ST. PAUL (June 28, 2014) — Young Artists Initiative (YAI) presents its annual TEEN production, the multiple Tony-award winning musical IN THE HEIGHTS! from July 10-20 in the The Performance Space at Wellstone Center at Neighborhood House, 179 Robie Street East, St. Paul, MN 55107-2360.
IN THE HEIGHTS! is the story of a vibrant community in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood — a place where the coffee from the corner bodega is light and sweet, the windows are always open, and the breeze carries the rhythm of three generations of music. It’s a community on the brink of change, full of hopes, dreams and pressures, where the biggest struggles can be deciding which traditions you take with you, and which ones you leave behind.
IN THE HEIGHTS is the winner of the 2008 Tony awards for Best Musical, Best Score, Best Choreography, and Best Orchestrations. Please note: Situations and strong language may be inappropriate for pre-teens.
This production features an all-youth cast of 22 talented performers between the ages of 12 and 18, from around the Twin Cities. Directed by Jamil Jude, with Music Direction by Will Lopes and Choreography by Kelli Warder. Scenic & Properties Design by Benjamin Olsen, Costume Design by Emily Jannusch, and Lighting Design by Tony Stoeri. Stage Management by Holly Abel.
Performances are Thursday, July 10, and Friday, July 11 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, July 12 at 2 and 7:30 p.m., Sunday, July 13 at 2 p.m., Thursday, July 17, and Friday, July 18 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, July 19 at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8.00 for students & seniors with pay as you can performance.
Tickets can be purchased online www.youngartistsmn.org or at the performance. Seating is general admission.
Director Jamil Jude says of this production: “What draws me to this show is the strong sense of community that is established throughout the show. As a theatre maker, I’m deeply invested in creating community. From the opening moments of the show, the creators of this play introduce us to such a beautiful community. We see the community gossips, the matriarch, the academic star, the friends in the neighborhood. We know these people. We are these people.”
“The original Broadway production of IN THE HEIGHTS was an important experience for me in my own development. To see such a dynamic exploration of community opened my eyes to what theatre could be. It set me on a path to create diverse and inclusive theatre communities and to tell the stories of underrepresented communities. I’m honored to help create this show with YAI and to bring this story to life.”
Jamil Jude, director, currently serves as Producer in Residence at Mixed Blood Theatre Company and is a Playwrights’ Center Many Voices Mentee. Before joining the staff at Mixed Blood, Jamil served as a New Play Producing Fellow at Arena Stage in Washington, DC. As a theatre artist, Jamil sees himself as an in-room collaborator. He has served as a director, producer, dramaturg and playwright. His interest in social justice and theatre continues to drive his work, including co-founding a culturally relevant theatre company, Colored People’s Theatre, in Washington, DC.
Kelli Warder, choreographer, is a performer and freelance choreographer for a variety of theaters, schools and churches. This past winter she was the Assistant Choreographer for Theater Latte Da’s Cabaret and the Associate Director for their production of Our Town. Kelli has performed with Theater Latte Da, Chanhassen Dinner Theaters, Theater for the Thirsty and Bloomington Civic Theatre among others. She choreographs at many local high schools and is excited to be a part of the YAI production staff this year. Nada es impossible!
Will Lopes, Music Director, holds a Master’s Degree in Conducting from the University of Northern Iowa, a Bachelor’s Degree in Music from Brazil’s Northern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Diploma in Piano and Music Theory from the Music Conservatory of the FS State University, also located in his home country of Brazil. As a jazz/pop singer, Lopes had the opportunity to work in several studio recordings in Brazil, as a soloist, backup singer and vocal coach/arranger, recording jingles for companies like Coca-Cola and Levi’s Jeans. Lopes is a section leader for the MN Chorale (official choir for the MN orchestra) and has recently appeared in the operas such as Don Giovanni, Carmen and Rosenkavalier. Lopes has also been commissioned to write choral/orchestral pieces and show choir arrangements for high schools and colleges around the country. He lives in Minnesota and serves as the Worship Arts Director at Grace church Roseville, Minn.
Holly Abel, stage manager, has been working as a stage manager, director, and (occasionally!) an actor in Minnesota and California for the past six years. She grew up in Los Angeles but has begun to call the Twin Cities home. Holly holds a BA from Carleton College, where she studied Theater Arts and Educational Studies. She is currently a post-baccalaureate student studying American Sign Language Interpretation at St. Catherine University.
Benjamin Olsen, set and props designer, is a scenic designer based in Minneapolis and St. Paul. He trained in the liberal arts at St. Olaf College; studied theatre in London, art in Manhattan, and literature in the West Indies; and received the Bonde award for excellence in scenic design from St. Olaf’s Center for Integrative Studies. In addition to freelancing, he works as a resident designer at St. Paul Academy and sometimes as a teaching artist. When he’s not designing, you might find Ben painting, reading, writing, gardening, or playing croquet. Previous scenic designs include St. Olaf Dept. of Theatre: “The Tempest,” “Three Sisters,” “The Imaginary Invalid;” Saint Paul Academy: “Once on this Island;” Philly Productions: “Philly” (props). Upcoming: “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare” (Abridged) at BCT; “Zen Ties” at Stages Theatre Co.; and “The Glass Menagerie” at St. Olaf College.
Emily Jannusch, costume designer, is delighted to make her debut as costume designer with the Young Artists Initiative having worked this previous year as a costume design assistant at Lakeshore Players Theater and as a costume and props intern at the Minnesota Children’s Museum. She received her Bachelors of Arts in Theater from the University of Minnesota where she studied costume design and technology. Emily wishes to thank her mentors and the many people who have supported her along the way.
Tony Stoeri, Lighting designer, is a freelance lighting designer in the Twin Cities. Recent work includes The Sexual Life of Savages (Walking Shadow Theatre Company), Letters to Sala (Sabes Jewish Community Center), and Macbeth (Mission Theatre Company). He also serves as the touring designer and technical director for Sossy Mechanics’ Trick Boxing. When not designing, Tony works as an electrician at many Twin Cities theaters, including the Guthrie, the Children’s Theater, Penumbra, Mixed Blood, and the Jungle. Upcoming work: The Minnesota Fringe Festival, Detainee (Mission Theatre Company).
Benjamin Lacina, YAI Co-founder & Artistic Director. Since founding Young Artists Initiative in 2004, Ben has served as Director, Music Director, Set Designer, Lighting Designer and Sound Designer for numerous YAI productions. He has degree in Vocal Music Education, Gifted Education & Talent Development, and Educational Leadership. For seven years he served as Music Specialist for Highwood Hills Elementary School on Saint Paul’s East Side, producing more than 10 original student-written plays and musicals. For six years, he was the Arts Coordinator at Anoka Middle School for the Arts, and he now serves as the Gifted Education/Talent Development Coordinator for the Anoka-Hennepin School District. Ben also presents nationally about interdisciplinary curriculum and arts education.
Youth actor bios
Alexa Akre–Ensemble will be a senior at Great River School in the fall, and has appeared as the lead in various obscure school-sponsored productions, both in Winona, MN and here in the Twin Cities, as well as in a small production for the Great River Shakespeare Festival. She is an aspiring film director and hopes to get as far away from Minnesota as soon as she can as soon as she graduates.
Lily Akre–Ensemble is in 7th grade this year and loves to read, sing, and listen to music. She was born in Winona, MN. She is self-employed and works at a lemonade stand. This is her first YAI production. She likes chocolate. She also likes The Fault in Our Stars and the Harry Potter series.
Matthew Bachmeier–Piragua Guy is 14 years old and attends Henry Sibley High School. This is Matthew’s seventh show with YAI. Matthew loves singing, acting, and dancing, so he is extremely happy that he got to be a part of this show. He would like to thank his friends and family for their support, and he hopes you love the show.
Van Cheatham–Usnavi is a junior at Henry Sibley High School and he is reprising his role as Usnavi for the second time for the YAI production of “In the Heights.” He has been in multiple productions ranging from straight theater to on-camera work. He is also very involved in music, having several bands and musical projects presently. Van would like you to know you rock for coming to support the show!
Maddie Clark–Abuela Claudia is about to enter her senior year at Maple Grove Senior High where she focused on working behind the scenes on many school musicals. She is beyond honored to have her first role be in an excellent production with YAI. She sends love to her parents and sisters who always believed in her.
Jalayna Daye–Graffiti Pete is a sophomore at Eastview High School. This is her first YAI production. She is very excited to make new friends. Everyone is so sweet and friendly. It is her dream to own her own bakery. She hopes everyone will enjoy the show. Jalayna’s family, originally from New York, wishes her well in In the Heights!
Amirah Ellison–Nina Rosario recently graduated South High School in Minneapolis. At South, she had a chorus role in “Sweet Charity” and was a Dynamite in “Hairspray.” This is her first YAI production and she is grateful for this opportunity.
Matthew Her–Ensemble is a 17 year old aspiring artist who was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin. He started performing from the age of 7 at local churches and shelters. As he got older, he started to perform in bars and in talent shows across St. Paul. He hopes to make it in the industry one day as a successful musician.
Ana Keller-Flores–Ensemble is 13 years old and goes to school at Great River Montessori. She has been in three shows with YAI. Ana would like to thank the directors for being super cool and her parents and the cast for being supportive. This show was a great experience for Ana and she hopes you will enjoy it as much as she did.
Johanna Keller-Flores–Vanessa is a flippin’ college freshman this fall at Kalamazoo. She’s done a lot of shows at school and with YAI and Steppingstone. She recently was in “Little Shop of Horrors” as Chiffon at Great River School. She’s psyched to be in her favorite musical of all time. IN DA HEIGHTS.
Joe Kelly–Kevin Rosario is sixteen years old and goes to Eagan High School. This is his first musical experience through any organization and he plans to be in more productions. Joe likes to play guitar, sing, songwrite, and perform. Joe would like to thank his family and friends for the great support!
Amelia Montie–Ensemble is a junior at Great River School. She has always had a love for music and has become more interested in acting in past years. She has been in school performances including Bye Bye Birdie and many musical performances. She also is in a group called Prelude at MacPhail which focuses on both singing and acting. This is her first YAI production and she is glad to be a part of it.
Lauren Moy – Ensemble is 13 years old and is going to be a freshman at Eagan High School. She is in band and plays the flute, as well as the piano, and Gu-zheng (Chinese instrument). Lauren has also participated in CAAM Chinese Dance Theater for 9 years. She was also in basketball this winter. The other shows Lauren has been in with YAI are The Monkey King, Willy Wonka Jr., The Wiz, Once on This Island Jr., Narnia, Honk Jr., Peter Pan, Dreams of a Cobbler’s Son and Oliver! Lauren would like to thank everyone that has helped make this show possible.
Paige Moy – Daniela is 15 years old, and is going to be a sophomore this fall at Eagan High School. Paige has been playing piano and dancing with CAAM Dance for 9 years now. The other shows Paige has been in with YAI are The Monkey King, Willy Wonka Jr., The Wiz, Once on This Island Jr., Narnia the Musical, Honk! Jr., Peter Pan, Dreams of A Cobbler’s Son, and Oliver! Last fall Paige ran cross country and participated in track this spring. She is so excited to be a part of this musical.
Jane Mulcahy–Ensemble is an 8th grader at Great River School. She has played Belligerent Man at Back of Auditorium in “Our Town,” Fur Coat in “Way’s End,” and Strawberry Seller in “Oliver!” This is her second YAI production and she is very excited to be taking part in one of her favorite shows. WEPA!
Jonah O’Hara-David – Benny is 13 years old and rising into the 8th grade this fall at Ramsey Middle in St Paul. He graduated from grade-school theatre (including several Shakespearean plays) to Oliver! with YAI earlier this year. He has also participated in many acting workshops at both Children’s Theatre Company and Youth Performance Company. Jonah sang with the Minnesota BoyChoir during 2013.
Sara Price–Ensemble is a seventh grader at Skyview Middle School, where she recently appeared in “The Little Mermaid Jr” as Ensemble. She has also appeared in “Annie,” “Narnia,” “Honk Jr,” “Hello Dolly,” and “Beauty and the Beast.” Sara is very excited to be a part of “In the Heights.” She would like to thank her parents, Mindy and Joe, for all the time and commitment.
Vivian Scheel – Carla began acting at Steppingstone Theatre and has performed in shows including, The Heartbeat of the Drum, The Emperor’s New Clothes, and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever – twice. She’s also performed in multiple shows with Hillcrest Community Theater and Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. This fall, she’ll be starting 8th grade. In addition to musical theater, she enjoys reading, drawing and spending time outdoors. In the future, she hopes to harness the power of art and theater to find cures and comforts for families facing cancer.
Juan Soto–Ensemble is 17 years old and attends Sibley High School. He plays football and wrestles. This is his first YAI production.
Julianne Vitt–Camila Rosario is a senior at DeLaSalle High School. With YAI, she has played the Mother in “Dreams of a Cobbler’s Son.” With DeLaSalle she has played Sampson in “Romeo and Juliet,” an Angel in “Anything Goes,” Madame Gabelle in “A Tale of Two Cities,” and was in the ensemble for “Into the Woods.” She has also been in two ensemble-created original shows: “Feel Alive” and “Is There Life on Mars?” She would like to thank the awesome cast and creative tea sm! Nada es impossible!
Joe Weikert–Ensemble Joe will be a freshman at Henry Sibley High School. He loves acting. This is his second production with YAI. He played the role of Hans Christian Andersen in YAI’s Dreams of a Cobbler Son. He has also appeared in A Christmas Carol and Charley and the Chocolate Factory. He also plays cello and is on Sibley’s swim team. He is excited to be in the show.
Peter Williams–Sonny is 12 years old and goes to Highland Park Middle School. He is in his second year of summer acting, his first show being at North High as Chip in “Beauty and the Beast.” It is his first year acting at YAI and he is pumped to be a part of “In the Heights.”
YAI is a 10-year-old performing arts organization based on Saint Paul’s East Side. We provide excellent theater programming for young artists in our community and high quality, exciting, affordable performances for audiences at the Wellstone Theater on St. Paul’s West Side.
YAI encourages youth to perform and achieve at the highest possible level, increase confidence, learn about their creative potential, and often exceed their own and audiences’ expectations for artistic achievement. We honor every young person for who he/she is, and work as a community with shared values, building bridges between and among diverse communities in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.