by Camille Diamond
You probably know by now that we have an incredibly thriving arts program at the 14th Street Y. Our theater is home to an amazing dance series and specially curated theater series, showcasing some of the best talent in New York City. Our LABA/rts program is filled with accomplished artists in every field, contributing to the cultural landscape by creating original art based on jewish text discussions in our House of Study.
There’s one other aspect of the arts here at the Y that we’re very proud of, and that is our partnership with AfterWork Theater Project. AfterWork was created with the exciting vision of giving people who love theater, and who love creating theater a chance to do just that. By partnering with AfterWork, we can give our members and staff a chance to experience live performance right here in our own neighborhood.
In New York City it’s not easy to find opportunities to perform when you’re a regular “nine-to-fiver”. I should know. I’m totally one of those. And though I absolutely love where I work and what I do, I found myself missing my old life as a performer. So, when I found out that AfterWork was presenting Hairspray, one of my very favorite musicals of all time, I decided to join in.
One of the best things about AfterWork is that if you want to be in the show, you just sign up and you ARE in the show. You don’t have to audition. I did go ahead and choose to audition (or be a part of ‘launch day’, as Producer Evan Greenberg, calls it). We played theater games. We sang, we danced, we connected and made friends. It was the most supportive audition environment I’ve ever experienced. In the end, I was cast as Velma…which is some serious evil fun.
But even more fun than being evil and singing really loud is getting to be in a show with people I love working with. My colleague and friend Roxanne Lane, as well as After school counselor and friend Maia Kallen are in the show with me.
Additionally, I’m getting to meet so many new people, all levels of experience, all ages, but also all just so nice and supportive. So many people were interested in doing Hairspray, that AfterWork decided to create two casts, each performing five shows. You might think that working with someone doing your exact same role in a different cast, (especially someone as beautiful as Emily) might create some kind of weird competition. But I’ve found that another person playing your same role in another cast just gives you another person to bounce ideas off of and double check choreography. She’s become someone I text regularly about rehearsal, possible hairstyles and how to dance in a 60’s style tight skirt.
And guess what? 14th Street Y Members are especially encouraged to participate because what a great way to connect with your community! Of the two blondes pictured below, one plays my daughter Amber and one plays Emily’s daughter Amber in the other cast. Guess which is the Y member?
Luckily Regina plays my daughter because she’s actually my size, but I get lots of opportunities to rehearse with Tracy as well depending on rehearsal schedules. That’s another thing about AfterWork. Rehearsals are scheduled around you and your life as well as when normally works best for working people. You don’t have to feel guilty about missing rehearsal if you have a conflict.
So how has it been so far? Delightful. Hilarious. Heartwarming. A reminder of why I loved theater to begin with; coming together with passionate people who share their talents, to create something amazing, together. Creating and living in community is what I love best about working at the 14th Street Y. I’m so honored to have another way to experience and express that.
See Roxy, me, Maia, Kenyatta, Emily, Regina, Evan, Tracy and so many more talented amazing people in HAIRSPRAY. Some of these shows area already sold out, so get your tickets here!
Camille Diamond is the Director of Community Engagement and Communications at the 14th Street Y. She first came to NYC to get the attention of casting directors using these photos.