Central Florida kids help salute COVID-19 ‘Heroes’
Jeff Revels felt that a voice was missing from the national conversation about coronavirus.
“Who we have not heard from is the nation’s children,” he said.
As artistic director of Orlando Repertory Theatre, which specializes in productions for youths, Revels is attuned to children. He also knew he had the resources to create something reassuring about the pandemic for young people.
“We do have access to talented children,” he said with a laugh. Revels also had access to a network of organizations producing Theater for Young Audiences, as it’s known in theatrical circles. He brought up the idea of an online children’s choir, and Seattle Children’s Theatre agreed to lead the effort.
The result, an original song called “So Many Heroes” recorded by 80 children nationwide, debuted Friday.
In all, 16 theaters from around the country — from Boston to Honolulu, from Cincinnati to Dallas — participated. Each selected five children to join the virtual chorus.
Victoria Kasten, Elizabeth Kasten, Elias Rodriguez, A.J. DeLeon and KaYori Harris represented Central Florida in the project.
“We will be forever changed by our current events, and forever connected and bound together by our shared experience of isolation,” said Kathryn Van Meter, the interim artistic director of Seattle Children’s Theatre. “As we begin to redefine what it is to share space, there is hope in our future because we are resilient ... just like the young people in our communities.”
Orlando Rep’s participants were students in the theater’s Youth Academy education program. In addition, DeLeon acted in the theater’s award-winning production of “Newsies.”
“So Many Heroes” salutes not only medical personnel but other essential workers.
“It’s also about grocery-store workers and truckers and garbage collectors,” Revels said. “It’s the people we now see as the true front line.”
The song was written by Richard Gray, a veteran of children’s theater who has worked with Seattle Children’s Theatre.
“Writing musicals for young audiences has taught me how observant kids are,” said Gray, whose shows include “Time Again in Oz,” “Little Rock” and “Lyle the Crocodile.” “They see everything and absorb it all. They have been processing this like crazy, so, when asked to write this tribute, I knew it had to be in the direct, honest language that kids use.”
In addition to paying tribute to workers, “So Many Heroes” takes a moment to remember those who have died.
“We haven’t really as a country publicly mourned those 90,000 people yet,” Revels said.
A video editor assembled the digital chorus from the youths’ individual submissions; the completed song can be viewed at Orlando Repertory Theatre’s Facebook page.
Revels hopes parents find “So Many Heroes” helpful as it resonates with their children. The theatrical consortium was uniquely suited to create the song, he said.
A.J. DeLeon, pictured in Orlando Repertory Theatre’s 2017 Youth Academy production of “Camp Rock,” is one of the local singers performing “So Many Heroes.”