Cen­tral Florida kids help salute COVID-19 ‘He­roes’

Orlando Sentinel - - PEOPLE & ARTS - By Matthew J. Palm Find me on Twit­ter @mat­t_on_arts or email me at mpalm@or­lan­dosen­tinel.com. Want more theater and arts news? Go to or­lan­dosen­tinel.com/arts.

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.

COUR­TESY PHOTO

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.”

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