For nearly 20 years, one White Plains mom has watched the hopes and dreams of children turninto reality on the stage ... her stage. Jill Abusch is the artistic director and co-founder of The Play Group Theatre in White Plains. The other co-founder? Her husband, Steven, who is also the executive director. The couple's two daughters have been raised in the theater, with both appearing in numerous PGT shows and helping out behind the scenes.
Abusch calls herself the "resident creative mommy" and also a "second mom" to the countless students who pass through the doors of The Play Group Theatre. Similar to both Post and Reilly, Abusch also chooses shows for the season, but in this case children do the acting. Plus, she has some very practical duties such as “pinning hair, drying tears and making sure actors have had enough to eat.”
You could say she also feeds those actors' spirits by encouraging them to build their character, take risks and believe in themselves.
"The study of theater allows students to discover the sound of their own voices – literally," Abusch says. "Students of the theater learn to act confident even when they feel nervous. They learn that being nervous doesn’t mean you can’t do it. They learn that their voice matters."
She suggests the end result is confidence and an emotional maturity that can extend beyond the theater back into the classroom and other social situations. "Children that make art together learn to see each other in new ways, expanding their appreciation for various characteristics and personalities," Abusch notes.
And those kids may just develop an appreciation for their biggest fans – their families. Abusch saw it happen firsthand this year with The Play Group Theatre’s first-ever "Parent Cabaret," where students sat in the audience while their parents did the singing.
"[The parents] all said they never would have had the courage to do it if they hadn't seen their kids be so brave all those years, and if they hadn’t had their encouragement. Some of them were conquering years of stage fright, too! And why were their kids brave enough in the first place? Because their parents had encouraged them to the stage years before. Really, amazing," says Abusch.
Guess there really is "no business like show business."