I can hardly believe that it’s been eight years since I participated in the Roger Rees Awards back in 2011! Sitting back and reflecting on the time that has passed, I realize the experience has helped mold me into the man I am today. From preparing individual solos, to the team work shared while working on the group dance, to socializing at lunch between rehearsals, I have gained invaluable skills about working with others and perfecting my craft. If the Roger Rees Awards taught me one thing, it is that every experience can be learned from and cherished.
Back in 2011, I was a senior at North Babylon High School. I was getting ready to study abroad in Florence, Italy for my freshman year and I was ready to take on one final challenge before heading overseas. The Roger Rees Awards was having their first-year showcase and I decided to take a chance and try it out. I had just completed my last high school musical: Pippin. Playing the title role, Pippin, I learned a lot about teamwork and collaborating with my peers to put together an amazing musical to close out my high school career. When I showed up on Saturday morning at the Roger Rees Awards, I met all the other students and thought to myself “all of these kids have just come from private voice lessons or acting classes and I haven’t done any of that…ever”.
Getting warmed up for the day I felt myself have two thoughts. My first thought was that I should just leave because I clearly wasn’t as prepared as these other students and I was going to be embarrassed. I was a little rusty in rehearsals and had not thought about musical theater in a while. My second thought immediately after was, “what do I have to lose?” The answer was “nothing!” After this experience I was planning on going to Italy for a year to study Menswear Fashion Design. So, I took a deep breath and decided to have a blast!
Four hours of several interviews, a lunch break, a group rehearsal and a solo practice session later, we were ready to put on a show for the judges. I put all my nerves on the back burner and left everything in that black box theater and to my surprise, I won! I was awarded the “Best Actor” title for the first ever Roger Rees Awards and I legitimately could not believe it. It was and still is one of the best days of my life.
After a few days passed and all the students and I had exchanged information for Facebook (Instagram wasn’t around yet), I realized that I won in more ways than one. I won the title, but I also won new friends, peers, mentors, and an amazing experience that parlayed into the Jimmy Awards of 2011 where I did the exact same thing as the Roger Rees Awards; I just had fun! And although I didn’t win the title, I ended up winning yet again; more friends, more peers, more mentors and more experiences. Eight years later, I find myself as a Menswear Designer living and working in Manhattan. I look back on the Roger Rees and Jimmy Awards as one of the best times of my life. I am someone who fell into theater. I didn’t have formal training or much experience outside of my high school theater shows. But I am still in touch with so many people from those events and it has made my life so much brighter because of that. I’ve learned to transfer my performing skills into presentation skills in meetings. I’ve tried to use my improvisation skills to make others laugh during a tense deadline. But most importantly, I’ve learned to cherish all of my experiences because they have made me who I am today.