Leaping at the opportunity
Why sing Happy Birthday when you can sing a song written by the birthday boy himself?
Sedona-Sky Duffy was thrilled to sing the opening solo in tribute to Broadway hero Stephen Sondheim.
She and her fellow campers were featured in a New York Times video to celebrate the birthday of the American composer and lyricist.
It was her fourth summer at the Stagedoor Manor Performing Arts Training Centre in upstate New York, which counts Robert Downey Jr and Natalie Portman as past campers.
“[The New York Times] said they wanted to surprise him for his birthday,” she recalled.
“They taught us the song and we had to have it memorised for the next day. We spent about four hours filming it and we weren't allowed to tell anyone about it until it was actually published.”
The group sang I'm Still Here from his 1971 musical, Follies. She was surprised at how long it took to get the single tune.
It was her first time being in a video production — her experience lies on the stage.
“We probably filmed it about 20 times. If there was a light change in the middle of a run, we had to do it again,” she said.
“We'd sit there for 30 minutes waiting for the sun to come back from behind the clouds.”
They had be careful, too, not to make noise on the pebbly ground. “They wanted it to be perfect,” she said.
“We're not used to doing the same thing over and over and over again — one song. But the spacing they took directly from the Our Time Cabaret show, which made it easier.”
She had to audition for the solo. The Our Time Cabaret group included the top 36 of 300 musical theatre campers.
“I've been going to camp with them for four years, so we're really close,” she said.
“It was a lot of fun to have that experience with your friends for a person that is one of the reasons why you do theatre. Sondheim is very important in our world.”
Sedona-Sky dreams of being on Broadway after she graduates.
The 14-year-old started at Masters in September, a private boarding school in Dobbs Ferry, New York.
Dancing and singing are a big part of her day. She won the role of Betty Parris in The Crucible and has just finished auditions for the winter musical.
She says she is learning a lot more now that her days are not taken up solely by academics.
“I feel like I learn more because I'm enjoying what I'm doing,” she said.
“It's all just part of my normal day, so after school I have a lot more time to do homework, which is nice.”
She has learnt a lot in the short time she has been there.
“Not even just through my drama teachers, but all my academic teachers. They have a very different style of learning at Masters — the Harkness method,” she explained.
“We are given reading assignments the night before class. We sit around tables and everybody contributes to the conversation. The students guide the conversation, the teacher is there to rein it back in if you go off topic. But it's not lecture-based learning it's more students talking about what interests them, which I really like.”
English and history have been her favourite subjects.
“One time in history we were given an article about Egypt. One part was about traditional Egyptian dance. That's something that interests me so I could talk about it and then we'd go back to hieroglyphics. “I really enjoy being able to switch it up.”
Thirty-five per cent of applicants to Masters were accepted this year. Sedona-Sky said she benefited from interviewing at the boarding school fair on island.
“Obviously it's competitive because everybody wants the same thing, but nobody's mean about it,” she said.
“Everybody wants to be there and it's a better place to learn because of that. You grow more because you can learn from other people's talent.”
• Watch the video at goo.gl/AfjYU8.
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