By Michael Giuliano – A lifelong fan of musical theater, Somers resident Lindsay Miserandino said her job at Director of Advancement at Rosie’s Theater Kids is “a dream come true.”
Rosie’s Theater Kids, co-founded in 2003 by Rosie O’Donnell and Lori Klinger, is an organization that seeks to expand arts programs (specifically theater arts) to underserved schools and students. What originally began as an initiative introduced to PS 51 in the theater district has since expanded to a 15-week, in-school program at 17 elementary schools in Manhattan. Most recently, Rosie’s Theater Kids was honored with the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award by First Lady Michelle Obama.
Miserandino, who received her Bachelor’s in English at Grove City College and her Master’s in Educational Theater at NYU, got her start at Rosie’s Theater Kids in 2005, after meeting co-founder Klinger through a mutual friend. Currently acting as Director of Advancement at RTKids, Miserandino has overseen the implementation of several important changes, including overseeing and allocating funds from a $1 million grant from the City of New York. Those funds ultimately went towards the construction of the Maravel Arts Center, located in the Hell’s Kitchen district of Manhattan.
“It’s like a clubhouse for musical theater here on 45th street,” Miserandino said. “It’s a really well-designed, custom-made for our program, and now that we have it the kids really feel more at-home.”
The Maravel Arts Center is the de-facto hub of operations for Rosie’s Theater Kids, and is the primary location for its scholarship program, which includes students from 6th-12th grade. The program focuses on private singing and dancing lessons, among other things, for those who have a serious interest and enthusiasm for the theater arts. Admission to the scholarship program is open to students who have successfully completed the 15-week “PS Broadway” program at school, and are then selected by the staff members at RTKids.
“We teach every 5th grader a 15-week program on musical theater, and at the end of that we ‘tap’ [the] kids who we see love it, who are excited about musical theater and want to do it a lot,” Miserandino said. “Then we invite them to audition in an effort-based audition.”
Perhaps most impressively, the scholarship program is completely free for its members, with the company providing free access to training space, dancewear, books, and even food for all students.
Miserandino is also responsible for the creation of the Junior Board at Rosie’s Theater Kids. The Junior Board is a membership option for those generally between the ages of 21-40, who would like to use their time and talents to aid the school, but are too young to serve as board members. Geared towards young entrepreneurs who are avid fans of the arts, Miserandino has been very pleased by the responses by Junior Board Members.
“There are some very passionate, very hardworking 20-somethings out there, and they meet us, they love our kids, and they say, ‘How can we help?’’ Miserandino said. “They have been able to raise $25,000 to $35,000 a year for us so far. They’re just a really great group of people.”
Junior Board Members also benefit by getting the opportunity to network with other like-minded individuals, as well as access to discounted tickets to RTKids events and galas, and even free tickets to Broadway shows,
Miserandino noted that many of the students who come into Rosie’s Theater Kids go on to pursue collegiate degrees in the performing arts, and boast a 100% graduation rate for high-schoolers who have attended the scholarship program.
Still, Miserandino emphasizes that the most important outcome of participating at Rosie’s Theater Kids isn’t merely an improvement in singing and dancing abilities; she said that the skills acquired from their program are meant to aid someone in every aspect of their lives.
“We always like to say that our tagline is ‘Rehearsing for Life,’” Miserandino said. “We are happy that our kids have learned the concepts of risk-taking, collaboration, diligence, and dedication here in the performing arts, but they can take those concepts into any career.”
For more information about upcoming events or questions regarding the organization, visit www.rosiestheaterkids.org.