Volume 20, Number 40 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | Feb. 15 - 21 , 2008

Downtown Express photo by Elisabeth Robert

The I.S. 89 Players, part of Manhattan Youth’s after-school program, wrote their first play based on their own dreams and performed it in pajamas last week at the school.

I.S. 89 students dream up their own play

By Sebastian Kahnert

Life was a dream on Friday night, when the Manhattan Youth after-school program performed its play “89 Dreams” at the I.S. 89 auditorium.

The first ever Manhattan Youth play written by the 11 to 13-year-old student actors revolves around their dreams and fears, but neither the audience nor the actors knew whose dreams, both happy and sad, they were performing.

The play comprised three different dream sequences that turned fleeting nightmares and fantasies into lucid daydreams and dreams they were indeed.

Two boys find themselves trapped in a Barbie world after watching a Barbie commercial on TV. Shortly thereafter, a girl is flying on a unicorn that is crying golden tears only to die moments later.

In the grand finale, students shared their teenage angst and aspirations of the future with the parent-filled crowd.

All 30 cast members appeared on stage and sang songs about their favorite place to live — most preferred L.A. or Europe.

The next song revolved around a girl’s dream to get married as a number of girls sat around Orlando Bloom, his look-alike that is, trying to seduce him with siren-like chanting. But Bloom, unimpressed by the girl’s attention, discovers his narcissistic side and focuses on his looks rather than choosing his future wife.

Common fears of rejection and final exams took turns with uncommon ones like the fear of M.T.A. buses -- leaving little doubt that the teen years are not always a dream.

And as the red curtain closed under roaring applause, the pajama-wearing actors rushed into the auditorium to meet their parents, who were as enthusiastic about the performance as the kids.

“I think it went great,” said 12-year-old Eli Rojan, “and I wasn’t as excited as I was on the first night,” referring to the play’s premiere the night before.

Twelve-year-old Mitchell Lewis confirmed that things are sometimes easier the second time around.

“You can improve from the night before,” Lewis explained, “and it went smoother tonight because everybody knew where to be.”

Theseus Roche, program director of the Manhattan Youth after-school program, has been working with the I.S. 89 students on “89 Dreams” since September, and he knew that the play might leave the audience guessing.

“This is a creative process,” he said, “and it could go in so many directions.”

But the response of the large crowd on Friday night did not only appreciate Roche’s departure from classical plays, it also helped the young actors.

Siena Cid Velez, who has been acting since age two and also starred in 40 plays, credited her on-stage performance to the reaction of the audience.
“You feel the crowd’s excitement,” she said, “and the excitement gets into you.”

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