Entertainment, Stories

Introducing San Ysidro Students to American Musical Theatre

September 14, 2017

By Andrea Lopez-Villafaña

Photo/Miah Nwosu

A new after-school program at the San Ysidro School District is exposing students to musical theatre under the leadership of two individuals who together have almost 80 years of experience in performing arts.

The program will begin Sept. 20 and is specifically designed for students in third and sixth grade at Sunset Elementary, Ocean View Hills Elementary, and Willow Elementary.

Award-winning actor Tony Plana and Scripps Performing Arts Executive Director Angela Amoroso are collaborating in the program known as Broadway Bound.

The three-hour classes held twice a week will provide an opportunity for students to develop singing, acting, and dancing skills.

Plana said San Ysidro for him is emblematic of the kind of populations that need the arts because they do not always have the opportunity to be exposed to or practice the arts.

Plana, who recently starred as Ignacio Suarez in ABC’s “Ugly Betty,” has worked as a movie director, and has been the Executive Artistic Director of East Los Angeles Classic Theatre, said he came from an immigrant family and shared with La Prensa San Diego that he did not see his first musical until he was in his early 20s.

He said he identifies with immigrant students, and he has been dedicating his work to ensure that immigrant children, english learners, underserved children, and children of lower socioeconomic levels get a chance to be exposed to the American musical.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing for children to complement their education by getting a chance to experience the exhilaration of physical movement of dance, the joys of singing and expressing yourself through music and also the transformational experience of actually imagining you are somebody else and acting that out in front of an audience,” Plana said.

Amoroso, founder of the Scripps Performing Arts Company, who has worked on several programs in the past that focus on the value of balanced performing arts education, knew she wanted to be a part of the program in San Ysidro after being approached by Plana.

Her experience with other schools and groups, has allowed her to see the difference that perfoming arts can make on children who come from different backgrounds and students who have to face cultural barriers.

She said that the lessons learned through musical theater can be applied as a practice for life skills because the show must go one even when mistakes are made.

“Being able to be creative with the challenges of life is really what’s the difference between someone who is successful and someone who becomes paralyzed by what they think they can’t do instead of being inspired by knowing what they can do,” Amoroso said.

Students will learn classic musicals like “Matilda,” “In the Heights,” “The Lion King,” “Annie,” and others. Each grade level will learn about and perform an age appropriate musical with small culminations for the holidays and in May.

“Every child should have the opportunity to have to help their coordination skills and to promote their understanding of who they are,” Amoroso said. “You can really explore that in (this) musical theater class.”

Plana said Broadway Bound will allow students to develop better communication skills, improve language skills for English learners and will help students develop empathy through learning about the experience of people different from them.

Plana also describes the program as a “powerful experience” because he believes a complete education includes the arts.

Plana and Amoroso also collaborated on creating Movie Wizards, an elective class for seventh and eighth graders in the district.

The elective will come to San Ysidro middle schools next semester and is a program that will allow students to learn about cinema by examining their own lives and developing their own original short films.

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