Theatre at One North Broadway,White Plains. The Cabaret troupe is scheduled to perform again in February, at Blythedale Children's Hospital. Two PGT parents, Jayne Lipman and Melanie Bennett will chair the program. "Making sure that the talents of the Play Group Theatre students are shared out in the community has been the result of a communal effort between staff, students and parents," Abusch concluded. "The Cabaret program has become the perfect vehicle for getting our students out there, into the community, using the power of music to make a connection with those who would not otherwise have access to this type of performance."

The Play Group Theatre is non-profit, an educational theatre organization dedicated to providing process oriented theatre training and diverse performance opportunities to children and teenagers through classes. Call 946-4433 for more information.

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